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


Greatest Films of the 1950s
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1957

Academy Awards for 1957 Films
Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

An Affair to Remember (1957), 115 minutes, D: Leo McCarey
Director Leo McCarey's romantic tearjerker melodramatic tale of star-crossed lovers was a CinemaScopic remake of McCarey's original shipboard romance classic Love Affair (1939), starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer. It was also referenced in director Nora Ephron's Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and in Love Affair (1994) with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. In the film's early scenes, at the end of a transatlantic ocean cruise (from Europe to New York) before their ship USS Constitution docked in NYC, wealthy playboyish bachelor (and talented painter) Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant) and former nightclub singer Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) had formed a strong friendship; however, the two were both involved with other relationships: Nickie was soon to marry his lovely, wealthy celebrity fiancée Lois Clarke (Neva Patterson) - a rich heiress, and Terry had a long-time boyfriend named Kenneth Bradley (Richard Denning). Nonetheless, the two decided to reunite six months later (on July 1st at 5:00 pm) at the top (102nd floor) of the Empire State Building, as Terry added: "Oh yes, that's perfect. It's the nearest thing to heaven we have in New York." Six months later when Nickie waited at their rendezvous point (a clock chimed 5 times), Terry didn't appear (she was injured in an awful car accident (off-screen) on a busy NYC street on her way rushing to meet him) and there were ambulances heard blaring at 10 minutes after five. Nickie assumed that he had been rejected and subsequently resumed his painting career. Although disabled, Terry took work as a music teacher for orphaned children. In the conclusion of the tale, there came a startling revelation scene six months later on Christmas Eve - regarding the devastating, terrible secret of why she couldn't keep her fateful appointment with him atop the Empire State Building - he visited her in her apartment as she remained unmoving and supine on a couch (he was unaware of her injury); he delivered an accusatory and scolding conversation with her. Nickie gave Terry a Christmas present of a shawl from his now-deceased Grandmother Janou (Cathleen Nesbitt) [Note: Earlier, during their ship's docking at Madeira, Nickie and Terry took a sidetrip to his grandmother's hillside villa. At their departure, the Grandmother promised to send Terry her beautiful white lace shawl one day.] As he was leaving after they diplomatically shook hands, he casually mentioned that he had once painted a picture similar to the way she looked: "You know, I painted you like that with the shawl. I wish you could have seen it...I didn't think I could ever part with it. But well, there was no reason to keep it any longer, and, uh, I couldn't take money for it, because, well, you know.." He had agreed to have the painting given away free to a woman in a wheelchair who liked it, but had no money - "She was..." - and then suddenly, he became suspicious about why Terry was immobile on the couch, paused and went into the adjoining bedroom. In Terry's bedroom, he discovered that she was the one who had acquired his painting - it was hanging on the wall (visible when the camera slowly panned right to show the painting's mirror reflection in the room) - she was the recipient of his painting! and had kept her accident a secret. After returning to the living room, Nickie stared disbelieving at Terry, who requested: "Darling, don't look at me like that"; he had made the ultimate discovery and deduction by inferring the devastating, terrible secret of how fate had intervened on the day they were to meet - he asked: "Why didn't you tell me? If it had to happen to one of us, why did it have to be you?" With a tearful hug, she explained: "It was nobody's fault but my own. I-I was looking up. It was the nearest thing to heaven. You were there. Oh, darling, don't, don't worry, darling. If you can paint, I can walk. Anything can happen. Don't you think?" He wiped away her tears and replied: "Yes, darling, yes. Yes, yes, yes"; they kissed, and a chorus sang atop a snowy view of New York City: "Our Love Affair To Remember" as the film concluded.

