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


Greatest Films of the 1950s
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1955

Academy Awards for 1955 Films
Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

All That Heaven Allows (1955), 89 minutes, D: Douglas Sirk
Director Douglas Sirk's melodramatic, glossy Technicolored soap opera was about a doomed May-December relationship in the conservative Eisenhower Era of the mid-1950s, in the confining and artificially-proper society of a suburban town (Stoningham) in New England. During the opening title credits, there was a symbolic, high-angle camera shot of a piercing, stiff spire of a New England church rising above the 'ideal' Americana town. Fortyish, middle-class, affluent widowed Cary Scott (Jane Wyman) (with her children away except on weekends) was being urged by her well-meaning neighbor Sara Warren (Agnes Moorehead) to socially date and find 'formal' companionship, possibly with an older, prosperous but uninteresting country club member named Harvey (Conrad Nagel), a stable but hypochondriac bachelor. Meanwhile, Cary began to establish a strong friendship with her handsome, self-assured and calm, younger, back-to-nature, self-reliant, non-conformist gardener Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson) - their relationship, considered increasingly troubling because of his blue-collar status, became the scandalizing subject of snobby, judgmental, upper-crust gossip mongerers in town, led by Mona Plash (Jacqueline de Wit). In an early discussion, Cary's bookish, social-worker daughter Kay (Gloria Talbott) talked about the "old Egyptian custom" of entombing widows: "Of walling up the widow alive in the funeral chamber of her dead husband along with all of his other possessions. The theory being that she was a possession too, so she was supposed to journey into death with him. And the community saw to it that she did. Course that doesn't happen anymore" - although Cary retorted: "Doesn't it? Well, perhaps not in Egypt." Cary's relationship with Ron intensified after she visited at his rustic greenhouse cabin, viewed his silver-tipped spruce trees - and fell into his arms for an unexpected kiss. Later, she also met some of his uninhibited, non-conformist friends, including ex-suburbanites Mick and Alida Anderson (Charles Drake and Virginia Grey) at a joyful party at their house. She learned they had sought to follow Henry David Thoreau's advice to be out of step with society and live off the land. Gossip surrounding Cary's and Ron's relationship included two falsehoods - that they had been romantically involved before her husband died, and that he was only interested in her money. Cary's two grown children also disapproved of the idea of their mother's new relationship with someone 'beneath' her. At a country club cocktail party, Cary and Ron were subjected to snide comments (Ron was called "nature boy"), snubs, stares, and unwelcome advances from married member Howard Hoffer (Donald Curtis) who tried to passionately kiss her - implying that she was a tease. In a decisive scene, Cary suggested to Ron that they suspend their love affair (and his proposal to get married) due to repressive community pressure and ostracizing (about her socially unacceptable choice): "Ron, we're gonna have to wait to get married. Well... to give the children a chance to get used to the idea. They'll feel differently when they know you better....I'm just asking you to be patient. It's only a question of time....Right now everybody's talking about us - we're a local sensation. And like Sara said, if the people get used to seeing us together, then maybe they'll accept us...It's only for a little while, and it would make things so much easier." Ron was resistant to her suggestion about having their lives ruled by others: "I'm sorry Cary, but it wouldn't work. I can't live that way. You knew that from the beginning....God knows I love you, but I won't let Ned nor Kay nor anyone else run our lives. Cary, don't you see we could never be happy if we did?...Cary, you're the one that made it a question of choosing. So you're the one that'll have to choose" - she made a quick decision and chose her need for social acceptance over her love for him: "All right. It's all over." Later in a related scene to the one earlier about Egyptian customs, there was a paired metaphoric shot of Cary appearing isolated, 'entombed' and trapped inside her house as she looked out of her window at Christmas festivities. Shortly later, a despondent Cary (suffering from recurring headaches) was presented with a Christmas gift from her grown children, self-centered and stuffy Princeton student Ned (William Reynolds) and Kay - an ironic consolation prize and substitute for having lost the love of her life, and to keep her company; both of her children would soon be leaving her life: Kay was engaged to be married, and Ned was going to study and work abroad in Paris. The gift her children had given her was a brand new table-model TV set (adorned with red ribbons) - it was chosen to keep her company - she saw her chilling, solitary glassy reflection framed (enclosed and trapped) on the blank and empty TV screen as the salesman pointed at it and told her: "All you have to do is turn that dial and you have all the company you want right there on the screen - drama, comedy, life's parade at your fingertips." By film's end, Cary and Ron were ultimately reconciled and brought back together when Cary visited Ron again at his house - an old mill that he had converted into a home for them. But when she approached the door, she hesitated and hurriedly drove off. From a distance, Ron (who was out hunting) saw her and rushed to call to her, but slipped on snow and fell over a cliff - and suffered a severe head concussion. Later that night, Cary was told by Alida that Ron was unconscious after an accident and she was driven to his cabin. While she waited for Ron to regain consciousness, she admired the beauty of his home that he had built for her and decided to no longer run away. The next morning when he woke up, he saw her and assuringly told her: "You've come home" - and she responded: "Yes, darling, I've-I've come home."

Artists and Models (1955), 109 minutes, D: Frank Tashlin
Director Frank Tashlin's musical romantic comedy Artists and Models was the first of two Martin and Lewis films that he directed (the second was the duo's final film Hollywood or Bust (1956), and it was the comedy duo's 14th feature film. One of Dean Martin's signature songs, "Innamorata" was featured in this film. In the opening sequence, struggling painter and aspiring artist Richard "Rick" Todd (Dean Martin) was promptly fired from his job as he was painting the bright red lips of an open-mouthed female on a gigantic 'smoking' billboard. He blamed his geeky best friend and goofy roommate Eugene Fullstack (Jerry Lewis), who was serving as his work assistant. Eugene was an aspiring children's book writer-author who became distracted on the job due to his avid and crazed obsession with reading 'Bat Lady' comic books, and was responsible for their firing. In their shared 3rd floor apartment in a Greenwich Village building, they were soon perusing the want ads for employment. Infantile-minded Eugene often lived in a fantasy, "make-believe" world (to shield him from real-life). During the night in their shared bedroom, Rick was awakened by Eugene's screamed, fantastical babblings and sleep-talking "bad dream" rants. Eugene's fully-developed and highly-charged, comic-book fantasy story-plots in his dreams were about a garishly-costumed, bird-like interplanetary space superhero and feathered adventurer known as "Vincent the Vulture" who fought off a diabolical female opponent with three purple-colored eyes known as "Zuba the Magnificent." Zuba was armed with fangs and a lethal "atomic atomizing pivot gun" to steal Vincent's "secret power formula: X34 minus 5r1 plus 6-x36." Two roommate-tenants on the 4th floor directly above them were successful, pretty blonde, professional comic artist-cartoonist Abigail 'Abby' Parker (Dorothy Malone) who illustrated the 'Bat Lady' comics, and her 'Bat Lady' model Bessie Sparrowbrush (Shirley MacLaine). Eugene's first view of the 'Bat Lady' in costume caused him to develop an infatuation with the superheroine. At the same time, the horoscope-obsessed Bessie told Abby that she had just met her true love (Eugene), due to her promising astrological readings. In the office of Abby's comic book and pulp editor-publisher boss Mr. Murdock (Eddie Mayehoff), she promptly quit her job when she refused to comply with Murdock's mercenary demands for more violence and bloody gore in the stories. In the outer office where Bessie was working as Murdock's secretary, she realized that Eugene was love-struck with her 'Bat-Lady' persona. After Abigail's firing, Rick saw an opportunity to be hired as Murdock's new comic-book artist and author, and he secretly accepted the job while continuing to romance Abby, and pressure her to hire him as a male model for an advertising layout. Without Eugene's or Abby's knowledge, Rick accepted the job offer from Murdock and proposed Eugene's dreamt-up character 'Vincent the Vulture' as the new story-line. He planned on using the violent plots of Eugene's nightmares as his subject matter - to fit the increasing demand for gore. Meanwhile, story-writer Eugene and illustrator Abby collaborated together on his children's books (about 'Goose and Fieldmouse'), while each night, Rick took advantage of Eugene by transcribing his violent nightmares and dream-stories, and submitting the material as his own work for a new comic-book series known as 'Vincent The Vulture' for Murdock. The first published 'Vincent the Vulture' comics, with a secret mathematical rocket fuel formula (a national secret) in the plot, were extremely popular with young fans; however, in the current Cold War era, the military feared that their rocket fuel formula was being made available to the Soviets. The Russians deployed their own secret weapon -- seductive foreign Agent Sonia/Mrs. Curtis (Eva Gabor) to entice Rick (and then Eugene) to reveal the entire secret formula. The FBI, Secret Service and NYPD became involved to prevent the Soviets from conducting their spy activities. The film concluded with a marvelous musical production number ("Artists and Models") performed on the set of a gigantic artist's painting palette. During the Ball, Sonia and her spy gang abducted Bessie and stole her clothes in order to impersonate her and dress in her costume, to enticingly kidnap Eugene and take him to the Soviets' hideout-mansion (Sonia's "love nest"). At the spies' locale, Eugene was drugged with doctored champagne, went into his dream-land, and was about to recite the complete secret formula. He was rescued by Rick and a recently-freed Bessie who had followed them in a taxi. Eugene was brought to life and powerfully re-energized by Bessie's true-love kiss and was able to vanquish all of the spies (and also some of the members of the Secret Service and NYPD) by knocking them out with potent punches. Eugene finally realized that Bessie was his true 'Bat Lady' love from his dreams. They hurriedly returned to the stage of the Artists and Models Ball - where the two reunited couples sang: "There always comes a time for wedding bells to chime." Eugene pointed to Abby next to Rick: "She's his!", while Bessie asserted to Eugene: "You're mine!" They miraculously transformed into wearing marital clothes for a double wedding as they sang the final line of the song: "When You Pretend": "For life is filled with happy endings when you pretend."

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), 81 minutes, D: John Sturges
Director John Sturges' suspenseful, powerful, 50's Western-like drama and modern-day film-noirish mystery-thriller, a masterpiece about racial prejudice (and a harsh comment about Hollywood's blacklist and the McCarthy years), was set in an isolated, southwestern desert town in 1945 - scriptwriter Millard Kaufman based the film adaptation upon American novelist Howard Breslin's late 1946 short story "Bad Time at Honda" first published in The American Magazine (January 1947). In the stunning opening credits sequence - the Streamliner diesel train raced across the arid desert before making an unusual stop at Black Rock, AZ's train station - the first time the train had ever stopped in the tiny isolated town in four years. A well-dressed, mysterious one-armed stranger named John J. Macreedy (Spencer Tracy) entered into the hostile, uncooperative, and claustrophobic Western town, and quickly realized he was unwelcome by the few citizens found there. He had come to fulfill his civic responsibility and a personal promise that he had made to a Japanese-American soldier who died fighting in WW II. He was searching for the whereabouts of the local Japanese-American father, Komoko, of his soldier/friend Joe who had saved his life during the war in Italy, to bestow the deceased man's posthumously-presented medal of honor to the family. After encountering mostly a conspiracy of silence, he learned that the farmer Komoko had died after facing internment by the US government. Macreedy rented a jeep and drove to nearby Adobe Flat to locate the Japanese family's leased homestead, and found evidence that it had burned to the ground. He began to suspect that a deadly incident four years earlier had occurred - the murder of Komoko at his homestead by prejudiced townsfolk. His awkward questions caused the uneasy, hostile local inhabitants to confront their guilty consciences and threaten his life, led by menacing, sinister town boss Reno Smith (Robert Ryan) and his henchmen - a racially-bigoted Coley Trimble (Ernest Borgnine) and sadistic bully Hector David (Lee Marvin). They retaliated with violence and set him up to be killed as he tried to escape from their conspiracy, putting his life at risk. Eventually, some town members, including a drunken Sheriff Tim Horn (Dean Jagger), a vet/doctor and undertaker Doc Velie (Walter Brennan), and Liz Wirth (Anne Francis) became the stranger's allies. In the fiery conclusion, Liz was shot in the back by Reno Smith to silence her, infuriating Macreedy who inventively created a Molotov cocktail that he tossed at Reno to incinerate him. As Macreedy prepared to leave Black Rock and the Streamliner's horn was heard in the distance, Doc asked him to give Komoko's medal to the whole town to remind the people of the cowardly conspiracy that nearly destroyed them, so that it might not happen again.

