Greatest Films of the 1950s
Greatest Films of the 1950s


Greatest Films of the 1950s
1950 | 1951 | 1952 | 1953 | 1954 | 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1958 | 1959

1956

Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

Anastasia (1956), 105 minutes, D: Anatole Litvak


Aparajito (1956, India) (aka The Unvanquished) (Apu Trilogy 2), 110 minutes, D: Satyajit Ray

Around the World in 80 Days (1956), 175 minutes, D: Michael Anderson

Baby Doll (1956), 114 minutes, D: Elia Kazan
Director Elia Kazan's landmark, tragi-comedy film - one of the most erotic cinematic works ever produced, was based on Tennessee Williams' first original film screenplay, interweaving and adapting two of his earlier one-act plays: "Twenty-Seven Wagons Full of Cotton" and "The Long Stay Cut Short" (aka "The Unsatisfactory Supper"). To make the film appear more genuine and authentic, most of it was filmed on location in Benoit, MS. Its advertisements and posters featured a sultry young "Baby Doll" curled up in a crib in a suggestive pose, sucking her thumb. The stark, controversial, black and white film was so viciously denounced by the Legion of Decency upon its release that many theaters were forced to cancel their showings, but it still did moderately well at the box office despite the uproar. Its themes were moral decay, lust, sexual repression, seduction, infantile eroticism and the corruption of the human soul. In the story, rural, middle-aged, deeply-indebted Mississipian and cotton gin operator Archie Lee Meighan (Karl Malden) had just married thumb-sucking, white-trash, naive, uneducated 19 year-old 'baby doll' child bride "Baby Doll" Meighan (Carroll Baker, 25 years old and in her second film). His mental state was degenerating (and he had become lecherous and voyeuristic) due to his constant sexual-frustration that their marriage wouldn't be consummated until her 20th birthday - two days away as the film opened. Archie was literally ruled by his stuck-up, spoiled, child bride. Archie's vengeful and competitive business rival was a covetous, wily, sleek, beady-eyed and cocky Sicilian named Silva Vacarro (Eli Wallach). He was the unscrupulous business-manager of the up-and-coming Syndicate Plantation and Gin Company that had stolen away all of Archie's business. To retaliate against his competitor, Archie took a kerosene can and set the Syndicate gin building on fire. While awaiting the ginning of his 27 wagon loads of cotton at Archie's once-grand plantation manor, Vacarro's main aim was to deflower Archie's child bride as revenge for arson of his business. Behind Archie's back, there were numerous cat-and-mouse seduction scenes of Baby Doll by the cunning Vacarro - in a rusty, old wheel-less Pierce-Arrow limousine, on a decrepit double-swing on the property, and upstairs in Archie's dilapidated mansion, including a childhood game of hide-and-seek with a barely-clothed Baby Doll that extended into the unsafe attic area. He compelled her to sign an incriminating statement attesting to the fact that her husband set fire to the gin and that Archie had lied about his alibi. During a subsequent supper scene, Vacarro further seduced Baby Doll in a sneaky and steamy kissing scene behind a wall almost within view of Archie. The film ended with Vacarro confronting Archie with Baby Doll's signed affidavit. Vacarro further enraged Archie by admitting that he had coaxed other favors from Baby Doll. Archie responded by retrieving his shotgun and chasing Vacarro outside while Baby Doll called the police. Archie was promptly arrested by the authorities after Vacarro presented the signed affidavit for the crime of arson - at around midnight when Baby Doll turned 20.