The Bachelor Party (1957), 92 minutes, D: Delbert Mann
Scriptwriter Paddy Chayefsky adapted his own 1953 teleplay (airing on The Philco Television Playhouse) for this feature-length male angst drama - an ensemble film. The intimate film told about the loneliness, insecurities, anxieties and frustrations of five middle-class, co-working male bookkeepers. At first glance, they appeared to be debonair and carefree. They held a bachelor party in a restaurant for thirtyish, timid and virginal Arnold Craig (Philip Abbott), who was about to be married to a war widow. The group included: protagonist Charlie Samson (Don Murray), older married asthma-suffering Walter (E.G. Marshall), swinging bachelor Eddie Watkins (Jack Warden), and henpecked married man Kenneth (Larry Blyden). During the party and night-clubbing/bar-hopping later on in the evening, all the characters began to reflect on their lives, concerns and issues about love and marriage. Staid, hard-working, struggling married man Charlie had second thoughts about his own marital ties (with newly-pregnant wife Helen (Patricia Smith)) - he felt trapped, restless and bored, and maybe not ready for fatherhood. The troubled Charlie was tempted to have a one-night affair with a young, footloose 'good-time-girl' bohemian - credited as the Existentialist (Oscar-nominated Carolyn Jones), whom he met on the way to Greenwich Village. After a few drinks, Walter revealed himself as a pathetic, despairing and self-loathing hypochondriac, who was sacrificing his health to keep his boy in school. The nervous groom-to-be Arnold also became ambivalent and fearful about his impending marriage and called off the nuptials (although he sobered up and changed his mind), and desperate bachelor Eddie (who was initially envied for his carefree, lady-killing existence) was still alone and struggling to pick up a woman at the bar.

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), 161 minutes, D: David Lean
Director David Lean's spectacular, acclaimed, all-time great WWII epic drama, and Best Picture-winning film was about British P.O.W.'s forced to construct a railway bridge over the River Kwai in the Asian jungle of Burma to connect a rail-line from Bangkok to Rangoon. The anti-war film was based on an outstanding, psychologically complex adaptation of Pierre Boulle's 1952 novel. In its opening, British soldiers arrogantly marched into the sweltering jungle prison camp to the whistling tune of the "Colonel Bogey March." The prisoner-soldiers were led by an obstinate commander Col. Nicholson (Alec Guinness), and ordered to build a rail bridge by the camp commander Col. Saito (Sessue Hayakawa). They would unwittingly aid the war effort of their Japanese captors. Through the film, an antagonistic battle leading to a standoff existed between the two stubborn wills of indomitable British Colonel Nicholson and the Japanese Colonel Saito, about whether officers should work along with the other men - after Nicholson called his attention to Article 27 of the Geneva Convention. Ultimately, Nicholson was allowed to take charge of supervising the bridge's construction, and he established a twisted sense of pride in his fortified creation to show up the Japanese as inferior. Major Clipton (James Donald) questioned Nicholson's objectives: "Must we build them a better bridge than they could have built for themselves?" In the suspenseful finale, Nicholson discovered dynamite wires that had been secretly planted by his Allied (British and American intelligence) forces to blow up the structure, led by cynical American ex-prisoner and heroic escapee Commander Shears (William Holden) and British commando Major Warden (Jack Hawkins). Overnight, the water level of the river had fallen and exposed the wires. There was unbearable tension as the Japanese troop train was heard approaching the bridge and the commandos prepared to blow up the bridge. Foolishly, Nicholson attempted to save his bridge, and then uttered his moral dilemma ("What have I done?"), and fell lethally-wounded on the dynamite plunger. The question arose: Had he deliberately fallen on the plunger or was it accidental? The railroad bridge and the train were climactically destroyed, with the film's final words spoken by Clipton: "Madness...madness, madness."