Blackboard Jungle (1955), 100 minutes, D: Richard Brooks
Co-writer/diirector Richard Brooks' and MGM's shocking, cautionary tale, urban melo-drama and striking film with social commentary was about the state of education in a violent, inner-city US boys school (the "blackboard jungle"). It was the first American film to deal with the social problem of teenage delinquency and classroom anarchy in our urban public schools. It was also notable as the first film to feature a rock-'n'-roll song in its soundtrack, "Rock-Around-The-Clock." (sung by Bill Haley and His Comets during the opening title credits). Idealistic, soft-spoken, middle-aged US Navy war veteran Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford) was one of three new school teachers hired to work (as an English teacher) in a slum, inter-racial and multi-ethnic inner-city boys vocational school (North Manual Trades High School) in NYC. The school's principal Mr. Warneke (John Hoyt) decisively asserted a questionable statement: "There is no discipline problem in this school." One experienced, cynical teacher Mr. Jim Murdock (Louis Calhern) described the school: "This is the garbage can of the educational system." Dadier was also dealing with his 4-months pregnant wife Anne (Anne Francis), who was moody and tense about miscarrying. Immediately at school in his classroom, Dadier faced delinquent, tough-talking, lower-class student misbehavior. Two students in particular who stood out were disaffected, inner-city black youth Gregory Miller (Sidney Poitier in one of his earliest roles), and unruly, insolent, disrespectful, bullying, rebellious and brash gang-leader Artie West (Vic Morrow). Dadier asked for Miller's help to guide the students into becoming more cooperative, but Miller refused. Troubling incidents occurred in rapid succession: pretty new teacher Lois Hammond (Margaret Hayes) was sexually assaulted in the library, and Dadier and another teacher, Josh Edwards (Richard Kiley) were brutally mugged and assaulted by Artie West and other gang members in an alleyway. The headstrong and stubborn Dadier steadfastly vowed to his wife Anne: "I'm not beaten, and I'm not quittin'," but he also felt like he had lost his ideals about why he wanted to teach. The Principal also falsely accused Dadier of being "guilty of racial prejudice" and bigoted thinking in his classroom. Jazz music-loving Mr. Edwards was attacked in his classroom and his priceless record collection was destroyed by Arte West. Soon after, Edwards resigned. Meanwhile, Anne was receiving anonymous letters and phone calls accusing her husband of cheating on her with Miss Hammond. The stress of the letters and phone calls about a possible affair led to Anne's "mentally-disturbed" state and her unexpected labor and delivery of a premature baby boy. Dadier learned about the letters and phone calls and felt completely defeated by the school and his students, and considered resigning. Things came to a head when Dadier confronted two of his students for cheating. Arte refused to turn in his plagiarized paper, and when Dadier prepared to take him to the Principal's office, the confrontation escalated, and Arte drew his switchblade and kept threatening Dadier with violence. Dadier was struck in the hand and bloodied, but remarkably was backed up by Miller and other classmates. Arte West's domination of the class and his gang was finally over. (Arte was the one who had accused him of racial bigotry and had sent the accusatory letters and made the phone calls.) In the final scene, Miller made a deal with Dadier that they both wouldn't quit the school prematurely, since Miller had heard rumors that Dadier was planning on quitting. They both agreed to honor their earlier pact to not leave early. The film ended with a reprise of "Rock-Around-The-Clock."

The Court Jester (1955), 101 minutes, D: Melvin Frank and Norman Panama
Co-directors Melvin Frank's and Norman Panama's classic musical costume comedy, a spoof of adventure-film swashbucklers, was set in medieval England. Danny Kaye starred in a dual role as carnival entertainer-acrobat Hubert Hawkins, and as an impersonator of a court jester named "Giacomo" (pronounced "Jockamo"). In the plot, King Roderick (Cecil Parker) had usurped the throne by murdering the royal family, but a royal baby (with a purple pimpernel birthmark on his bottom) - the rightful heir to the throne, had survived the massacre ordered by the King's evil right-hand man Sir Ravenhurst (Cecil Rathbone). The baby was being protected by a group of rebel loyalists led by dashing, Robin Hood-like outlaw "The Black Fox" (Edward Ashley) and his followers in the forest. To solidify his power, the King was pressuring his pretty daughter - Princess Gwendolyn (Angela Lansbury) - into a politically-important marriage to Sir Griswold of the North (Robert Middleton). Two of the Black Fox's followers, ex-carnival entertainer Hubert Hawkins (Danny Kaye) and Maid/Captain Jean (Glynis Johns), disguised themselves as wine merchants and were entrusted with the royal baby, to whisk it away to an Abbey for safety. Along the way toward the King's palace, the two met a court jester from Italy named Giacomo (John Carradine) who had been recommended by Ravenhurst to the king. Giacomo - a skilled assassin, was part of Ravenhurst's conspiracy to eliminate the King and assume power for himself. After they rendered him unconscious, Hawkins decided to impersonate the 'Court Jester' as part of their plan to infiltrate into the King's castle (and acquire a secret key in the King's chambers that would open up a secret tunnel passageway into the castle that would allow the Black Fox to invade). Jean was kidnapped by the King's men and taken as a wench for the King's pleasure, while Hawkins continued on as "Giacomo" - not knowing that he was supposed to be an assassin. Efforts to keep the baby hidden in a basket prevailed, with help from a rebel confederate on the inside - the castle's stableman Fergus (Noel Drayton). At the castle, Princess Gwendolyn voiced repeated rejections to her father's demands for a forced marriage and alliance to Griswold. She convinced her witch-maid Griselda (Mildred Natwick) to help her out - and a spell was cast on "Giacomo" to become a dashing lover who could convincingly woo the Princess. Throughout the film, the hypnotizing spell could easily be removed and reinstated with the snap of the fingers. Once Griswold arrived, Gwendolyn declared her love for "Giacomo" instead. To avenge his insulted and destroyed honor, Griswold challenged "Giacomo" to a jousting-challenge to the death. To ensure that "Giacomo" would win the joust with Griswold, Griselda poisoned one of the drinks for the pre-joust toast - leading to the film's most memorable, tongue-twisting scenes about identifying where the poison was located. Although the pre-joust poisonous toast was called off at the last minute, the duel-challenge proceeded. It was won by "Giacomo" after a freak lightning strike magnetized his body suit of armor. The King reluctantly declared "Giacomo" the winner (of the contest and of his daughter) after he spared Griswold's life, but Ravenhurst accused "Giacomo" of being a traitor and ordered him to be arrested with Jean ("his foul accomplice") to both face a trial. Meanwhile, Hawkins' army of "little people" were infiltrating into the passageway leading to the castle's palace, while the Black Fox led his own army toward the castle. The army of midgets led by Hawkins took control of the basket holding the royal child, rescued Jean, attacked and knocked out the King's guards and catapulted them into the castle's moat, as the Black Fox's forces arrived with reinforcements. A hypnotized "Giacomo" (believing that he was a confident and skilled swordsman) dueled against and defeated Sir Ravenhurst, by catapulting him into the castle's moat. The film concluded with the defeat and ouster of throne-usurper King Roderick, and the revelation of the true young King (with the purple pimpernel birthmark) to Sir Griswold and his army.

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955), 100 minutes, D: Otto Preminger
This biographical (biopic) war docu-drama, a true story (although containing a number of fictionalized elements), was set in the mid-1920s. Stubborn but dedicated military airman Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell (Gary Cooper), a WWI hero, was a prophetic visionary who proposed the expansion of airpower during future military combat, but his crusading recommendations to the US War Department were continually overlooked and ignored. With his aircraft expertise and uncompromising nature, he argued for better aircraft maintenance, and the upgrading the fleet of airplanes left over from WWI. To make a firm political statement, in July of 1921, he deliberately violated military rules during a test of aircraft at an army test site off the coast of Virginia by using heavier bombs (above the 1,000 pound limit) and flying at a lower altitude of 2,000 feet (below the 5,000 foot required level). He proved his statement that battleships could be neutralized during war with air power by sinking the ex-German World War I battleship Ostfriesland. However, he was reprimanded for his disobedience. In 1925, he was demoted to Colonel and sent to a clerical army post in Fort Sam Houston (San Antonio, Texas). Meanwhile, outdated planes were continually crashing (six aircraft crashed on their way from California to Arizona), and Mitchell lost some of his closest friends, including Lt. Cmdr. Zachary "Zack" Lansdowne (Jack Lord) and 13 other crew members who died in a senseless tragedy over Ohio during a 27-city publicity junket on the USS Shenandoah airship-dirigible. To publicize the problem and complain, Mitchell lobbied for a press conference, and accused the Navy and War Departments of criminal negligence, incompetence and treasonous administration. Predictably, he was court-martialed. The "Court-Martial" Trial touted in the film's title began at the 70 minute mark of the 100 minute-long film. Illinois Congressman Frank Reid (Ralph Bellamy) and military-appointed attorney Lt. Colonel White (James Daly) defended Mitchell, while the prosecutor was Colonel Moreland (Fred Clark), and the presiding judge was Maj. Gen. James Guthrie (Charles Bickford). None of the military officers involved in the case had Air Corps experience. Court-martialed Mitchell was tried for breaking Articles 133 and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: conduct unbecoming an officer, and conduct that discredited the military. Reid was stymied when his requests to call witnesses to speak on Mitchell's behalf were denied. He asked Mitchell to sign a paper to withdraw his criticisms in exchange for reestablishing himself as an Army officer, but he refused. Mitchell had definitely disobeyed the articles and his commanding officers, but questions were raised: why, and were his accusations justified? The hearing began to turn in Mitchell's favor when previously-denied witnesses were allowed to testify, including WWI ace Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker (Tom McKee), Major Carl Spaatz (Steve Roberts), Major H. H. Arnold (Robert Brubaker), and Congressman Fiorello LaGuardia (Phil Arnold) (the future mayor of NYC). Lansdowne's widow Margaret (Elizabeth Montgomery in her film debut) testified that her husband's aircraft was a death trap. When Mitchell took the stand, he was cross-examined by sharp special prosecutor Major Allen Guillion (Rod Steiger). While also suffering from a malaria attack, he stood up to the nasty, skilled prosecutor, arguing that with the current state of the Air-Force, the US Navy at Pearl Harbor could easily be attacked (as it was years later). At the conclusion of the trial, Mitchell was convicted of insubordination, and suspended from active duty for five years without pay.