Bigger Than Life (1956), 95 minutes, D: Nicholas Ray

Bob le Flambeur (1956, Fr.) (aka Bob the Gambler), 98 minutes, D: Jean-Pierre Melville

The Burmese Harp (1956, Jp.) (aka Biruma No Tategoto), 116 minutes, D: Kon Ichikawa

Bus Stop (1956), 94 minutes, D: Joshua Logan
Aka The Wrong Kind of Girl, this comedy/drama, adapted by George Axelrod (who also co-wrote The Seven Year Itch (1955) that also starred Monroe) and based on the hit Broadway play by William Inge, was Marilyn Monroe's first "serious" lead role. It has been widely considered the best role of her career, mixing comedy with dark pathos, and clearly proved that she was a more-than-capable actress reflecting her skillful acting talent and some of her own personal insecurities. Cherie (Marilyn Monroe), a fifth-rate, dim-witted, wanna-be saloon singer (or chanteuse) was performing in Phoenix, AZ at the run-down, hillbilly saloon-bar - the Blue Dragon Cafe. She was originally from the Ozarks in Arkansas, with dreams of eventually going to Hollywood ("Look where I'm goin'...Hollywood and Vine"). The most memorable moment of Bus Stop was Cherie's famous off-key, inept, but torch-song performance of "That Old Black Magic" for an unappreciative audience, mixing sensuousness with a wistfully sad, soulful quality. Her life's path crossed that of naive, virginal 21 year-old callow and rude cowboy Beauregard 'Bo' Decker (Don Murray in his film debut) from Montana - in town for a rodeo competition. He was immediately smitten by his sweet 'angel.' The country bumpkin persistently tried to woo Cherie (whom he crudely called Cherry), and almost immediately imagined or assumed that they were engaged after kissing her, and that they would be married at the rodeo the next day after the purchase of a marriage license. She immediately rejected him: "I have no intention in the world of marryin' you." When the rodeo ended (and Bo had won $4,000 for winning almost every event), he announced that he had bought tickets back to Montana - including one for Cherie. When she resisted again, Bo literally roped her and dragged her onto his bus to Helena, Montana - he forcefully kidnapped her to take her home with him. In the film's conclusion, the bus became stranded due to a blizzard-snowstorm, and the passengers had to seek shelter inside a familiar roadside bus stop known as Grace's Diner. When Bo finally realized that he had overstepped his bounds, he humbly asked for Cherie's forgiveness: "Cherry, it wasn't right of me to do what I did to you, treatin' you that way, draggin' you on the bus, and tryin' to make you marry me whether you wanted to or not. Do you think you can ever forgive me?" Cherie began to realize that Bo was a man who could show her respect when he again professed his sincere love to her. Bo bolstered up his courage ("guts") and gently asked her to resume their relationship. She breathlessly responded: "I'd go anywhere in the world with you now. Anywhere at all!" - they happily hugged and spun around - deciding to get married and live on his Montana ranch. Bo was overjoyed: "She's gonna marry me!", and Cherie was ecstatic also: "Ain't it wonderful when somebody so terrible turns out to be so nice?" The film ended with the couple boarding the bus to Montana.