The Cranes Are Flying (1957, Soviet Union) (aka Letyat Zhuravli, or Летят журавли), 97 minutes, D: Mikhail Kalatozov

A Face in the Crowd (1957), 125 minutes, D: Elia Kazan
Director Elia Kazan's powerful and satirical political drama illustrated how a jailed, down-home country boy in the late 1950s could be transformed overnight into a media celebrity on the radio, and later become a mean-spirited political demagogue and megalomaniac on TV. In the opening sequence, Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes (Andy Griffith in his film debut) - an opportunistic, smiling, drunken cornpone-spouting, back country homeless man, was first heard strumming his bluesy guitar in a rural jail-cell, in the fictional town of Pickett in northeast Arkansas. He had been taken in the previous night for being "drunk and disorderly." KGRK radio reporter/producer Marcia Jeffries (Neal) conducted her local radio show ("A Face in the Crowd") from the cell and became transfixed when she heard him sing the home-spun song "Free Man in the Morning." Afterwards, Rhodes was brought to Memphis, Tennessee to appear on TV, and introduced to bookish, well-educated staff writer Mel Miller (Walter Matthau). Soon, the new con-artist/star would be making commercial pitches in New York for a product known as Vitajex - a dietary supplement promoted to increase energy and sexual virility. In a revealing bedroom scene with Marcia, Rhodes revealed his disturbing, arrogant and power-hungry intentions that his audience would sheepishly follow him anywhere, and be directed to wherever he wished: ("They're mine. I own 'em. They think like I do. Only they're even more stupid than I am, so I gotta think for 'em. Marcia, you just wait and see. I'm gonna be the power behind the President, and you'll be the power behind me. You made me, Marcia. You made me. I always say that. I owe it all to you. I owe it all to you."). In a side story, although Rhodes proposed marriage to Marcia, he became infatuated with teenaged, 17 year-old baton twirler Betty Lou Fleckum (Lee Remick in her screen debut), and eloped with her, and then engaged in a 50-50 business partnership with Marcia. On a number of occasions, Rhodes expressed how disrespectful, fraudulent and hypocritical he was. When concluding his national TV show ("The Cracker Barrel"), thinking that his microphone had been cut off (but was deliberately turned back on by Marcia to expose his duplicity), he showed his utter contempt for his mass audience by personally and nastily insulting them as stupid morons. In the stunning conclusion of his inevitable melt-down and spectacular downfall, drunken and delusional rabble-rouser Rhodes was in his swanky hotel two-floor penthouse for a fancy dinner party of political elites, to advance his own political agenda, where he found an empty room attended only by black butlers and servants, and he threatened to commit suicide after being disowned by his previous adoring public. Although Rhodes was finished for the time being, Miller predicted that it might only be a temporary setback.

Funny Face (1957), 103 minutes, D: Stanley Donen
Originally, Funny Face was a 1920s stage musical starring Fred Astaire and his sister Adele. When the production eventually reached Broadway in late 1927, it was a tremendous hit. The Stanley Donen-directed 1957 romantic comedy-musical again starred Astaire and featured winning songs by the Gershwins, although the plot was significantly changed. In this iteration, New York City's Quality fashion magazine editor Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) (based upon Harper's Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland) and her top fashion photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire, about 3 decades older than Hepburn) (based upon Richard Avedon) were looking for a model (a "Quality Woman") who was both beautiful and intellectual. In a small Greenwich Village bookshop ("Embryo Concepts") that was used as a photo backdrop, the mess created during the impromptu and intrusive photo-shoot upset the store's shy, withdrawn and bookish clerk, Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn in her first musical). Amateur philosopher Jo revealed her belief in "empathacalism" to Avery, and remained cool to his romantic advances and kisses. Dick was enamoured by Jo's fresh and intellectual look (her "funny face") and promoted her to Maggie, who was in the process of selecting a 'quality' woman to photograph in Paris. Jo reluctantly agreed to go to Paris (mostly to attend a philosophical lecture by her 'idol' - Professor Emile Flostre (Michel Auclair), empathacalism's founder). In addition, she would serve as a model for Paris-based Paul Duval's (Robert Flemyng) designer clothes. In the City of Lights during a touring travelogue of photos for the fashion event, Jo and Dick began to fall in love. Filmed in soft-focus in the green countryside at the Chantilly churchyard near Paris, Jo was photographed in a wedding bridal dress. She confessed her love for him and the two danced: ("He Loves and She Loves"). Ultimately, Jo's interest in Flostre fell apart when he was revealed to be more desirous of her physically than intellectually, and she knocked him over the head with a vase. She then wholeheartedly participated in the magazine's fashion show finale, and was able to reconcile with Dick (who became disconsolate when he thought Jo was no longer interested in him and was ready to leave Paris). In the fairy-tale ending, they again reunited in the garden at the small country church - and sang together "'S Wonderful."