Les Diaboliques (1955, Fr.) (aka Diabolique, or The Devils), 114 minutes, D: Henri-Georges Clouzot
French director Henri-Georges Clouzot's intriguing, noirish psychological horror-thriller was one of the earliest films to feature a shocking plot twist in its conclusion. The overarching themes of the Hitchcockian, Psycho-like film were hate, double-cross, revenge and greed. At the run-down, all-boys Institution Delassalle Boarding School in metropolitan Paris, a love triangle had developed between the three main characters: 34 year-old Michel Delassalle (Paul Meurisse) - a despicable, miserly, tyrannical and abusive schoolmaster who was cruelly mistreating his students and employees, his tormented and "delicate" wife/Headmistress-Principal Christina "CriCri" Delassalle (Véra Clouzot, director Georges Clouzot's real-life wife), a devout ex-Catholic nun originally from Caracas, Venezuela with a heart condition, and Michel's mistress - an icy cool-tempered, cropped blonde-haired school teacher named Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret). Christina knew of her husband's destructive affair with Nicole, but tolerated it. Nicole was finally able to convince her co-battered friend Christina to join together with her to commit the perfect yet sinister murder of their equally-despised tormenter Michel. During a 3-day school vacation break that they took together to Nicole's country apartment, they lured Michel there with Christina's threat of a divorce. Christina tricked him into drinking alcohol spiked with a sleep sedative before the two drowned him in the bathtub. Nicole held down Michel's drugged body as the horrified and more sensitive Christina stood by. The body was brought back to the school the next day in a large wicker trunk and dumped in the school's neglected swimming pool. The two females thought that the death would easily be ruled a suspected drowning once the body surfaced, but it didn't appear as expected. The two uncertain and nervous co-conspirators began to distrust each other, assign blame and make recriminating statements, while becoming guilt-ridden, fearful, and worried. Other tense, semi-supernatural and unusual situations began to occur, suggesting that something had gone terribly awry with the murder, and that Michel might still be alive. A nosy, retired police commissioner and elderly, bumbling private detective Alfred Fichet (Charles Vanel) became involved in the case when he insisted that he could help Christina and locate her missing husband. In the film's plot-twisting conclusion, after wandering around the school building and her apartment and getting spooked by strange noises and shadows, in her bathroom, she unexpectedly found Michel's corpse in the bathtub. When Michel rose zombie-like out of a bathtub with half-opened, glazed all-white eyes, she experienced a fright-induced heart attack. The major twist was that Michel was never killed by them - he had faked his own death - with collaborative help by Nicole - so that Christina could be induced into having a fatal heart attack. Nicole rushed into Michel's arms for embraces and kisses. Their plan had been to become rich by selling the "fire-trap" school that he would inherit from his deceased wife. The two gloating co-conspirators were immediately arrested by Alfred - who overheard them talking about their plotting, and predicted their prison term of 15-20 years. In the film's resolution the next day as the school was closing, the confused, truth-telling or lying (?) student Moinet (Yves-Marie Maurin), the same boy who had earlier broken a window and stated that he had seen the Principal, now declared that Christina had just given him back his confiscated slingshot which he had used to break a second window that morning. The film's last line as he walked away to again stand in a corner for punishment for lying was: "I saw her. I know I saw her." (translated) The film's unique, one of the first of its kind, end-credits 'anti-spoilers' director's statement advised viewers to keep the film's ending a secret.

East of Eden (1955), 115 minutes, D: Elia Kazan
Director Elia Kazan's CinemaScopic drama was an updated re-telling of the Biblical story of rival brothers, Cain and Abel and a paradise lost. The maligned, misunderstood Cain character, representing the unlikeable and outcast director himself (for naming names before the HUAC Committee in 1952), became the sensitive hero of the film. One of the film's posters exclaimed: "East of Eden is a story of explosive passions and Elia Kazan has made it into a picture of staggering power." Another poster described the relationship of the two brothers, by stating: "Sometimes you can't tell who's good and who's bad!..." Writer Paul Osborn's screenplay adapted John Steinbeck's 1952 novel with the same title for this dramatic Warner Bros. film. [Note: The film told only a small portion of Steinbeck's work, leaving out the childhood of the parents and the Chinese character of Lee.] The film's plot was set in 1917 at a time just before the US entry into World War I. It introduced the Trask family, ruled by a patriarchal father - stern, hardened, devoutly religious, self-righteous man Adam Trask (Raymond Massey), a lettuce farmer living with his family in Salinas, CA. His two contrasting twin sons (modeled after the Biblical brothers Cain and Abel) often vied for the affections of their father: (1) favored, dull, dutiful and stuffy Aron (Richard Davalos), and (2) underappreciated, insecure, tortured, neurotic loner Caleb "Cal" Trask (James Dean, in his first major role and film). The embittered Cal believed that he was the 'bad' son, and that his twin brother Aron was the favored 'good' son. The plot became emotionally charged when Cal learned that his estranged mother, known as Kate (Jo Van Fleet), was actually alive and was serving as a brothel-Madame in nearby Monterey, CA. Adam admitted the revelation and said he had kept it a secret to "save you pain" - spreading the belief that she had died after her twin boys were born and she had moved East. During Cal's second visit to 'Kate', he requested funds of $5,000 (to 'buy' his father's love and to invest it into a risky new bean crop). There were further issues that divided the brothers, when Cal expressed a liking for his brother's girlfriend Abra (Julie Harris). The most climactic scene was during Adam's birthday, when Cal's father rejected his gift of cash earnings from an investment in bean futures during the war years to help relieve his father's dour financial state. Cal was also harshly rebuked and threatened by Aron for associating with Abra. Cal retaliated by bringing Aron to see his mother (whom he had always been told was dead) - a whorehouse Madame engaged in a sinful profession. The shock of Aron's introduction to his mother caused him to get drunk and enlist in the army. Cal dramatically confronted and revealed to his father on the porch - that he knew all about his mother and why their marriage broke up. He then admitted that he had taken Aron to see their mother. In the emotional finale following Adam's stroke and paralysis, Abra explained to bed-ridden Adam why Cal had behaved like he did for not being loved in a fatherly way. Abra pleaded that Mr. Trask show some love to Cal. In the conclusion, Cal sat by his father's bedside and ultimately reconciled with him. Adam managed to speak and asked Cal to stay with him and care for him, instead of the detested nurse. Cal told Abra the good news, and then Cal and Abra fully kissed for the first time as the film concluded.

Guys and Dolls (1955), 150 minutes, D: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Samuel Goldwyn's production - a crime-related musical, was developed from a 1933 short story titled "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" by writer Damon Runyon about a NY sharpster and a missionary girl, and was released by MGM in the mid-50s. It was the big screen version of the story adapted from the long-running 1950 Broadway musical play. In the Depression-Era in NYC, the plot was about two gangster/gamblers ("guys") and the two females ("dolls") who were involved with them. Broadway denizen and financially-challenged gambler Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra) was known for organizing and running "The Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game" in the city, and was questing for a new venue to hold his gambling event, but was facing pressure and intense "heat" from NYPD Lieutenant Brannigan (Robert Keith). Nathan had been engaged for 14 years to Miss Adelaide (Vivian Blaine), a headliner at the Hot Box Club, who was also pressuring him to finally get married and elope, and to quit his gambling enterprise and become a normal businessman. Nathan met with an old acquaintance at Mindy's Restaurant, high-roller Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando) and tricked him into wagering $1,000, so that he could pay a required cash deposit for the Biltmore Garage for his crap game. As part of the bet, Sky was required to date and romance/seduce Salvation Army-like missionary Sgt./Sister Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons) from the "Save A Soul" Mission - a prudish and ultra-religious individual who was against gambling. After meeting her, Sky promised he would give Sarah his marker (a written IOU pledge or guarantee) that he could recruit a dozen genuine sinners into her Broadway-branch Mission two days later for her Thursday-midnight prayer meeting, if she would accept a date - flying to Havana for dinner. Although she initially refused the deal, she changed her mind the next day when the Mission was threatened to be shutdown. During their brief time in Havana together, they fell in love with each other. When they returned, they discovered that Nathan had used her empty Mission for a crap game. Recriminations and accusations were made that Sky had used Sarah, and she broke up with him. However, Sky kept his promise to her, to fill her Mission with genuine sinners, by making a risky bet with all the gamblers in town (including Chicago gangster Big Jule (B.S. Pully)). He proposed a bold, daring, risky, and all-or-nothing roll of the dice bet against Big Jule and the other gamblers - that a loss would mean that he would pay $1,000 dollars to each of the gamblers, but a win would immediately require all of them to attend Sarah's Thursday-night midnight prayer meeting. He won the bet, luckily, after singing "Luck Be A Lady," and saved Sarah's mission from closure. She realized that he actually loved her - and the film concluded with preparations for a double-marriage in Times Square the next day between Nathan and Miss Adelaide, and Sky with Sarah.

I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955), 117 minutes, D: Daniel Mann
Director Daniel Mann's and MGM's dramatic and poignant musical biopic was about a showbiz singer/actress and Broadway star named Lillian Roth (Susan Hayward). Hayward had also already starred in an Oscar-nominated role as an alcoholic nightclub singer in Smash Up - The Story of a Woman (1947), and "I'll Cry Tomorrow" was Hayward's first singing role. The film's tagline was: "She fell from fame to shame!" The plot was based upon Lillian Roth's own forthright and courageous best-selling 1954 "tell-all" autobiographical account of her personal tragedies (including five marriages) and 16 years of struggles with alcoholism and mental illness. The film's title was derived from her determined stage mother's advice to her resistant, crying daughter: "You got all day tomorrow to cry." During the opening title credits, one of Lillian Roth's own quotes was displayed on a title card: "My life was never my own - - it was charted before I was born. Lillian Roth." The film's opening was composed of scenes to illustrate young 8 year-old Lillian Roth's (Carole Ann Campbell) quick rise to stardom on the stage and screen, due to constant pressure from her domineering "stage mother" Katie (Jo Van Fleet), who urged: "There'll be Broadway plays and Hollywood. You'll be happy, successful, the best." Years later in a Paramount Pictures studio in Hollywood, the glamorous screen star Lillian Roth (Oscar-nominated Susan Hayward) sang the jazzy number on stage: "Sing, You Sinners" - during the filming of the pre-Code Hollywood musical comedy Honey (1930), while her domineering mother watched from off-stage. Lillian's critical, pushy, over-ambitious and controlling mother orchestrated her daughter's entire career to seek fame and success, and limited her romantic prospects with her childhood sweetheart and fiancee David Tredman (Ray Danton), an entertainment company lawyer from New York. As her agent, he had arranged for a Palace Theatre (Broadway) engagement and a national tour for Lillian. Katie now feared that David might jeopardize Lillian's ambitions and success due to the couple's desire to marry, settle down and raise a family. Shortly later after she went on-stage on opening night at the Palace to sing the number: "When the Red, Red, Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along," Lillian learned that David had died of an undisclosed illness (brain cancer?) in the hospital, and she became extremely despondent and grief-stricken. Although she continued on a national tour, Lillian remained upset and offered alcohol by her nurse Ellen (Virginia Gregg) to calm her and help her sleep. During a long period of recovery from paralyzing grief, Lillian descended into a pattern of drunkenness and alcohol abuse. After dating and getting drunk with immature aviation soldier-cadet Wallie (Don Taylor), a surprised Lillian (who had blacked out) was told that they had gotten married. Lillian's very short, year-long loveless marriage was mostly a drunken stupor between the two, and he had become fed up with being known as "Mr. Lillian Roth." Two years later, she met and fell prey to manipulative, sadistic and fellow alcoholic Tony Bardeman (Richard Conte) from Los Angeles, who charmed her. At the same time, Lillian's mother arrived for a visit after having learned about Lillian's excessive drinking, and she warned: "You're going to become an old-fashioned drunkard....Everybody is talking, the agents, the managers." Lillian realized that she had become a full-blown alcoholic and her life continued to revolve around the bottle. After becoming reacquainted, Tony promised Lillian that they could have a lifetime together of sobriety. He proposed marriage, and then deceived her into a loan of $5,000 for a business deal in Chicago. Lillian moved to California with Tony, and in a Los Angeles bar with the emotionally-abusive Tony, she confessed to him that her life had descended into ruin: ("I'm what you call an adorable drunk... I'm no good"). Their altercation led to a very public incident in the parking lot. As Lillian's life and career descended into ruin, she left Tony in the middle of the night, pawned her fur coat to obtain a drink, and eventually she ended up on LA's Skid Row. Realizing that she needed help, she contacted her mother (off-screen) to rescue her: ("Katie, come and get me...take me home"). Lillian returned to NYC to live in a tiny apartment with her mother for a brief time. In one of the film's most memorable sequences, they had a vicious argument together. The alcohol-addicted Lillian blamed her mother for deliberately breaking an alcohol bottle. Her mother admitted pushing her into being the famed actress Lillian Roth and projecting her own ambitions onto her, in order to survive. Although they hugged and made up, the very-depressed Lillian left her mother's apartment and rented a room on the upper floor of a hotel, where she attempted suicide by jumping from the skyscraper window. But when she was unable to do it, she slumped and fell to the floor. Her life had devolved to one of self-pity, self-hate, and self-destruction. She left the hotel and wandered on the street, and happened to come across an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) building, where she entered and soon made a remarkable comeback in her battle against alcohol. Polio-crippled friend and AA sponsor Burt McGuire (Eddie Albert) (whom she eventually married), and two others: Selma (Margo) and Jerry (Don "Red" Barry) helped her to recover in her hotel room. With their support and encouragement, she suffered through painful withdrawal and delirium tremens, and after regular attendance at AA meetings, she finally became sober. Burt (due to his own feelings of inadequacy) rebuffed and refused to acknowledge her growing love for him. In the film's conclusion set in 1953, Lillian was offered an opportunity to make an appearance on the This Is Your Life NBC-TV program hosted by Ralph Edwards (as Himself) in California. She sought advice from Burt about whether she should accept the offer. He told her that it was her decision to make on her own, and that she didn't need him anymore. He finally confessed that he was afraid to allow himself to love her. They agreed that together, they would help each other - before kissing. She made a courageous decision to go public and appear on the TV show to give hope to others who suffered the same pain due to alcoholism. Before walking down the aisle of the TV audience to speak to the host, she shared her thoughts to Burt (with tears welling up in her eyes): ("I only know that you get by giving, and this is all I've got to give"). Lillian's life was introduced by Ralph Edwards, as "a story of degradation and shame, but when you hear the facts, you'll realize how much courage it took for her to come here tonight. You'll also realize that it's a story full of hope, hope for many who are living and suffering in a half-world of addiction to alcohol. Hope for all people, whoever and wherever they are, so THIS IS YOUR LIFE, LILLIAN ROTH!"