Carousel (1956), 128 minutes, D: Henry King

Forbidden Planet (1956), 98 minutes, D: Fred McLeod Wilcox
This influential, classic science-fiction space adventure - the first science-fiction film in color and CinemaScope - and an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest - was a forerunner of the entire Star Trek (and Lost in Space) franchises. The story, set in the 23rd century, told of a journey by astronauts, led by Commander Adams (Leslie Nielsen) on a flying saucer-shaped United Planets space cruiser C-57D to a distant planet-star named Altair-IV with green skies, to investigate the fate of a colony (the Bellerophon expedition) planted about 20 years earlier. Upon their arrival, they met the sole surviving crew member - reclusive philologist Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) - and his lovely, doe-eyed and very naive 19 year-old daughter Altaira (Anne Francis) who had never seen men. Upon seeing three crew members, she marveled: ("I've always so terribly wanted to meet a young man, and now three of them at once"), and also innocently asked after found swimming nude in a pool: ("What's a bathing suit?"). The film's real star was friendly Robby the Robot (voice by Marvin Miller) (who influenced and was the progenitor of many other future robotic creations), functioning as both a house servant and guard, and providing comic relief: ("Sorry miss, I was giving myself an oil job!"). Dr. Morbius toured "Krell Wonders" with some of the crew members, prefaced by his words: "Prepare your minds for a new scale of physical scientific values, gentlemen." He led them through a huge network of underground rooms, laboratories, deep shafts (composed of "78 hundred levels"), and cranium head-set devices that were reportedly the remains of an advanced technological and sophisticated civilization from 2,000 centuries earlier, inhabited by a mighty race of beings who called themselves the Krells. For some reason, the superior alien race of geniuses had destroyed itself or become extinct. A few of the film's scarier sequences was the night-time scene of the attack on the crew of the flying saucer by a sinister, invisible Id monster - a living, giant biped monster with sloth-like claws, who killed some of the crew at the perimeter of a force field fence. At one point, Commander Adams confronted Morbius and demanded that he explain the Id ("What is the ID?"). At first, Morbius called the Id an outdated and obsolete term, but offered names for the invisible Id monster: ("The beast. The mindless primitive! Even the Krell must have evolved from that beginning"). It slowly became clear that the Krell from 2,000 centuries earlier didn't realize the power that was destroying them from within (their inner subconscious thoughts), and Morbius was reluctant to face the conclusion that he himself was a "living monster." Finally with a startling confession, Morbius admitted that the Id was his own projected or externalized sub-conscious. He explained that he was the source of the monstrous creature, after the Krell had built a machine able to release his inner beast. Morbius was forced to realize that he was unable to control his subconscious desires. In the concluding sequence, Morbius delivered instructions to explosively destroy the 'forbidden planet' of Altair-IV (after triggering the machine's self-destruct mechanism that would detonate in 24 hours) to prevent its terrible technology from ever being used again. As the crew flew off (with Altaira who had been saved), they watched the planet's destruction from afar in space. Academy Award Nominations: 1, Best Special Effects.

Friendly Persuasion (1956), 137 minutes, D: William Wyler
UA's and director Wyler's nostalgic, western 'family' drama was based on Jessamyn West's 1945 novel The Friendly Persuasion (a series of vignettes or short stories) about a pacifist Quaker family, the Birdwells, living in southern Indiana in the town of Vernon (Jennings County) during the Civil War (in 1862). It was Wyler's first color film for a commercial studio. The script was written by uncredited and blacklisted writer Michael Wilson. It won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and was the recipient of six Academy Awards nominations (with no wins), including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor (for Anthony Perkins appearing in his second film). The family was composed of patriarchal father and nurseryman Jess Birdwell (Gary Cooper) and his devout Quaker minister wife Eliza (Dorothy McGuire) of a local fellowship, who insured that the family was stringently pacifist, and did not involve themselves in 'worldly' things such as gambling, county-fair temptations, dancing, swearing, violence, horseracing (one of Jess' sinful loves), and even music. The loving couple had three children: sensitive eldest teenaged son Joshua or "Josh" (Anthony Perkins), daughter Martha True "Mattie" (Phyllis Love) (who fell in love with Gardner or "Gard" Jordan (Mark Richman), the son of a neighbor serving as a lieutenant in the Union cavalry), and younger brother "Little" Jess (Richard Eyer) (who was in a never ending battle with pet goose Samantha). The Birdwells employed a farmhand Enoch (Joel Fluellen), a runaway slave. There were threats to the Birdwells by John Hunt Morgan's Confederate guerrillas, who were conducting raids into S. Indiana. Conflicted by his religious beliefs, Josh was compelled to join the local militia to fight for the Union, a defection that caused a major controversy in his family and community. Various incidents brought to light the horrors of war: Josh's killing of a Confederate soldier and his own wounding, the death of Jess' friend and Methodist neighbor Sam Jordan (Robert Middleton) on the battlefield, and the pillaging of the farm during Jess' absence by the Confederates. Inner religious convictions were continually challenged and tested by the needs to defend the farm and the family.