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), 122 minutes, D: John Sturges

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), 81 minutes, D: Jack Arnold

Jailhouse Rock (1957), 96 minutes, D: Richard Thorpe
This great black and white B-film has often been voted as the best, most popular, and most famous of Elvis Presley's musicals (his third film out of over 30 films from the late 50s through the 60s) - the plot even slightly paralleled the rocker's own life. This pre-Army film was filled with Presley classics, especially the wonderfully-choreographed set piece for "Jailhouse Rock," as well as the other memorable numbers including "I Want to Be Free," "Treat Me Nice," "You're So Square (Baby, I Don't Care)," and the two tender ballads: "Young and Beautiful" and "Don't Leave Me Now." Cocky, quick-tempered Vince Everett (Elvis Presley) was serving a one-to-ten year jail sentence for accidental manslaughter. While in jail, his cellmate Hunk Houghton (Mickey Shaughnessy), a washed-up, former veteran country singer, mentored him to learn guitar and sing, and persuaded him to enter the prison talent show. After his release from incarceration, the budding rock star was introduced to the record business. Struggling to break into the music industry after being ripped off, he decided to form his own record label, and became an overnight sensation. After being seduced by the decadent lifestyle of a pop star, he became rebellious and unwilling to work with his former cellmate and with Peggy Van Alden (Judy Tyler), his loyal and pretty girlfriend/talent scout/record promoter. [Note: Judy Tyler (formerly Princess Summerfall Winterspring on the Howdy Doody TV show) tragically died in a car crash before the film was released.]

Mother India (1957, India) (aka Bharat Mata), 172 minutes, D: Mehboob Khan

The Nights of Cabiria (1957, It./Fr.) (aka Le Notti Di Cabiri), 110 minutes, D: Federico Fellini