Kiss Me Deadly (1955), 106 minutes, D: Robert Aldrich
Aldrich's suspenseful Cold War Era masterpiece was a jarring and violent crime and mystery film that was an adaptation of Mickey Spillane's 1952 pulp fiction novel of the same name. It was the definitive, apocalyptic, paranoid, science-fiction film noir of all time - at the close of the classic noir period. The nihilistic independent film featured a cheap and sleazy, contemptible, fascistic, hardened private investigator/vigilante named Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) whose trademarks were brutish violence, the end-justifies-the-means philosophy and speed. The tough PI ruthlessly pursued the white-hot, deadly apocalyptic object in a mysterious 'Pandora's box' ("the Great Whatzit"), ultimately leading to nuclear catastrophe and annihilation. In the questing tale, he was driving late one night toward Los Angeles when he met up with an almost-naked, barefoot, trench-coat-wearing hysterical mental asylum escapee named Christina Bailey (Cloris Leachman) who was hitchhiking in the middle of the road - naked except for her trenchcoat. She was panting heavily and running down the highway. She claimed that she had been improperly detained at the institution. She claimed she was named after the poet Christina Rossetti - and her last words to Hammer were: "Remember me" (both spoken and mailed in a letter to him after her death). The two were apprehended by villainous thugs who forced them off the road, and the mysterious female was quickly tortured and killed (gruesomely with pliers semi-off-screen) by the evil pursuers, as the detective was semi-conscious. One of the villains was later revealed to be Dr. G.E. Soberin (Albert Dekker). During his own brutal pursuit of the criminals, recalling her haunting words "Remember me," Hammer was aided in his search by his sexy and limber, pimping secretary/lover Velda Wickman (or Wakeman) (Maxine Cooper), whose specialty was framing men for infidelity. In the Jalisco Hotel, Hammer came across Christina's ex-boardinghouse 'roommate' - the real femme fatale of the film. She claimed that her name was 'Lily Carver' (Gaby Rodgers) - a pixieish, waif-like blonde with closely cropped hair wearing a white, terry-cloth bathrobe. She was reclining in bed and had a gun pointed at his crotch, but she was a deceptive fraud. The strange young lady provided him with her false name (her actual name was Gabrielle) and was revealed to be impersonating Christina's roommate Lily Carver - whom she had killed. Hammer soon learned that Christina was a scientist who had a 'secret' regarding a radioactive explosive missing or stolen from the Los Alamos, New Mexico Nuclear Test Site. From a morgue, he retrieved a key that Christina had swallowed, leading to a locker at the Hollywood Athletic Club, where he found a leather-bound and strapped case with a searing white-hot light emanating from within. Christina had led him to the atomic, 'glowing' box containing the Great Whatzit, and a sinister conspirator Dr. Soberin - a trafficker in atomic material produced during the Manhattan Project (in Los Alamos, NM), who was one of the villains who had tortured Christina earlier. In the film's controversial, fiery melt-down climax at Soberin's Malibu beach house hideout, his betrayed accomplice Gabrielle shot Dr. Soberin, and as he died, Soberin sternly warned her: "Listen to me, as if I were Cerberus barking with all his heads at the gates of Hell, I will tell you where to take it. But don't, don't open the box." Gabrielle then also shot and wounded Hammer in the stomach after seductively commanding: "Kiss me, Mike. I want you to kiss me. Kiss me. The liar's kiss that says 'I love you' means something else. You're good at giving such kisses. Kiss me." Disobediently, she greedily raised the cover on the Pandora's box, releasing the deadly secret and incinerating herself. She became a flaring pillar of fire as it consumed her. The wounded Hammer freed the kidnapped Velda and both fled from the house. As they stumbled together into the cooling ocean waters, they watched from the beach as the house was soon engulfed with a wave of flashes, fireballs, and series of mushroom-cloud explosions.

Lady and the Tramp (1955), 76 minutes, D: Disney Studio
Disney's film (the studio's 15th animated feature film) was a musical love story between two anthropomorphic dogs from differing classes and backgrounds. The film opened in a small Midwestern town at the turn of the century (in the year 1909). In the upper-class two-story household of Jim Dear and Darling (with first names only, and with faces that were rarely seen), a brown-on-tan, refined female cocker-spaniel puppy named Lady was given as a gift by Jim Dear to his wife Darling. During her pleasant, well-tended life with the couple, Lady marked her six- month milestone by proudly receiving a collar with a license. Across town living in the back-streets near the railway yard, another scruffy, independent, grey-colored, mangy, roguish stray mutt was introduced, named Tramp. The raffish, collar-less, resourceful dog (an mixed American breed) roamed the town's streets. The expected coming of a baby for Jim Dear and Darling caused Lady to become upset, perplexed and worried, and she was increasingly neglected or ignored. After Tramp's arrival in the high-class section of town where Lady resided, he called babies "homewreckers" and warned Lady that she would frequently be pushed aside: ("When a baby moves in, a dog moves out"). A few months after the infant baby boy arrived, Aunt Sarah came to care for the house and the baby for a few days during Jim Dear's and Darling's short trip. Her two cruel, wily and trouble-making Siamese cats (Si and Am) terrorized Lady and the household's pet bird and fish, and caused a destructive mess that Aunt Sarah blamed on Lady. She was taken to a pet store to be fitted for a combination leash and muzzle. Frightened by the experience, Lady ran away and was chased by three stray dogs into the poor side of town on the other side of the tracks. Tramp heroically appeared as her hero to fight them off and save her from the threat. In the film's most memorable and romantically-sweet sequence, the mongrel Tramp introduced Lady to his Wednesday meal location at Tony's Italian restaurant where they shared a romantic meal of "two spaghetti speciale. Heavy on the meats-a ball" at the back entrance to Tony's, and love between them blossomed. The next day, Lady was snagged by the dog-catcher and separated from Tramp, and taken to the local City Dog Pound, where she met a number of other incarcerated, unlicensed stray dogs. Fortunately for Lady, her license and collar identified her and she was returned home, but remained shaken by the experience, and banished from the house and chained to the yard's doghouse by Aunt Sarah. Although Tramp was dismissed by Lady (who had learned about all of his part lady-friiends from the dogs at the pound), he was alerted by Lady's barking to an approaching rat that was threatening to enter the house and attack the baby in the upstairs nursery. Tramp redeemed himself when he viciously and heroically fought against the disgusting large rat and killed it, but Aunt Sarah misinterpreted Tramp as an intruder and contacted the dog-catcher to take him away. Once Jim Dear and Darling returned shortly later, Lady was able to vindicate Tramp by showing them the dead rat, and Tramp was rescued. By Christmastime as the film concluded, Tramp (now domesticated and with his own license and collar) had been adopted as part of Lady's family and household, and they were proud parents of a litter of four puppies (the three females were identical to Lady and the one male was Tramp-like).

The Ladykillers (1955, UK), 91 minutes, D: Alexander Mackendrick
Director Alexander Mackendrick's and one of Ealing Studio's best slapstick farces was this post-war, black comedy and crime-caper story. It received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The brisk and comically-macabre British film functioned as a satire of the contemporary heist film (including The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and shortly later Kubrick's The Killing (1956)), in its tale of a formidable old lady who unwittingly but repeatedly foiled the plans of a group of criminals. The film opened in the 1950s with a view of an Edwardian estate situated in a cul-de-sac, and constructed over the entrance to a railway tunnel at King's Cross station in London. The home's resident-owner - sweet-natured, loveable, harmless, very-proper, elderly and widowed Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce (Katie Johnson) was known to have a wild and strange imagination, and often filed specious reports with the local police. A sinister, shaggy-haired, ghoulish, toothy and duplicitous mastermind named Marcus (Alec Guinness), posing as a "Professor," came to her door and inquired about renting her two-room apartment in the rear of her well-positioned but dilapidated house. He deceptively told the naive octogenarian that he was a member of an amateur string quintet that needed to practice and rehearse classical music. In fact, the string quintet was composed of Marcus' foursome gang of bumbling, odd-ball criminal thieves, including 'One-Round'/Mr. Lawson (Danny Green), Harry/Mr. Robinson (Peter Sellers), Claude/Major Courtney (Cecil Parker), and Louis/Mr. Harvey (Herbert Lom). The gang's objective was to plan and stage a robbery of an armored and secure bank van that regularly delivered funds in shiny stainless steel boxes to the nearby railway station. Afterwards, the group's plan was to store the heist-money (£60,000) on the platform at King's Cross station, and then the innocent-looking Mrs. Wilberforce would be assigned to pick up the "lolly" (loot). The heist itself went smoothly, but the transport of a trunk holding the four steel boxes was more problematic. Surprisingly, the police assisted in getting the trunk ultimately delivered to Mrs. Wilberforce's house. When the robbers were in the process of leaving the house with the money as Mrs. Wilberforce was bidding them farewell, she inadvertently witnessed 'One-Round' accidentally spill the contents of his cello case (filled with banknotes). At the same time, the arrival of a group of her geriatric friends for tea brought the realization that the newspaper's recent headlines implicated the musical quintet as the bank robbers: ("a terrible robbery at King's Cross station at 1:00 o'clock this afternoon"). The gang members attempted to argue with Mrs. Wilberforce to ignore the crime, or to convince her that she was an accomplice, but they were unsuccessful when she suggested going to the police station to immediately turn herself in. The desperate criminals decided she must be eliminated and used matchsticks to draw lots to determine who would kill her. In the fllm's denouement, the plot to kill Mrs. W. quickly went awry - and one by one, all of the criminals turned their frustrated hatred towards themselves. All of them were eliminated as they tried to betray, double-cross, and fool each other. There was no evidence left of the pile-up of dead bodies, since each one was disposed of by being taken away in a wheelbarrow, and then dropped from a railway bridge into the open carts of passing steam trains. Mrs. Wilberforce was left as the sole beneficiary of the money, who then decided to responsibly visit the local police station to report the robbery. Her tale was too unbelievable to be taken seriously, and to her astonishment, she was told to just keep the alleged money. During her return home, she gave a startled, starving artist a generously-large denomination bank-note that he at first protested.