Giant (1956), 197 minutes, D: George Stevens
The sprawling, grandiose and iconic western epic and drama was based on the celebrated Edna Ferber novel. It told about two generations of a wealthy American cattle ranching family spanning a twenty-five year period, who clashed over money, property, class differences, and racism in Texas (the film was shot on location in Marfa, TX). The film received only one Oscar out of its 10 Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture, two Best Actor nominations (for Rock Hudson and James Dean), Best Supporting Actress (McCambridge), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Color Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Color Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Music Score (Dimitri Tiomkin)) - Stevens won the Best Director Oscar. It was particularly poignant as the last (and 2nd posthumous Oscar-nominated) performance of James Dean's tragically short career. In the film's opening set in the 1920s, newly-wed Maryland socialite belle Leslie Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor), arrived with her new, wealthy Texas rancher-husband Jordan 'Bick' Benedict, Jr. (Rock Hudson) at his sprawling Benedict Texas ranch (known as "Reata"). They met his older, tough, cattle-driving spinster-sister Luz Benedict (Mercedes McCambridge), who managed the ranch, and uneducated, laconic Texas ranch-hand cowboy Jett Rink (James Dean), in an iconic pose - sitting in the back of a black convertible with his feet up during an outdoor BBQ. In a memorable scene, Rink was instantly made a tycoon millionaire when he struck oil on his own small piece of land (Little Reata). Covered with the gushing liquid black gold (crude oil), he made boastful, defiant and resentful statements to the Benedict family about how he would be richer than them, and made an inappropriate pass toward Leslie (the object of his unrequited love) - this established the origins of a long-standing fierce rivalry. Over the years, Rink aged from a young man to a mumbling outcast and dissolute drunkard (known as "Mr Texas"), especially during the celebratory scene to commemorate the opening of his new airport and hotel in Hermosa, Texas. The lonely and pathetic Rink drunkenly sobbed in the empty banquet room, and rambled about his unrequited love for Leslie. In another memorable scene, Bick engaged in a fist-fight with Sarge (Mickey Simpson), the bigoted cafe owner of Sarge's Place who refused to serve an elderly Latino couple while "The Yellow Rose of Texas" blared on the jukebox.

High Society (1956), 111 minutes, D: Charles Walters

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), 80 minutes, D: Don Siegel
Director Don Siegel's allegorical, intensely paranoid, chilling science-fiction parable of alien possession, based on Collier's Magazine's serialized story The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney - was one of the greatest low-budget 50's films. Its plot, told in flashback, was often interpreted as philosophical commentary upon the spread of McCarthyism or Communism. Set in the idyllic small town of Santa Mira, California, physician Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) began to become paranoid and suspicious when his patients reported that their loved ones, friends, and relatives were not themselves but emotionless shells, replicas, or imposters. Actually, the town was being surreptitiously invaded by strange, alien plant forms called 'pods,' that took over or replicated the likenesses, personalities and identities of human beings while they slept. Miles and his old girlfriend (now recently divorced) Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter) fought to stay awake and battle the changes that threatened to overtake their bodies. When they fled to escape a similar fate and were chased into an abandoned mine shaft, Becky momentarily fell asleep - and her unresponsive kiss was revelatory. As the last 'human' being, Miles hysterically screamed warnings while running down the middle of a highway, before reaching the refuge of a hospital in San Francisco.



The Killing (1956)
, 83 minutes, D: Stanley Kubrick
Director Stanley Kubrick's stylish film noir crime drama - a definitive heist-caper movie - was his third film and first successful one, although it was highly under-rated when first released. The doom-laden, voice-over dialogue was derived from Lionel White's novel Clean Break. The film has influenced many heist films, including the original Ocean's Eleven (1960) (also remade in 2001). It featured excellent cinematography by Lucien Ballard, but was completely ignored by the Academy, although this work would influence filmmakers for decades after - most notably Guy Ritchie and crime drama auteur Quentin Tarantino and his film Reservoir Dogs. The entire movie was presented non-chronologically in a winding fashion (with flashforwards and flashbacks), and played out in a series of tense, black-comedy scenes with swift transitions. The tale was about a desperate gang of anti-hero misfits and lowlifes (in an ensemble cast) led by a grim, determined, and recently-released-from-jail con Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden). The group devised and executed a complex, carefully-timed racetrack heist of $2 million - that went terribly wrong. [Note: The plot was similar to Huston's The Asphalt Jungle (1950) (also with Sterling Hayden).] The plan was to cause simultaneous, diversionary confusion by shooting one of the racehorses in mid-race and instigating a bar fight, thereby allowing Johnny to rob the main track offices and seize the day's takings. The gang included racetrack teller George Peatty (Elisha Cook, Jr.), a pathetic wimp and loser who was easily tricked by his devious, scheming femme fatale wife Sherry (Marie Windsor) into revealing the details of the heist to pass on to her adulterous lover Val Cannon (Vince Edwards, the future doctor Ben Casey on a TV series). Val planned to take the loot at the rendezvous point once the robbery had been conducted.