The Pajama Game (1957), 101 minutes, D: George Abbott, Stanley Donen

Paths of Glory (1957, UK), 88 minutes, D: Stanley Kubrick
This classic, powerfully bleak, anti-war drama from Stanley Kubrick was about the hypocrisy of militarism and power - it was the first of his anti-war trilogy, including Dr. Strangelove Or:... (1964) and Full Metal Jacket (1987). The film was based on Humphrey Cobb's factual 1935 novel, and became an effective denouncement of self-seeking, pitiless WWI French military leaders whose strategy and mishandling of a failed mission were incomprehensible. In 1916 during horrendous trench warfare on the French front (filmed with realistic tracking shots) against the Germans, a vain, scar-faced divisional French General Paul Mireau (George Macready), backed up by evil Corps Commander General George Broulard (Adolphe Menjou), ordered his hapless group of soldiers to suicidally attack an obviously-impenetrable German stronghold, dubbed the Ant-Hill. Mireau had been promised a promotion - another military star - for his efforts by General Broulard - a wily, cultivated but calloused, scheming and ruthless officer in the French High Command, who had commandeered a grand, stately, palatial chateau as his headquarters. There was an endless, absorbing and dramatic tracking shot of Mireau uncomfortably walking through the muddy trenches, speaking to various soldiers, along with distant sounds of exploding mortars, on his way to meet with 701st Infantry Regimental Commander Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) and pass on the responsibility for his foolish strategy for a catastrophic atack. During the ill-conceived and failing attack (a gut-wrenching 10 minute-sequence), hundreds of soldiers were slaughtered by machine-gun fire in no man's land. Mireau angrily commanded his own artillery to fire on the 'cowardly' troops. As a cruel example to others, three scapegoated soldiers were randomly selected to take the blame: Private Maurice Ferol (Timothy Carey), Corporal Philippe Paris (Ralph Meeker), and Private Pierre Arnaud (Joseph Turkel) - the blameless men were held responsible for the stupid blunders of the commanders, ordered to stand trial and be court-martialed for "cowardice in the face of the enemy." Military commander and dissenting Army lawyer Colonel Dax, aware of the disgraceful cover-up and episode, volunteered to defend the condemned men. During the taut and compelling but sham court-martial trial sequence, held in the clean, gleaming, high-ceilinged ballroom of the luxurious chateau, there were no prosecution witnesses, no indictment, and no stenographic record of the very unfair proceedings. The prosecutor argued for a guilty verdict for the condemned men. After an unsuccessful yet eloquent defense by Colonel Dax, he claimed that the trial was a farce ("a mockery of all human justice"). During incarceration, the condemned men were brought their last meal, and then the three faced execution by firing squad the next morning at 7 am dawn (a tense, 7-minute firing squad scene). Following the executions, Mireau was removed from command by Broulard, and the command job was offered to Dax - who refused to accept. During the scene of Dax's post-firing squad meeting with the evil General Broulard, he staunchly refused a self-serving promotion, and was then forced to apologize to the commander - but refused to do so. In the final tavern scene, a frightened, fragile, teary-eyed and innocent German blonde girl (Susanne Christian in the credits, actually Christiane Harlan, director Kubrick's future third and last wife) who had been captured was forced to sing a well-known German ballad for a group of Dax's French soldiers - a folk song of love in war, called "The Faithful Soldier." The looks on their faces at first humiliated her, and then softened, as they listened empathically and understood her pain. The song evoked memories of their youth, their homes, and their loves in a world they might never see again. In the film's conclusion, Dax was outside the tavern, where he was watching and listening impassively. He received orders from Broulard to immediately return his unit to the front's trenches. To give his men the "short" rest they were promised but never fully received following the assault on Ant Hill, he postponed their deployment for a few more minutes.