Lola Montès (1955, Fr./West Germ.) (aka The Sins of Lola Montès), 110 minutes, D: Max Ophuls
Director Max Ophuls' inspired first (and last) color and widescreen film -- in CinemaScope -- was this technically brilliant, visually-ambitious, historical-biopic and epic drama about the tragic amorous liaisons of the elitist aristocracy, and the scandalous, cruel creation and crude exploitation of a society fixated on 'celebrity' status. In particular, the film demystified the life story of a notorious, sexy and ribald seductress, often viewed with complicated tracking shots. The plot was structured as a series of cyclical, flashbacked, non-chronological, disjointed tableaux that re-enacted her scandalous life, populated by various acrobats, dwarfs, equestrians, and other performers (including a strongman) in the central circus ring of the tawdry Mammoth Circus. An exploitative, top-hatted, circus RingMaster (Peter Ustinov) began a lengthy and sensationalized speech to an unseen, expectant audience about the main sideshow attraction of the bizarre and gaudy circus being held in New Orleans, LA. The now aged title character Lola Montès (Martine Carol) (with declining health) was being promoted as an infamous, 19th-century Spanish/Irish-born adventuress, paramour and courtesan-prostitute: "Here, ladies and gentlemen, the truth, nothing but the truth on the extraordinary life of Lola Montes, reenacted by the entire company in pantomime, acrobatics, tableaux vivants, with music and dance and with the entire orchestra." The exploits of her scandalous, lurid and notorious life would soon be dramatically re-enacted and staged for the circus audience. After a question and answer period about Lola's life conducted by the RingMaster, the remainder of the film was composed of a series of reenactments or episodic flashbacks into aspects of Lola's scandalous life, loves and dance career. The RingMaster continued to orchestrate and narrate the story of her past as a commercial, untouchable spectacle, seen in the flashbacked vignettes. The men involved in love affairs with Lola included composer Franz Liszt (Will Quadflieg), a five-year marriage to the lover of her own mother - Lieutenant Thomas James (Ivan Desny), married musical orchestra Kapellmeister/Conductor Claudio Pirotto (Claude Pinoteau), naive, 20 year-old idealist, Latin teacher and leftist German student revolutionary (Oskar Werner) in Bavaria, and the half-deaf and elderly King Ludwig I (Anton Walbrook) of Bavaria. The flashbacks and re-enactments ended with the RingMaster reminding the audience that Lola finally took him up on his offer to work for the circus, where she had been employed for four months. Lola's final acrobatic, trapeze stunt was a dangerous, death-defying plunge "fraught with danger" - to dramatize and depict herself as a "fallen woman." Lola's act was followed by a quick cut to black as she hit her target (without a safety net). Another commercial enterprise was proposed by the RingMaster who exhorted male patrons over 16 to approach and pay a dollar to touch or kiss Lola's hand. She was enclosed, entrapped or enshrined - like a beast - in a wooden animal cage. A long line-up of eager, top-hatted male customers were ready to worship and 'celebrate' Lola. Her last words to the RingMaster were: "I'll be all right." The film ended with a lengthy camera pull-back along the extensive line of gawking admirers awaiting Lola, and finally tracking out beyond closing curtains (crudely painted with scenes of Lola's life).

The Man From Laramie (1955), 103 minutes, D: Anthony Mann
The fifth (and final) western that paired Anthony Mann and James Stewart was another complex psychological western, filmed in widescreen CinemaScope, and often thought of as a retelling of the plot of Shakespeare's King Lear. The title character (the 'man from Laramie') was in actuality a US Cavalry officer Captain named Will Lockhart (James Stewart). Lockhart was posing as a mule-train wagon driver bringing three wagonloads of supplies to the town of Coronado, NM, to be delivered to Mercantile storekeeper Barbara Waggoman (Cathy O'Donnell). She was a refined young woman who admitted she was ready to quit the business and return to the East Coast. Lockhart's main obsessed goal (he kept both his military position and objective a secret for most of the film) was hateful revenge against those who sold repeating rifles to the Apaches, used to massacre a 12-man cavalry detachment at Dutch Creek that claimed his younger lieutenant brother's life six months earlier. As a newcomer to town, Lockhart claimed to Barbara that he had come from Laramie, but that it wasn't his home. Lockhart became suspicious when he noticed an automatic rifle (traded by an Apache) hanging in Barbara's store. Soon, Lockhart became embroiled in a struggle in Coronado, NM with storekeeper Barbara's loutish, volatile, immature, sadistic and psychopathic cousin Dave Waggoman (Alex Nicol), over trespassing charges and unintended theft of lagoon salt. During the misunderstanding, Lockhart was lassoed and dragged through a campfire on his stomach in the dirt, and his three wagons were burned and twelve mules were shot. Dave's surrogate brother Vic Hansbro (Arthur Kennedy) arrived and called off the humiliating and unjust punishment. Lockhart vowed to stick around and seek retribution for his harsh treatment, and to discover who was selling rifles to the Apaches. Lockhart returned to town and Barbara's store, where she warned him about her uncle - influential elderly patriarch Alec Waggoman (Donald Crisp), the almost-blind (physically and emotionally), wealthy, autocratic cattle baron patriarch of the Barb Ranch empire. The next day in town, Lockhart entered into a fist-fighting brawl, first with Dave, and then with Vic - the two rival 'sons' of Alec Waggoman. Coming to Lockhart's defense as a bystander was Kate Canady (Aline MacMahon), a tough, headstrong female rancher at Half Moon Ranch in the area. The fight was interrupted by the arrival of Alec on horseback, who insisted that Lockhart leave the area immediately, suspecting that Lockhart was a hired gun. However, he promised to pay restitution for Lockhart's destroyed property the next day at his ranch, while on his way out of town. Waggoman's two 'sons' were engaged in a power struggle over inheritance of the Barb Ranch. Currently, Vic was more sensible and responsible as the ranch's hired foreman-manager than Alec's favored, incompetent and blood-lusting natural son Dave. Vic's plan was to remain at the ranch and marry his engaged fiancee Barbara: ("I've worked my whole life for the Barb"), although she insisted on moving away from town. Barbara explained how she despised the ruthless and greedy Waggoman for breaking promises and ruining her recently-deceased father. Lockhart became acquainted with Kate Canady, one of Alec's long-time main rivals who owned a ranch at Half Moon that Alec had been trying to possess for 28 years. Lockhart was invited to her ranch and offered a job as her new foreman, but he declined. He hinted at his vengeful mission to seek justice for his younger brother. At one time much earlier, Kate had been engaged to Alec Waggoman, but was stood up by him. While being reimbursed $600 dollars for restitution by Waggoman at the ranch, Lockhart realized that Alec wouldn't answer questions about how he had responded six months earlier to the cavalry detachment's massacre on his ranch land at Dutch Creek. Shortly later, Lockhart was falsely accused and jailed by Sheriff Tom Quigby (James Millican) as the prime suspect in the knifing murder of the town's weasely drunk Chris Boldt (Jack Elam), who had information to sell about the gun sales. While Lockhart was incarcerated, Alec visited and told him about his repeated haunting dreams of an unidentified murderous stranger (presumably Lockhart) killing his son Dave: ("He comes to kill my boy"). After receiving a temporary writ to bail Lockhart out of jail, the scheming and persistent Kate blackmailed him into accepting her offer to work as Half Moon's foreman. Meanwhile, Alec continued to worry that his son Dave would be an ill-suited and incompetent manager of the Barb Ranch after his passing, and seemed to be moving toward favoring Vic more than his true son Dave. During another violent encounter with the crazed son Dave when Lockhart was herding Kate's cattle, he was shot in his shooting hand at point-blank range with his own gun. Wounded and in pain, Lockhart cried out: "Why, you scum!", and then rode away defeated. In the midst of their strained relationship, Vic and Dave were both complicit and involved in continuing gun-running arms-sales to the Indians, with an imminent sale of a cache of 200 rifles to the Apaches concealed in wooden boxes marked 'WIRE FENCING" within an open wagon. During a violent argument between the two about the sale, Vic shot and killed Dave in self-defense when he drew his gun. Vic brought Dave's body back to the Barb Ranch, and falsely accused Lockhart of Dave's murder, although Lockhart vehemently denied the charges. Meanwhile, Alec noticed an exorbitant and suspicious bill of sale for fence wire - proof that someone was stealing money, padding invoices and was profitably buying and then selling guns to the Indians. When Vic wouldn't give a definitive answer to Alec about what he knew, the two rode to search in the hills for the wagon holding the rifles. When they scuffled together on the trail just before locating the wagon, Alec was accidentally pushed off his horse and rolled down a steep ravine - Vic presumed that the unconscious Alec was dead and left him. Lockhart found the badly-bruised Alec, took him to Kate's place at Half Moon to tend to his injuries, and saved his life (although Alec was now totally blind). At his bedside, Alec informed Lockhart about the sale of guns to the Apaches by both Dave and Vic. Alec now realized that in his dreams, Vic was the one who had killed Dave, not Lockhart. Lockhart immediately rode off to locate Vic in the hills with the rifle wagon as he was about to smoke-signal the Apaches. He confronted him ("I came 1,000 miles to kill you, Hansbro") and accused him of being complicitly guilty in the sale of guns that were used to kill his young brother at the Dutch Creek Massacre. Lockhart forced Vic, at gunpoint, to destroy the rifles he was intending to sell to the Indians, by helping him to push his wagon over the cliff. Afterwards, Lockhart pointed his gun at Vic, but was unable to kill him in cold-blood. Vic fled but was shot three times (and suffered an arrow in the back) by the outraged Apaches. As the film concluded, Alec and Kate were both reconciled and were intending to get married once he fully recovered. However, there remained an unresolved relationship between Lockhart and Barbara. They bid each other goodbye outside near Kate's front porch. Barbara had already confirmed for Lockhart that she was planning to leave Coronado and move back East. He responded with the revelation that he was a Captain in the US cavalry serving in Laramie: "When you go East, you'll pass through Laramie. And, uh, if you should ask for a Captain Lockhart, almost anybody'd tell you where to find me." With some hope for their future together, she replied: "I'll remember that."