The King and I (1956), 133 minutes, D: Walter Lang



A Man Escaped or: The Wind Blows Where It Wishes (1956, Fr.) (aka Un Condamné à Mort S'est échappé ou Le Vent Souffle où il Veut), 99 minutes, D: Robert Bresson

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956), 153 minutes, D: Nunnally Johnson
Based on the 1955 novel by Sloan Wilson, Gregory Peck portrayed Everyman Tom Rath, who was still haunted by memories of WWII. He faced issues with conforming and reintegrating back into society - in both his career and married life. With homemaker wife Betsy (Jennifer Jones) in the suburbs in the mid-1950s, he struggled to fit into the post-war period as a corporate member of society. However, he told himself: "I never wanted to get into this rat race, but now that I'm in it, I think I'd be an idiot not to play it the way everybody else plays it." In flashbacks to the war years ten years earlier that continually plagued him, Tom recalled how he accidentally killed his good friend Hank with a hand-grenade, and impregnated young Italian Maria Montagne (Marisa Pavan) - a secret he still kept (and was now forced to acknowledge). He never believed he would return home alive from the war. Discontented and suffering from a number of problems, he commuted to NYC from Connecticut to a Manhattan PR job (writing for a mental health campaign) for the New York-based United Broadcasting Corporation. He came to realize that the success of his boss, network president Ralph Hopkins (Fredric March), came at the cost of personal happiness - something that was also happening to him. Tom had a dissatisfied, pushy and overwrought wife, inheritance issues with his suburban house when his grandmother's will was contested, and bratty TV-addicted children. In the conclusion, Tom decided to forgo career advancement in favor of spending more time with his family as a '9 to 5' man.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), 120 minutes, D: Alfred Hitchcock
Hitchcock's VistaVision and Technicolored suspense-thriller, an assassination mystery, was the only one in his entire filmography that he made twice. The first was a decidedly B/W British version made in 1934, shorter by 45 minutes and less sophisticated technically, that starred Peter Lorre as the criminal villain named Abbott. The 1956 production opened with an American family, the McKennas, during their French Moroccan vacation in the city of Marrakesh, after attendance at a Paris medical conference. The Indiana tourist family consisted of surgeon-husband Dr. Benjamin or "Ben" McKenna (James Stewart), his newly-retired professional singer-wife Josephine or "Jo" (Doris Day), and their 11 year-old son Henry "Hank" (Christopher Olsen). The title credits appeared over a view of a performing orchestra with its finale marked by clashing cymbals (a foreshadowing), and the title screen prologue: "A single crash of Cymbals and how it rocked the lives of an American family." One of their first acquaintances during their trip was friendly handsome Frenchman Louis Bernard (Daniel Gelin) - a man who appeared to fit the title as a "man who knew too much." They were supposed to have dinner with him, but inexplicably, he didn't show and instead during dinner in a local Arab restaurant, they became acquainted with an English couple, Lucy (Brenda de Banzie) and Edward Drayton (Bernard Miles). The next day in a crowded bazaar marketplace, a man with a dark complexion was stabbed to death in the back while being chased by police. As he died in Ben's arms, his face paint rubbed off, revealing he was Bernard. With his dying words, he whispered to Ben cryptic news of an impending assassination: "A man, a statesman, is to be killed, assassinated, in London. Soon, very soon. Tell them in London to try Ambrose Chappell." Ben was mystified and spoke to Jo: "Why should he pick me out to tell?" Afterwards, while speaking to authorities and learning that Bernard was a French intelligence agent investigating a potential murder of a statesman, the McKennas were informed that Hank had been abducted for blackmailing purposes, to keep them quiet. The Draytons (from London) were thought to be involved, forcing Ben (now the "man who knew too much") and Jo to travel to England to avert a suspected assassination attempt and save Hank. Ben's biggest problem causing a delay in locating the Draytons was due to his misinterpretation of Bernard's whisper - he assumed that Ambrose Chapell was a person instead of a place. Finally at the Ambrose Chapel, Edward Drayton was discovered leading a service, and revealed to be part of an anarchist terrorist group that was holding Hank hostage. The film ended up at the famous Royal Albert Hall in a very suspenseful 12-minute sequence - it was the location of the planned assassination of a visiting foreign Prime Minister (Alexis Bobrinskoy) by Drayton's hired gunman Rien (Reggie Nalder), with a gunshot timed to coincide and be drowned out by the clash of cymbals at the end of a symphonic concert. At the moment of the potential fatal shot, Jo let go a terrifying scream, upsetting the gunman's timing - his target was only wounded. Ben fought with the assassin, who fell to his death from the balcony. Later, the Draytons were hiding out in a foreign embassy with the Ambassador (Mogens Wieth) who had hired them for the assassination job. The McKennas were invited by the Prime Minister to the embassy, where Jo was asked to sing the film's Academy Award-winning Best Song: "Que Sera, Sera" ("Whatever Will Be, Will Be") - Hank's favorite bedtime tune. Held captive in the embassy by his kidnappers the Draytons, Hank heard his mother's voice and responded by whistling back - leading to his rescue and the death of Edward who fell down a flight of stairs and accidentally shot himself.