Peyton Place (1957), 157 minutes, D: Mark Robson
Director Mark Robson's sanitized and toned-down, yet still torrid soap-opera adaptation of Grace Metalious' best-selling, shocking and scandalous 1956 novel was about small-town repression, incest, suicide, rape, nudity, homosexuality, adultery, abortion, and patricidal murder. The opening credits and sequence portrayed calm, picture-postcard views of a New England town, Peyton Place. Two prominent families in town were - the MacKenzie family (composed of prudish, blonde, widowed dress shop owner Constance "Connie" MacKenzie (Oscar-nominated Lana Turner) and her studious HS senior daughter Allison MacKenzie (Diane Varsi)), and the Cross family (composed of alcoholic step-father Lucas Cross (Arthur Kennedy) - the school's custodian, his wife Nellie (Betty Field) - housekeeper for the MacKenzies, and two step-children: Paul Cross (William Lundmark) and Selena Cross (Hope Lange)). Idealistic newcomer to town Michael Rossi (Lee Philips), who was looking for employment, was hired as the new high school principal after being interviewed by local school board member and mill owner Mr. Harrington (Leon Ames) and the local doctor Dr. Matthew Swain (Lloyd Nolan). Two other major characters were overtly-sexual, fast-living trampish sexpot Betty Anderson (Terry Moore) and her boyfriend Rodney Harrington (Barry Coe), son of wealthy mill owner (Leon Ames), who often caused trouble for 18 year old coming of age Allison, who began a romantic relationship with nerdy, shy and virginal Norman Page (Russ Tamblyn). Tormented, wrong-side-of-the-tracks Selena Cross was forced to fight off the advances of her drunken stepfather Lucas Cross in their tarpaper shack, after she returned from a date with her boyfriend-fiancee, aspiring lawyer Ted Carter (David Nelson). During the film's incestuous rape scene, her lecherous, alcoholic father attacked her on a bed. She became pregnant and consulted with Dr. Swain, requesting an 'abortion' (the word was not used in the film); the outraged doctor, who promised to keep her situation a secret, threatened Lucas with jail-time, and was able to force him to sign a confession that he had fathered the child. When Selena returned home, she was again attacked by her spiteful father; she fled from him into the woods, and fell - suffering a miscarriage; Dr. Swain reported his operation on her as 'appendicitis.' During a vicious argument in the MacKenzie household after hearing the town's rumors about Allison, Connie stunningly revealed to her shocked daughter that she was born out of wedlock (illegitimate), and that she had been lied to about her father. Horrified by the revelation, Allison fled to her upstairs bedroom, where she found her mother's maid, Nellie Cross (Lucas' oppressed wife, who knew about the sexual attacks on Selena) dead from a suicidal hanging. During the war years, Betty was widowed when her married husband Rodney was killed in battle; and although he had always disapproved of Betty, Mr. Harrington kept his promise to his dead son to care for Betty and welcome her to the family. Also, Connie and the new HS principal Michael Rossi, who had been steadily interested in her, finally made plans to marry. Upon Lucas' return to the family's shack on Christmas Eve while he was serving in the Navy during WWII, Selena was forced to bludgeon her father to death with a piece of firewood during a second rape attempt, and then buried his body in the backyard. A few months later when Lucas was considered AWOL, Selena confessed her crime to Connie, who then reported the murder to the authorities. In the film's climactic courtroom trial for murder, during an unapologetic confessional testimony as a witness for the defense, Dr. Swain claimed that Selena's act of murder was not pre-meditated. He produced a signed confession from Lucas that stated the father's responsibility for Selena's pregnancy, and that she had fought him off in self-defense. In the film's ending, Allison was touchingly reconciled to her mother on the front steps of the MacKenzie house.

Sayonara (1957), 147 minutes, D: Joshua Logan
Director Joshua Logan's romantic-drama set in the early 1950s was about the issue of American soldiers serving in post-war Japan during the Korean War (1950-1953), who became romantically involved with indigenous Japanese natives in defiance of US military policy. West-Point educated Air Force Major Lloyd "Ace" Gruver (Marlon Brando) was transferred from the warfront in Korea and redeployed and stationed at a Japanese air base in Kobe. He was ordered there specifically by General Webster (Kent Smith), the father of Gruver's own red-headed American fiancee Eileen (Patricia Owens) from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to confront enlisted Airman Joe Kelly (Oscar-winning Red Buttons), from marrying a Japanese "native" woman, Katsumi (Oscar-winning Miyoshi Umeki). Shortly later, he reluctantly found himself serving as 'best man' at the happy couple's wedding. He was also engaged to Eileen, but they had an unstable and disintegrating relationship. She feared that he would become like his father, a four-star general neglectful of his mother, and she didn't want to be married to him based on personal status alone, rather than for true passionate love. At the same time, Gruver became entranced and obsessed with the star performer Hana-ogi (Miiko Taka in her debut film) of the beautiful Japanese Matsubayashi Revue dancers. He ultimately was able to meet her in private at Kelly's house for dinner (she was friends with Katsumi), and they began a secretive love affair after she surprised Gruver by offering and submitting herself to him. Meanwhile, Kelly's bigoted commanding officer Colonel Crawford (Douglas Watson) convinced General Webster to agree with his suggestion to order a new regulation that would prohibit any further fraternizations between servicemen and local women. As a result, Kelly was told he would be shipped back to the US - without his wife (who was now pregnant). Angered, Gruver decided to divulge his own relationship with a Japanese woman and his plans to marry her: "Kelly's from my outfit, Mrs. Webster. l was his best man. And l'm planning to marry a Japanese girl myself"; it was also a pronouncement of his formal engagement breakup with Eileen. Both officers received punishment under the order: Kelly's house was boarded up, and he was told he would be shipped out in two days. And Gruver was placed under house arrest and urged to return to the US. He also learned that Hana-ogi was also being punished (although leniently) with an imminent transfer to Tokyo by the company for consorting with an American. Unfortunately, Kelly and Katsumi, who faced a life of separation, engaged in the practice of ritualized suicide (or shinju), and were found dead in their home by Gruver. Instead of allowing his reassignment to the US, Gruver flew to Tokyo where Hana-ogi was now performing with her Japanese theater troupe. He was ultimately able to convince her to join him, and proceed to the American consulate to get married. The film's final line of dialogue was delivered by Gruver to rival Japanese and American military reporters (from Stars and Stripes) about how he felt about the negative reaction they would receive: ("Tell 'em we said, 'Sayonara').