The Man With the Golden Arm (1955), 119 minutes, D: Otto Preminger
Director Otto Preminger's code-defying, ground-breaking, powerful drama was about heroin addiction - it was the first major Hollywood film about the taboo subject. In the late 1940s, Frankie "Dealer" Machine (Frank Sinatra) - a rehabilitated prison-hospital ex-con, returned to his slummy and squalid Chicago neighborhood after serving 6-months time at the federal Narcotic Farm-Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. His nickname "Dealer" was due to his professional and lucrative poker dealing skill. During his time served for not squealing when he "took the rap" for illegal gambling, he had learned to play the drums, and was now an aspiring big-band jazz drummer. He bragged that his drum teacher had told him he had "arms made of pure gold." Frankie was determined to restore his life to order after becoming clean in prison, but immediately he began to fall back into his old habits by first visiting his favorite bar hang-out - Antek's Tug 'n' Maul Tavern - next door to where he lived. There, he was surrounded by his oily and smarmy, dandified drug dealer supplier "Nifty Louie" Fomorowski (Darren McGavin), and Frankie's small-time hoodlum, gambling boss and illicit card-game manager Zero Schwiefka (Robert Strauss). In his tenement rooming-house apartment, Frankie met up with his dependent, neurotic, greedy and nagging wife - the lying and deceiving 25 year-old Sophia "Zosh" Machine (Eleanor Parker). She was allegedly crippled from spinal injuries and wheelchair bound after a car accident three years earlier when DUI Frankie was at the wheel. They were married in the hospital chapel, and since then, she was using her disability and helplessness as a means to manipulatively maintain Frankie's support by keeping him guilt-ridden. She urged him to continue gambling and dealing for Schwiefka and give up his dreams of being a jazz drummer. Frankie also became reacquainted with his neighbor - ex-flame and Club Safari stripclub/bar hostess/mistress Molly Novotny (Kim Novak). In the film's most devastating sequence, Frankie reverted to his addiction (presumably heroin) when he succumbed to becoming hooked again after being lured to Louie's nearby apartment for just one fix (for $5 bucks). During a marathon weekend poker game that had been arranged by Schwiefka with two big-time gamblers, the indebted Frankie was compelled to continue playing with promises of money and another fix. By Sunday evening and into early Monday morning, the exhausted Frankie resorted to cheating, was caught and beaten up, and the duplicitous Schwiefka denounced Frankie and fired him. Frankie barged into Louie's place desperate for another injection, but when he was denied any more fixes, Frankie knocked him out and searched the apartment for drugs without finding anything. At his Monday audition try-out arranged by musical talent agent Harry Lane (Will Wright), Frankie experienced a devastating breakdown while heavily sweating and trembling (with debilitating withdrawal symptoms). He couldn't keep the beat, knew he had failed, and slinked away. Louie entered Frankie's apartment to seek revenge, and discovered that Zosh was faking her disability when he saw her walking around. She retaliated with intense hysteria and pushed Louie to his death down the stairwell, because she feared that he would ruin her life by divulging the truth that she was a phony. Zosh then reported the death to police Captain Bednar (Emile Meyer), and implicitly blamed and incriminated Frankie for the crime. After seeming to lose all hope, Frankie sought out Molly who had moved to a different apartment and begged her for money for another fix - but she adamantly refused. She further challenged him to go "cold turkey" so that he could clearly answer questions when the police would undoubtedly question him. Frankie decided with Molly - in a sensational and painful sequence, to detoxify himself, and after a few days, he was again sober. In the final concluding twist in the film, Zosh was confronted by Frankie in their apartment who informed her that he was leaving to get away from all the tempting things that had lured him back into being a junkie. When she objected and accusingly suspected he wanted to be with Molly, she forgetfully stood up. Her self-incrimination was witnessed by Frankie, and by Captain Bednar and Molly who arrived at the door. Obviously, she had been fraudulently stringing everyone along. Before Zosh could be arrested by Captain Bednar, she fled from the apartment, blew her distress whistle around her neck, and committed suicide by throwing herself off the balcony onto the brick street below. Her death freed Frankie to possibly live a cleaner life with Molly (in the tagged-on and contrived happy ending different from the source novel).

Marty (1955), 90 minutes, D: Delbert Mann
This Best-Picture winning film, a poignant, simple character study, was a modest, black and white film in an era of widescreen color epics. Its critical acclaim and box-office success were phenomenal. It was the second Best Picture Oscar-winning film to also win the top prize (known as the Golden Palm (Palme d'Or)) at Cannes, and it remains one of the best examples of the cinematization of a television play. The plot followed the despairing and lonely life (over a 36 hour period) of 34 year-old Marty Piletti (Ernest Borgnine in an Oscar-winning performance) - an ordinary, burly, heavy-set, overweight Bronx butcher who still lived with his love-smothering, widowed Italian Catholic mother Theresa Piletti (Esther Minciotti). Marty often had recurring conversations when hanging out with his best friend Angie (Joe Mantell) at Michael's Restaurant about their endlessly boring and aimless plans for most evenings: Angie: "What do you feel like doing tonight?" Marty: "I don't know, Ange. What do you feel like doing?" When Marty's overbearing mother kept goading, nagging and pressuring him to get married, he frustratingly confessed to her that he was an unwanted "fat ugly man" and didn't want to be hurt and rejected again. After endless pressure from his mother, Marty dragged himself to the Stardust Ballroom on a Saturday night and happened to meet a kindred soul - another homely wallflower, a 29 year-old mousy Brooklyn high school chemistry teacher Clara Snyder (Betsy Blair) who had just been abandoned by her own blind date for being unattractive and boring. Their relationship slowly developed during the evening beginning with a dance they shared together. After leaving the dance hall and going to a luncheonette for coffee, the two engaged in very realistic and honest conversation. Each confided and excitedly spoke about their life's hopes and dreams. During a brief visit to Marty's home, his mother expressed concern about the impact of losing her influence over her son, now that Marty had a date. Later, in front of her house as he said goodnight to Clara, Marty promised to call her to confirm a date for the following evening. In the touching film's concluding sequence on Sunday at about 8 pm, Marty was able to overcome the oppressive fears of his mother about being abandoned, and biased misgivings expressed by Angie and other friends and relatives. At first, he had postponed calling Clara in the afternoon - who was sitting at home with her parents watching TV and awaiting his call, sensing that her phone might never ring. Ultimately, Marty put aside his doubts about his changing life, peer pressures to not date Clara, and cruel critiques of Clara as a "dog." He courageously and defiantly defended his love for Clara to his friends during another boring and tedious Sunday afternoon and evening at home and at Michael's Restaurant. At the restaurant, the determined Marty decided to make his promised phone call (in a phone booth) to Clara to plan a movie date so that they could get together again. The pair chose to be liberated and triumphant over their respective limitations.

Mister Roberts (1955), 123 minutes, D: John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy
This wartime comedy-drama was about the interactions of the crew of a WWII re-supply cargo ship (the USS Reluctant) in the South Pacific - to face up against and defy their tyrannical ship captain (James Cagney). The screenplay by Frank S. Nugent and Joshua Logan was based upon the 1946 novel and the 1948 Broadway play. Disgust was expressed early on by Lt. Douglas 'Mister' Roberts (Henry Fonda) for Lieut. Commander 'Captain' Morton's palm tree (given as a reward for efficiently moving the most cargo), as he spoke to the ship's physician Lt. 'Doc' (William Powell) early one morning. Lt. Roberts was a well-liked officer who reluctantly served on the WWII naval cargo supply-ship 'bucket' USS Reluctant (known as "The Bucket"), that brought combat ships supplies such as TP, toothpaste, paint, soap, and other items. The tree became a symbol of the Captain's authoritarian rule. However, Roberts pined for real war action and yearned for a transfer into a combat zone but was never granted a transfer by the stubborn Captain. Another major character was cowardly and lazy, prank-playing Ensign Frank T. Pulver (Oscar-winning Jack Lemmon), the laundry and morale officer. At their next stop, the male crew was anxious and itching to be granted shore leave after more than a year aboard the ship (after spotting nurses on the dock), but the Captain insisted that only Roberts and Ensign Pulver would be allowed onshore to pick up supplies. During his shore leave, Pulver convinced Lieut. Ann Girard (Betsy Palmer), one of the visiting nurses, to meet him later onboard the USS Reluctant. In a humorous scene, 'Doc' and Lt. Roberts mixed up a batch of scotch (from water, Coke, and a "drop of iodine for taste", and "one drop of hair tonic for age") for Pulver's R&R aboard ship rendezvous, but the plan of seduction failed. Another of Pulver's pranks on VE Day was to explode a homemade firecracker (with "fulminate of mercury") under the Captain's bunk, but his plan backfired when it blew up the laundry and caused an overflow of soapy suds throughout the ship's corridors. With the war soon coming to a close, Roberts gave up hope that he would ever serve combat duty. He gave a salute to the Captain's revered palm tree before heaving it off the ship, causing an incensed Captain Morton to vow to find the culprit. The crew happened to hear (over the PA system) the Captain's strong-armed tactics and dastardly bargain with Roberts (about the crew's shore leave in exchange for an end to his letters) - and as a result, the crew felt renewed respect for their officer for sacrificing his own ambitions for them. The crew helped to forge a transfer request for Mister Roberts (including the Captain's signature), and Roberts was successfully transferred to a combat ship. Pulver was promoted to Roberts' vacated position as cargo officer, and the Captain brought in a scrawny replacement palm tree for the deck. The final scene was composed of two letter-reading scenes (both read by Ensign Pulver for the crew) with the first excited letter from 'Mister' Doug Roberts (written three weeks earlier) who was now serving his new assignment on board the USS Livingston during the Battle of Okinawa. During the second letter reading, this one from Pulver's friend Fornell (also on the USS Livingston), Pulver was stunned by the news that Mister Roberts had died in action during a kamikaze raid. With a determined and resolute look on his face, Pulver tossed the Captain's replacement palm tree off the ship's deck into the water, entered the bridge, banged on Captain Morton's door, and finally stood up to him. Obviously, the spirit of Mister Roberts would live on in Pulver.

Night and Fog (1955, Fr.) (aka Nuit Et Brouillard), 32 minutes, D: Alain Resnais

The Night of the Hunter (1955), 93 minutes, D: Charles Laughton
This was the only film directed by actor and stage director Charles Laughton - and unbelievably, was not nominated for any Academy Awards. It was a stark, film noirish, black-and-white thriller. In the film's opening, crazed and deranged psychopathic serial killer Preacher Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) was prowling the Ohio River Valley in search of rich widow victims. The sinister, malevolent, black-cloaked, wide-brimmed and hatted 'Preacher' was driving in a stolen Model T Essex, as he delivered a chilling, perversely evil and memorable monologue to the Lord. He personified one polar end of the struggle between good and evil, with tattoos of LOVE and HATE on the fingers of both hands. Powell entered the rural town of Cresap's Landing in malevolent pursuit of a $10,000 cache of money, believed to be in the possession of the Harper family: widowed wife Willa Harper (Shelley Winters) of a condemned killer (Powell's earlier prison cellmate), and her two children: young 9 year-old John Harper (Billy Chapin), and young Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce). The film's most memorable sequence was his recitation of a monologue during his own hand-wrestling that provided commentary on the eternal battle between the forces of good and evil that grappled together. He manipulatively wed the lonely widow Willa, and then frighteningly and ritualistically knifed her to death on their honeymoon night in their A-frame bedroom. In a creepy, nightmarish, hypnotically-eerie scene, Willa's corpse was discovered sitting underwater in a Model T with her long blonde hair tangling, swaying, and mingling diaphanously in the current with the river's underwater reeds. Powell then went on a relentless hunt or campaign against his own innocent step-children across the Depression Era Bible Belt to get at their father's stolen fortune of $10,000. The children had escaped and fled to their father's skiff, where Powell could not reach them in time. They experienced a lyrical, fairy-tale-like nighttime sequence of floating down the river amidst God's benevolent creatures on the shoreline (a croaking frog, rabbits, an owl, tortoise, sheep, and a spider's web). The final segment pitted the Preacher against plain, Bible-fearing farm woman Mrs. Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish). She was a strong-willed opponent - a kindly, warm-hearted, benevolent savior and elderly matriarchal widow who protectively rescued children, including young John and Pearl. She served as a symbol of protecting Goodness, rocking at night on a porch with a shotgun across her lap, while he sang his perverse hymn in counterpoint: "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." In the conclusion, Powell was arrested, the money was revealed (in Pearl's doll), and Rachel offered triumphant, reassuring final words at Christmas-time to the two orphaned, brutalized children who had reclaimed their innocence after many nights of being hunted by a demon. She delivered a prayer: "Lord, save little children. The wind blows and the rain's a-cold. Yet they abide...They abide and they endure."