Moby Dick (1956), 115 minutes, D: John Huston
Warner Bros' and director Huston's dramatic and tragic chase-adventure film was based on Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby Dick, about the obsessive, self-destructive hunt by a possessed and mad sea-captain for a legendary great white whale. Scripted by both Ray Bradbury and Huston himself, the film's complex themes were numerous: good vs. evil, and man vs. God, amongst others. The film opened in New England in the year 1841 with a very-familiar three words: "Call me Ishmael" - referring to the film's narrator (Richard Basehart) who arrived by foot at the Spouter Inn in New Bedford, Massachusetts. His intention was to sign on as a sailor on the whaling ship the Pequod. The eager and adventuresome Ishmael spent the night in a boarding house with a "strange bedfellow" - tattooed Pacific Islander harpooner Queequeg (Friedrich von Ledebur). Both were hired the next day to join Captain Ahab (Gregory Peck), in his demonic and maniacal quest for a white whale. Before leaving, Ishmael attended a church service led by Puritanical Father Mapple (Orson Welles), who delivered a cautionary sermon from a prow-shaped pulpit about the Biblical character of Job and the consequences of disobeying God's will. During the sailing, Ahab vengefully ranted and raved about the injustice of his own maiming (he lost his left leg and had a replacement peg leg) on a previous voyage against the monstrous beast. During the journey, Quaker Chief Mate Starbuck (Leo Genn) suggested a mutiny against Ahab's insane quest to change course from successful whaling, in order to follow reports of Moby Dick's whereabouts. He spoke to his fellow officers: cheerful, pipe-smoking 2nd mate Stubb (Harry Andrews) and 3rd mate Flask (Seamus Kelly), but they resisted him. A foreshadowing of the ship's fate came with Queequeg's order to have the ship's carpenter construct a water-proofed coffin for him. During their ominous and unholy search for the whale, the Pequod came upon the Rachel, another whaling ship from New Bedford. Captain Gardiner (Francis de Wolff) requested that Ahab aid in a search for his missing youngest son who had been carried away by the whale, but Ahab coldly refused. After a damaging typhoon, Moby Dick was finally spotted, and Ahab ordered his harpooners and crew to pursue the beast in long boats, for an ill-fated chase. The whale furiously retaliated and counter-attacked. Ahab's harpoon struck the side of the whale, but also ensnared him in the weapon's rope. Lashed up against Moby Dick, Ahab frantically stabbed at the whale's side until it submerged and drowned him. The wounded whale continued its rampage against the ship and sank it by circling around and creating a deadly whirlpool, killing all crew members except the sole-surviving Ishmael. He clung to Queequeg's coffin and was picked up by the Rachel, and lived to tell the tale.