The Seventh Seal (1957, Swe.) (aka Det Sjunde Inseglet), 96 minutes, D: Ingmar Bergman

Sweet Smell of Success (1957), 96 minutes, D: Alexander Mackendrick
Director Alexander Mackendrick's caustic, dark film noir (his debut American film) was based on the short story by Ernest Lehman titled Tell Me About It Tomorrow, and was filmed on location in NYC. In the plot, opportunistic, vicious, hustling, slimy press agent Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) provided publicity for showbiz clients, hoping for exposure in the syndicated columns. Ruthless, sadistic, monstrously-manipulative newspaper columnist J. J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) unscrupulously plotted with Falco to disrupt and destroy the romantic relationship of his younger sister Susan Hunsecker (Susan Harrison) with a jazz musician Steve Dallas (Martin Milner). Unethical and immoral but desperate to please Hunsecker, Falco smeared Dallas as a drug addict and Communist by planting evidence, but caused Susan to become suicidal. Ultimately vengeful, she walked out on her 'incestuous' and obsessed, overprotective brother, while a raging Hunsecker had Falco beaten up.

The Three Faces of Eve (1957), 91 minutes, D: Nunnally Johnson

Throne of Blood (1957, Jp.) (aka Kumonosu-jô), 105 minutes, D: Akira Kurosawa

12 Angry Men (1957) (aka Twelve Angry Men), 96 minutes, D: Sidney Lumet
Sidney Lumet's debut directorial film, a taut courtroom drama, was based on Reginald Rose's television play. In a hot summer courtroom in NYC after the trial, instructions by a Judge (Rudy Bond) were given to the jury, concerning the case of an 18 year-old, slum-dwelling Puerto Rican/Latino defendant (John Savoca), held on charges of murdering his abusive, ex-con father with a switchblade knife - he faced the electric chair if convicted. He had been defended by a poorly-paid, inept public defender. The entire film consisted of the deliberations of twelve male individuals (each un-named but with a number) held in a swelteringly-hot, bare-walled claustrophobic jury room, punctuated by flashbacks about the case and trial, to decide the fate of the minority defendant. They had been given instructions from the judge about 'innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.' One female witness testified that through her bedroom window and a passing elevated train, she had seen the murder. Another elderly witness claimed he heard the defendant say: "I'll kill you" - after which he heard the body drop and saw the defendant running down the stairs. As evidence, the long switchblade murder weapon was similar to the one the defendant had purchased. On the witness stand, the defendant's alibi was weak - he said he was at the movies during the night before returning to the scene of the crime, but couldn't recall the movies that he had seen. The case required a unanimous vote ("beyond a reasonable doubt") of 12 jurors to convict, and to send the defendant with a mandatory death sentence to the electric chair. It was a seemingly open-and-shut case. After the first rapid jury vote, it was eleven to one for conviction. Juror # 8 (Henry Fonda), an architect, was the sole doubting and dissenting vote. The tempers, prejudices and personalities of the cranky, smoking men were displayed as they examined the evidence and deliberated their verdict. After considerable deliberations and discussion, including # 8's display of an identical switchblade knife he had bought, a second vote was taken - # 8 was joined by Juror # 9 (Joseph Sweeney) - and now it was ten to 2. Juror # 8 began to poke holes in the flimsy evidence, the inconsistent testimony of the unreliable witnesses, and the prejudices of some of the other jurors, especially Juror # 10 (Ed Begley). For one thing, the old male witness probably couldn't have heard the defendant yell at his father as the noisy six-car train passed on the tracks. And the elderly man, who was lame, couldn't have walked from his bedroom to his door in 15 seconds as he claimed. The woman who said she saw the crime through the passing train was not wearing her glasses. Eventually, revotes dwindled down the number of those calling for conviction. Only one Juror, # 3 (Lee J. Cobb) remained defiant, and he too changed his vote. The defendant was acquitted of the crime.