Oklahoma! (1955), 145 minutes, D: Fred Zinnemann

Ordet (1955, Denm.) (aka The World), 126 minutes, D: Carl Theodor Dreyer

Pather Panchali (1955, India) (aka Father Panchali), 115 minutes, D: Satyajit Ray

The Phenix City Story (1955), 100 minutes, D: Phil Karlson

Picnic (1955), 115 minutes, D: Joshua Logan
Columbia Picture's big box-office CinemaScopic hit, a romantic drama, was based upon William Inge's Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play (adapted by Daniel Taradash). It told about the effects of the arrival of a virile drifter on various females in a small Kansas town during a Labor Day celebration. In the plot, unemployed, egotistical, bravado-filled, charming drifter Hal Carter (William Holden) arrived in a small Kansas town on Labor Day to visit his ex-fraternity brother and friend Alan Benson (Cliff Robertson), the son of the wealthiest man in town - grain industrialist Mr. Benson (Raymond Bailey). Presumably, he had come to find a job. At first, he performed yard work for elderly widow Helen Potts (Verna Felton) in exchange for a morning meal. Working with his shirt off outdoors, he caught the attention of 19 year-old dime-store clerk Marjorie "Madge" Owens (Kim Novak), Alan's red-haired girlfriend. Others who noticed him were Madge's single mother Flo Owens (Betty Field), Madge's smart, younger tomboyish sister Millie Owens (Susan Strasberg) (a HS senior), and aging, "old maid" schoolteacher Miss Rosemary Sydney (Rosalind Russell), a boarder at the Owens' house. As the town beauty, Madge stood before a mirror, while her worried and anxious mother Flo continually encouraged her to get married to her boyfriend Alan before her time passed. Alan worshipped and idolized Madge, who was dissatisfied with just looking pretty and always being complimented as beautiful. Meanwhile, Rosemary was in a relationship with mild-mannered, bachelor store owner Howard Bevans (Oscar-nominated Arthur O'Connell) and was desperate to get married. Everyone in town attended the quintessential, All-American annual Kansas town's Labor Day picnic in Riverside Park. Hal attended with Alan and Madge's sister Millie as his 'date.' At the picnic (with games, food and other activities), Madge was elected as the picnic's Queen of Neewollah (Halloween spelled backwards). Later in the evening after the sun had set, with incredible camera work (by James Wong Howe), Madge (in billowing pink) approached toward the sexy-looking Hal on a boat dock landing under colorful Japanese lanterns. She took over from Millie as the camera circled around their sensual slow "mating" dance to the tune of "Moonglow." The sight of Hal and Madge together upset Flo (she thought it would jeopardize her daughter's marital future with Alan) and also was concerning to the drunken and jealous Rosemary. After Hal's dance with Madge, Rosemary forced herself onto Hal for a dance, while admiring his physique. When Hal rejected her and pushed her away and his shirt was torn, she turned on him and bitterly derided him for ignoring his 'date' Millie (who had become drunk) while he was going after pretty-looking Madge. After the embarrassing incident at the picnic dance, the distraught Rosemary pathetically and shamelessly grabbed onto the overwhelmed Howard on her porch and begged him: "You gotta marry me, Howard." (As the film was ending, she basically brow-beat Howard into acquiescing to her demands to be married.) Upset by everything, including Alan's mean attempt to get Hal arrested on charges of car theft, Hal was very upset and angry, and departed from the picnic. Madge followed him and they drove to the town's train station, where he threatened to leave on the next freight train. They had a heart-to-heart talk about his failed life beginning when he was a boy in a reform school/jail. His confessions brought an encouraging kiss from Madge (alongside the rail tracks). She also told him: "I get so tired of just being told I'm pretty" - it was the start of a romantic relationship between them. By morning, in the film's final scene before jumping onto a passing train, Hal kissed Madge goodbye at the Owens house as he professed his love for her, before leaving for Tulsa to work as a hotel bell-hop. He tried to persuade Madge to follow after him. Madge was conflicted about what to do - Flo told her not to go but to remain and marry Alan, while Millie encouraged her to follow her heart: "Go with him, Madge....For once in your life, do something right." Would she pursue a man whom she had known for only one day, and who had not been successful for most of his life? The film concluded with a determined Madge quickly packing her suitcase and boarding a Tulsa-bound bus, followed by an amazing aerial helicopter shot of Madge's bus following Hal's freight train - eventually catching up and going in the same direction at the same speed.

Rebel Without a Cause (1955), 111 minutes, D: Nicholas Ray
Director Nicholas Ray's classic, melodramatic "Romeo and Juliet' tale was mostly a story of rebellion and angst in the life of an unsettled, often-uprooted, teenaged, new-kid-in-town - over a 24-30 hour period. It was the second of anti-hero James Dean's three career films and the best 50s film of its kind regarding the generation gap, troubled youth and juvenile delinquency. Other contemporary films included The Wild One (1954) and The Blackboard Jungle (1955). In the opening sequence, Jim Stark (James Dean) was arrested for public drunkenness and taken to the lobby of a Los Angeles police station. There, he crossed paths with two other alienated, misfit youth - unloved 16 year-old Judy (Natalie Wood) and disturbed John Crawford ("Plato") (Sal Mineo) who had been abandoned by his neglectful and irresponsible parents. Jim was picked up and taken home by his parents, including his ineffectual, hen-pecked, milquetoast father (Jim Backus), to get ready for his first day in a new high school. He was treated with contempt by his neighbor Judy's leather-jacketed boyfriend Buzz Gunderson (Corey Allen) and his rowdy gang of cohorts, including Goon (Dennis Hopper) and Moose (Nick Adams). Later in the day during a science field trip to the Griffith Observatory, after a planetarium show, Jim engaged in a knife-fight with Buzz outside, and then the two challenged each other to participate in a deadly drag race ("chickie run") that evening. Later that day in their homes, both Judy and Jim experienced family tensions - Jim was embarrassed by his father's indecisiveness, lack of understanding and weak-willed cowardice, while Judy was scolded by her insensitive and sexist father for kissing him. The cliffside competition turned lethal when Buzz died when his stolen car went off a cliff. Jim was drawn to Judy and took her and Plato home. The outcast trio of juveniles formed a strong bond against both their insensitive parents (completely unjust, dysfunctional, ineffectual, or callous) and their peers, as they searched for their identities. In particular, Plato came to look upon Jim and Judy as his married 'surrogate' parents. The threesome found refuge and solace for the night in an abandoned mansion near the planetarium. In the tragic finale, after Plato fled from Buzz' vengeful gang and the police for firing at them, he hid in the planetarium. Plato had his mother's hand-gun in his possession, and Jim was unable to disarm him, although he did empty the gun of its bullets. At dawn, when Plato (wearing Jim's red jacket) rushed out of the planetarium foolishly brandishing the unloaded gun, he was shot and killed by police. As a distraught Jim wept over Plato's dead body, his father promised to be a stronger and more dependable father for Jim. Now reconciled, Jim introduced Judy to his parents and they drove off together as dawn approached.

Richard III (1955, UK), 161 minutes, D: Laurence Olivier

The Rose Tattoo (1955), 117 minutes, D: Daniel Mann
Director Daniel Mann's black and white melodrama was an adaptation of legendary playwright Tennessee Williams' 3-act play that premiered in 1950-51. It marked the first English-speaking role in a Hollywood film for the Best Actress Oscar-winning actress Anna Magnani. There were two other Academy Awards, for Best B/W Art Direction and Best B/W Cinematography (James Wong Howe). In the plot, buxom Sicilian-American seamstress Serafina Delle Rose (Anna Magnani) was living in New Orleans, LA on the Gulf Coast with her handsome, robust and virile truck-driving husband Rosario, and was pregnant with their second child. She was unaware that her beloved Rosario was unfaithful with blonde and slutty blackjack dealer Estelle Hohengarten (Virginia Grey) at the local Mardi Gras Club, who had recently had a rose tattooed on her chest (matching her husband's). After her husband was killed in an accident during a smuggling run as he attempted to evade police, Serafina was devastated and withdrew from the world. While mourning and grieving, she also miscarried her unborn child. Serafina placed her husband's cremated ashes in an urn on her mantle (in violation of her Catholic faith), next to a small Virgin Mary shrine. During the next three years, the melancholy Serafina became disconnected from everything as a disheveled and frowsy recluse in her own home, with her hair in disarray. She was often not fully-dressed and clad only in a slip. When she learned that her "sweet and refined" 18 year-old teenaged daughter Rosa (Marisa Pavan) had fallen for virginal, boyish-faced sailor Jack Hunter (Ben Cooper) at about the time she was to graduate from HS, the embittered Serafina revolted against the world and treated her daughter with severe discipline. She vindicatively locked a collection of graduation dresses she had sewn for Rosa and her classmates inside her house. Eventually, she was convinced to give in, but remained suspicious of Rosa's association with Jack and his possible sexual intentions toward her. Serafina forced Jack to ritualistically bow to the Virgin Mary and swear not to take advantage of the innocent Rosa. The film's turning point came after Serafina became acquainted with dumb, simple-minded, boisterous, carefree, clownish and good-hearted Sicilian truck driver Alvaro Mangiacavallo (Burt Lancaster) who transported bananas. [Note: In some ways, he was a reincarnation of her deceased husband.] When he removed his torn shirt, he revealed that he also had a rose tattooed on his chest similar to the one Rosario had, in order to impress her and prove his affection for her. She felt a mixture of passion and guilt when she viewed his strong and bare chest. After learning that Alvaro was acquainted with Rosario's mistress Estelle, she demanded to be taken to the Mardi Gras Club to confront Estelle. The defiant Estelle proudly confessed to her affair and publically showed off her rose tattoo. When Serafina returned home, she smashed the urn containing Rosario's ashes, and secretly invited Alvaro to leave but then come back later and stay for the night. However, when the drunken Alvaro arrived that evening, he passed out. In the morning, he thought Serafina was sleeping on the couch, and since he mistook Rosa for Serafina, he tried to kiss her. Rosa awoke and screamed, alerting Serafina who rushed in and thought Rosa was being assaulted. She angrily threw Alvaro out of the house. At the same time, Jack had arrived to announce his intentions to elope and marry Rosa before he shipped out from New Orleans. Serafina realized she must finally assent to her stifled and rebellious daughter's grown-up wishes and give the young couple her blessing. In the film's contrived happy conclusion, she also heard Alvaro shouting to her from outside the house from the top of a boat mast, and asking for her forgiveness and love. She responded by openly re-inviting him back into her home after being won over by his romantic persistence.