Patterns (1956), 83 minutes, D: Fielder Cook
Originally produced and written as a teleplay about corporate big business by Twilight Zone's Rod Serling (and first airing on The Kraft Television Theatre in 1955), this boardroom-office melodrama featured the sensational tagline: "Ruthless Men And Ambitious Women...Clawing For Control Of A Billion Dollar Empire!!!" The B/W drama about 'gray flannel suits', filmed in a Brooklyn studio and on-location in NYC, was a compelling portrait of industrial giant Ramsey & Co. The corporation was headed by ruthless, menacing, profit-driven business executive Walter Ramsey (Everett Sloane). Other characters were aging, long-time second-in-command aide and exec. VP William "Bill" Briggs (Ed Begley), and young and ambitious industrial engineer Fred Staples (Van Heflin) who was brought in by the demanding Ramsey to replace Briggs as plant manager. Ramsey's devious plan was to bring an exasperated Briggs to the brink of resignation or retirement rather than firing him - in fact, Briggs soon died of a heart-attack from stress, degradation and humiliation. In a showdown with Ramsey, Fred was then challenged to assume the secondary position and also compete for the top job - replacing Ramsey. Fred was enticed with a double salary, stock options, and an unlimited expense account. Fred accepted the VP position, then threatened that he would never give Ramsey any peace as his second-in-command. Supporting characters included Fred's wife Nancy (Beatrice Straight), Fred's reassigned secretary Marge Fleming (Elizabeth Wilson) (who previously worked for Briggs), and Ramsey's cool and efficient secretary Miss Margaret Lanier (Joanna Roos).

The Red Balloon (1956, Fr.) (aka Le Ballon Rouge), 34 minutes, D: Albert Lamorisse

The Searchers (1956), 119 minutes, D: John Ford
John Ford's complex, epic, 'psychological' Western story was about a man's obsessive five year quest for revenge, set in post-Civil War America. It was based on the best-selling 1954 novel by Alan Le May. This film was unquestionably Ford's finest, beautifully filmed in his most popular locale, Monument Valley, but this exceptional film was not nominated for Academy Awards. As the film began in Texas of 1868, embittered loner and mysterious Civil War ex-Confederate soldier Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) entered on horseback, and arrived at the solitary, Texas frontier farm of his estranged brother Aaron Edwards' (Walter Coy) family with radiant wife Martha (Dorothy Jordan) - everyone expectantly watched his approach, including Ethan's two nieces: young Debbie Edwards (Lana Wood) and her older sister Lucy (Pippa Scott). Tension developed between the two brothers, because of Ethan's long-suppressed love for Aaron's wife Martha. Strains also developed between prejudiced, racist Indian hater Ethan and Aaron's half-breed adopted son, part-Cherokee (one-eighth) Martin "Marty" Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter). When the deputized Ethan and Martin joined a posse of Texas Rangers to investigate for Comanche marauders or cattle rustlers, they didn't know that they were deliberately being lured away. Upon their return to the Edwards' homestead, menacing renegade Chief Scar (Henry Brandon) had already attacked and butchered most of the family (Ethan's sister-in-law and brother), and both of Ethan's young nieces had been kidnapped. The racially-hateful Ethan began a perilous, extensive, relentless, and grim five years-long search for his kidnapped niece (conveyed by a series of flashbacks) - to kill the Chief who abducted her AND to kill his corrupted, tainted, disgraced niece to 'save' her from her savage captors. During his quest, Ethan was joined by his nephew, Aaron's adopted son Martin Pawley, who was equally determined to save the girl. During their hunt, Ethan found Lucy's mutilated and raped body, and told teenaged Brad Jorgensen (Harry Carey Jr.), Lucy's sweetheart and fiancee. Brad was crazed with grief, and : believing that Lucy was still alive, he rode into the Indian camp and was shot to death. After many years, Martin attempted a rescue after he located now-adolescent Debbie (Natalie Wood) in a teepee - she had become one of the squaws of Comanche Chief Scar. He shot and killed the Indian chief (and Ethan then scalped him). In the next dramatic scene, Ethan chased on horseback after Debbie - ostensibly to kill her, as Martin yelled out: "No, no, Ethan!" - and she ran down a hill and toward a cave, when Ethan scooped her into his arms in one motion, lifted her into the air, and told her: "Let's go home, Debbie." The film concluded with a family reunion back at the Jorgensen frontier home where Debbie was delivered and welcomed home, and Martin was reunited with his long-suffering and patient fiancee Laurie Jorgensen (Vera Miles). During the reunion, everyone entered the Jorgensen home but Ethan. He was framed and isolated by the silhouetted dark doorway and watched as reunited friends and family entered the homestead. He was left out, 'cursed' and doomed to wander - and so he turned and ambled away as the door shut behind him.