Wild Strawberries (1957, Swed.) (aka Smultronstället), 91 minutes, D: Ingmar Bergman

Witness For The Prosecution (1957), 114 minutes, D: Billy Wilder
Co-writer and director Billy Wilder's brilliant film had crisp dialogue, a complicated and intriguing plot, unique characters and excellent acting performances. It was a convoluted, twisting courtroom mystery based on Agatha Christie's 1933 four-character short story and celebrated 1947 stage play. It told about an aging, distinguished, near-retirement age London barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton), with his overbearing housekeeper/nurse Miss Plimsoll (Elsa Lanchester, Laughton's real-life wife) tending to his near-failing health for a weak heart. The intelligently clever and incorrigible attorney was asked by solicitor Mayhew (Henry Daniell) to take on a perplexing case, the defense of the prime suspect - an unemployed, American expatriate inventor named Leonard Stephen Vole (Tyrone Power in his final film role). He was charged with the murder of wealthy widow Emily Jane French (Norma Varden), in order to inherit her property (80,000 pounds). The testimony -- and true identity -- of the mysterious, beautiful German-born 'wife' of the accused, Christine "Helm" Vole (Marlene Dietrich), held the key to solving the case involving marital infidelities and deceit. She was her husband's only alibi - but she could not, as the defendant's wife, be considered a credible witness. However, she WAS called as a 'witness for the prosecution' to damningly testify against him and cold-heartedly betray her husband. On the stand, she admitted that: (1) she wasn't really legally married to Leonard (and could therefore testify against him), (2) she was forced by him to provide a false alibi, and (3) her husband had admitted the murder to her, after returning home with blood on his clothes. When a mysterious Cockney woman (also Dietrich) called Sir Wilfrid claiming that she had surprise information to help his client, the film set up the twist ending. She offered to supply the barrister with love letters that the perjuring Christine had written to a mysterious lover named Max. When the trial resumed, Sir Wilfrid confronted Christine with the letters (so she could get rid of Leonard and be with another man) to prove that she had lied. Having proven Christine to be a liar and unreliable witness, Leonard was declared 'not guilty.' After Leonard had been acquitted, Christine revealed that she was disguised as the Cockney woman who had devised the ploy of love letters to get Vole acquitted. Only by being an entirely uncredible witness could she get her husband declared innocent. The defendant had obviously been guilty all along, and had committed the crime. He also declared that he was unfaithful and philandering with Diana (Ruta Lee), who arrived in the courtroom to run away with him. Then, with furious and jealous anger, Christine shockingly stabbed him to death for his double-crossing philandering! This climactic murder was followed by Sir Wilfrid's classic line when he corrected his nurse Miss Plimsoll about the killing: "Killed him? She executed him." Sir Wilfrid would now serve as Christine's defense lawyer.


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