The Seven Year Itch (1955), 105 minutes, D: Billy Wilder
Director/co-writer Billy Wilder's romantic sex comedy was a witty and farcical tale adapted from George Axelrod's 1952 Broadway play. In the film's opening, paperback publisher and middle-aged Manhattanite Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) escorted his wife Helen (Evelyn Keyes) and son Ricky (Butch Bernard) to the train station; they were on their way to Maine for the summer to escape the city's heat. A light-headed, gorgeous, shapely and voluptuous upstairs neighbor - The Girl (Marilyn Monroe as a quintessential blonde), who had forgotten her outer building key, met her married New Yorker neighbor Richard Sherman when she hit his buzzer to get in, allowing her entrance to the upstairs apartment above his that she had rented for the summer. After seven years of marriage to his wife Helen, Richard - who was often prone to fantasy, bragged about how he was immune to the 'seven year itch' phenomenon of extra-marital affairs by repressed men, and then told his wife Helen about three seduction scenarios that he claimed he had resisted. After the Girl nearly hit Richard from her balcony above with a dislodged tomato plant, he invited her down to have a cool drink. Richard fantasized seducing the Girl by playing Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto, although in reality, she ignored his attempt. However, she joyously joined him on the piano bench to play Chopsticks - the two ended up on the floor when he attempted to approach his musical partner with a romantically-snooty Charles Boyer-like accent: "...now I'm going to take you in my arms and kiss you, very quickly and very hard." One of filmdom's most iconic and immortal sexual poses was found in this film - after attending a movie, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, the Girl posed in a white dress flying and billowing up around her knees - spread-legged and astride a New York subway vent as moving trains below blew and lifted her dress upwards above her legs with a rush of air: "Oh, do you feel the breeze from the subway. Isn't it delicious?" Afterwards, she told him that she was filming a Dazzledent TV commercial the next day. Trusting in him entirely, he easily tricked her into kissing him by saying that he doubted the truth of the commercials and the promise of flawless breath. When they returned home, Sherman agreed to let her sleep in his air-conditioned bedroom, while he slept on the living room couch; however, due to Sherman's paranoia about being spotted with her in the apartment, he sent her back to her own apartment, feeling neurotic and guilt-ridden, but soon, she returned through a trap-door passageway from upstairs. The next morning while the Girl was in the shower, Sherman continued to fantasize that Helen had returned home early after learning about his dalliances. She peppered the front door with bullets, and entered brandishing a gun and shot at him. In the film's conclusion, Sherman decided to spend two weeks on vacation in Maine and join Helen and Ricky. He gave the Girl the key to his place, and before he left, the Girl sent him off with a big kiss goodbye: "I have a message for your wife. (A kiss.) Don't wipe it off. If she thinks that's cranberry sauce, tell her she's got cherry pits in her head." The Girl implied that a little jealousy on Helen's part would make her more aware of his sex appeal to other women.

Smiles of a Summer Night (1955, Swed.) (aka Sommarnattens Leende), 108 minutes, D: Ingmar Bergman

Summertime (1955, UK/US), 100 minutes, D: David Lean

To Catch a Thief (1955), 103 minutes, D: Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock's lightweight, comedic and romantic suspense thriller (with a mystery element) was set on the French Riviera, where a nighttime jewel-thief was creating panic amongst the visitors and residents. The opening view was of a distressed female after she noticed her empty jewelry case in her French Riveria hotel room. She was screaming: "My jewels! I've been robbed. Someone stole my jewels" - the film emphasized the motif of a stealthy, prowling jewel thief (cat burglar) that had committed the crime - a black cat crossed a slatted, tiled rooftop at night. The authorities' only suspect was a reformed and retired ex-burglar - American-born John Robie (Cary Grant), known as "The Cat," who lived in a hillside villa near Cannes. Photographed from the air, the police (who arrived to question Robie) chased after him as he drove away and fled from his villa, although it was only a diversion. To successfully escape, Robie had boarded a bus to Cannes and was sitting in the rear seat, while he watched through the back window as detectives returned to his villa. Once Robie reached Cannes in the French Riviera, he decided to investigate the crime by himself and find the real thief who was imitating his crimes, before the police trailed and arrested him. He met with his old ex-con friends in a restaurant - head waiter Bertani (Charles Vanel) and wine steward Foussard (Jean Martinelli) from the days of French Resistance against the Germans during WWII. He was helped to evade police again via a speedy motor-boat by Foussard's smitten and flirtatious young, teenaged blonde daughter Danielle Foussard (Brigitte Auber) to a nearby, luxury Cannes hotel's beach club. While lounging on the hotel's beach, Robie (and the audience) had their first view of beautiful, lanky and cool blonde Frances Stevens (Grace Kelly) in a turban and sunglasses who was applying sun-tan lotion. Robie pursued his investigation of the recent string of 'cat' burglaries by meeting at a flower market in Nice with a contact of Bertani's named H. H. Hughson (John Williams) - an insurance agent of Lloyds of London. He was conveniently provided with a detailed list of names of those on the Riviera who were heavily-insured clients with expensive jewels (supposedly, they would be the Cat's next victims). One of the names on the list was affluent, nouveau riche American widow - an oil millionairess named Mrs. Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis), who was traveling with her beautiful blonde daughter Frances and staying at the Carlton Hotel. Robie was able to maneuver drinks with Mrs. Stevens and her spoiled yet refined daughter, by posing as an Oregon lumber magnate named Conrad Burns (although Frances quickly saw through his disguise). Afterwards to his complete surprise, Robie escorted Frances, a pretty and quiet socialite, back to her hotel suite, where she passionately kissed him at her door. The next morning, it was learned that the cat burglar had again struck and stolen more jewels. Soon after, Frances attracted attention in the hotel's foyer with Robie - she was fashionably decked out in a high-necked, black bathing suit, oversized white sunhat, and white coverup. While Robie was reclining on a beach chair with Frances, cute brunette Danielle caught Robie's attention in her bathing suit, and they swam out to the hotel's floating raft. Danielle informed Robie that Bertani's ex-convicts had been threatening to kill him (they were worried about discrediting suspicions being cast onto them). Frances swam out and joined them, where the two engaged in a verbal 'cat'-fight over the bemused Robie - both of the bitchy women were extremely jealous of each other. Later, Frances invited Robie to join her for a picnic basket lunch and a drive in her open convertible sports car ("I have my car and a basket lunch with chicken and beer"). After a tense and swervy car ride to evade a pursuit car of detectives, she flirted him as they parked and shared a picnic basket. She excitedly revealed that she knew he wasn't Mr. Burns, and suspected that he was the jewel thief John Robie. Later in Frances' hotel suite, Frances begged Robbie to make her his accomplice during the crime spree. While real fireworks exploded through the open doors in the background (over the water in the night sky), she enticed him by displaying her white strapless gown and his main weakness - her sparkling, glistening diamond necklace as the ultimate prize. After their very seductive encounter, the next day, Frances accused Robie of being responsible for the loss (theft) of her mother's jewels (and her own sexual loss of virginity): "Give them back to me...Mother's jewels!" Robie confessed to her his true identity and revealed he was "The Cat" ("My name is John Robie. I used to be a jewel thief several years ago"), but denied stealing her mother's jewels. He slipped out onto the roof when Frances attempted to summon the police. Later in the film, when Robie was staking out a house for the thief, he was attacked by an unknown assailant; he inadvertently killed the man who was identified as Danielle's father Foussard. Police mistakenly thought he was The Cat, until Robie informed the police that it was impossible for peg-legged Foussard (with a prosthetic leg) to climb rooftops during robberies. Just before a major costume ball scheduled for the weekend, Frances apologized for accusing Robie of being the thief - she also confessed that she loved him ("I'M IN LOVE WITH YOU") and would help find the real burglar. They both attended the estate's fancy event, with Frances wearing a Louis XV-era gold-gown. In the film's conclusion during the masked costume ball, Robie (who was wearing a black Moorish nubian slave costume with a mask and was able to switch places with Hughson) was free to track the real Cat from the villa's rooftop during the evening. He noticed a black-clad figure exiting a window and traversing the rooftop - he froze, spied the figure, and then chased after it. Robie caught up to the masked thief - grabbed the individual - and unmasked DANIELLE. A light was directed toward the rooftop and caught Robie in the spotlight, but he proved his innocence and revealed the real masked copycat thief - young blonde Danielle Foussard, who fell and dangled from the roof's gutter until she confessed that her father Foussard and restauranteur Bertani had planned all of the robberies. In the final short scene set at Robie's Cote d'Azur villa, Frances (still wearing her gold gown from the costume ball) urged and pressured Robie into admitting that he was in love with her. He obliged her by repeating what she had dictated to him: "Without you, I couldn't have done it. I needed the help of a woman. I guess I'm not the lone wolf I thought I was, Francie." As they were about to say goodbye, he pulled her arm toward him for an embrace and kiss. Frances had finally nabbed the slightly-dismayed Robie - as she triumphantly noted in the last line: "So this is where you live. Oh, Mother will love it up here!"

Trial (1955), 105 minutes, D: Mark Robson
The film, set in the late 1940s, opened during a nighttime scene at a San Juno private beach, where - after a female's scream, Mexican-American teenager Angel Chavez (Rafael Campos) was found standing over the deceased female, Marie Wiltse, who had died of heart failure. Chavez was arrested on suspicion of statutory rape, and charged with first-degree felony murder. Meanwhile, California law school professor David Blake (Glenn Ford) was threatened with losing his job unless he could acquire trial experience (a new prerequisite) over the summer. Blake was hired by communist shark/attorney Barney Castle (Arthur Kennedy) to take the Chavez case. Castle bribed racist courthouse jail-sheriff 'Fats' Sanders (Robert Middleton) with $20 to speak to the incarcerated Chavez (and his mother Consuela (Katy Jurado)). Although Chavez admitted making love to Willsey, angering Castle for his forthrightness, he claimed he was innocent of murder charges. The two were persuaded to retain him as their representative for the racially-charged felony murder case. During his preparation for the trial, Blake was aided by Castle's secretary Abbe Nyle (Dorothy McGuire), a love interest. To raise funds for the defense (and for himself) in the sensationalist case, Castle held a successful New York fund-raising rally sponsored by the All Peoples Party - a Communist front, that raised $320,000. The San Juno trial was presided over by black Judge Theodore Motley (Juano Hernandez), and the DA was Jack Armstrong (John Hodiak). As the trial was commencing, process server Finn (Elisha Cook Jr.) subpoened Blake to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee the following Saturday for his involvement in the New York rally. A jury was finally selected after three weeks, when novice lawyer Blake had to throw out the original jury panel because they had been interrogated by the police before the trial. The atmosphere of the trial was tense, due to white supremacists and other lynch mob members who were rallying to put Latino Chavez away. The DA's first witness was Marie's physician from childhood, Dr. Schacter (Richard Gaines), who testified that Marie died of violent exertion to her heart, due to a history of rheumatic fever. Blake's cross-examination revealed that she was at risk of dying at any time. Another witness' testimony about clearly seeing the beach incident with his car's spotlight was debunked. Blake fired Castle as defense attorney when he insisted that Angel take the stand. However, Angel was called to the stand, where his testimony under cross-examination was self-damning. He claimed he didn't know about Marie's ripped dress, why he left the scene, or how to have sex. The jury ruled against Angel and he was convicted of the crime of felony murder. During the sentencing hearing, the prejudiced Castle proposed a mandatory death penalty (to make Chavez a martyr for his political cause), while Blake found an obscure code statute requiring that the juvenile be sent to the state's industrial reform school. The judge sentenced Castle to 30 days in jail for contempt of court.


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