The Ten Commandments (1956), 219 minutes, D: Cecil B. DeMille
Director Cecil B. DeMille's unequalled Old Testament religious-historical epic was noted for great fire and brimstone scenes (with remarkable special effects) regarding Moses (Charlton Heston) who led a cast of dozens of characters. He brought the enslaved Israelites out of Egypt, and delivered stone tablets inscribed with 10 Commandments by God.

Written on the Wind (1956), 99 minutes, D: Douglas Sirk
Acclaimed director Douglas Sirk's best film was this lush, psychosexual, trashy melodrama, adapted from Robert Wilder's novel, about wealth, greed and lust. It told about the decline and self-destructiveness of a rich Texas oil family. Told in flashback after an opening murder scene, weak Texas millionaire/oil man Kyle Hadley (Robert Stack), the ne'er-do-well son of Texas dynasty magnate Jasper Hadley (Robert Keith), married beautiful executive secretary Lucy Moore (Lauren Bacall) after an insistent romance. But he became suspicious of his best friend Mitch Wayne (Rock Hudson), a handsome, successful geologist, who had similar affections - but only platonic - for Lucy. Kyle's trampy, nymphomaniacal sister Marylee (Dorothy Malone), who wanted the unattainable Mitch, fueled Kyle's anxious jealousy, suspicions of his own sterility, and an habitual bout with a bottle by suggesting that Lucy was pregnant with Mitch's child. An unfortunate confrontation ensued, causing Lucy to have a miscarriage. Roaring drunk, gun-wielding Kyle threatened Mitch and ended up dead. An inquest was held to determine Mitch's guilt or innocence, with Marylee's testimony holding his life in the balance.

The Wrong Man (1956), 105 minutes, D: Alfred Hitchcock
In this stark, film-noirish, documentary-styled crime drama, Stork Club string bass player and devoted family man Christopher Emanuel "Manny" Balestrero (Henry Fonda), living in the Jackson Heights (Queens) neighborhood of New York City, was mistakenly identified as a suspect for robberies (at gunpoint) at the Associated Life Insurance Company office - and police arrested him. He had visited the office to obtain a loan from wife Rose's (Vera Miles) policy, to pay for her expensive dental work. Detained and held for intense questioning for armed robbery without a lawyer (Manny called the grilling a "meatgrinder"), unusual coincidences caused police to believe that he was responsible for a string of robberies. The innocent 'everyman' Manny protested the charges, claiming he was "the wrong man." After being bailed out for $7,500 after a night in jail, inexperienced criminal attorney Frank D. O'Connor (Anthony Quayle) was hired to defend Manny. His alibi was that he was at a resort hotel with Rose during one of the robberies, but it couldn't be substantiated. Due to the stress of the case, Rose fell into depression, became totally apathetic, and was institutionalized in a mental hospital. During the trial, Manny was convincingly prosecuted, although it was judged a mistrial due to a juror's remarks. Meanwhile, the real robber was caught - his face closely resembled Manny's. The case was dismissed. In the film's epilogue, Rose was eventually cured two years later, and the couple moved to Florida.


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