Hollywood and the Movies of the Fifties

The Collapse of the Studio System, the Thrill of Cinerama, and the Invasion of the Ultimate Body Snatcher—Television

A fascinating look at Hollywood’s most turbulent decade and the demise of the studio system—set against the boom of the post–World War II years, the Cold War, and the atomic age—and the movies that reflected the seismic shifts.

Hollywood in the 1950s was a period when the film industry both set conventions and broke norms and traditions—from Cinerama, CinemaScope, and VistaVision to the epic film and lavish musical. It was a decade that saw the rise of the anti-hero; the smoldering, the hidden, and the unspoken; teenagers gone wild in the streets; the sacred and the profane; the revolution of the Method; the socially conscious; the implosion of the studios; the end of the production code; and the invasion of the ultimate body snatcher: the “small screen” television.

Here is Eisenhower’s America—seemingly complacent, conformity-ridden revealed in Vincente Minnelli’s Father of the Bride, Walt Disney’s Cinderella, and Brigadoon, among others.

And here is its darkening, resonant landscape, beset by conflict, discontent, and anxiety (The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Asphalt Jungle, A Place in the Sun, Touch of Evil, It Came From Outer Space) . . . an America on the verge of cultural, political and sexual revolt, busting up and breaking out (East of Eden, From Here to Eternity, On the Waterfront, Sweet Smell of Success, The Wild One, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Jailhouse Rock).

An important, riveting look at our nation at its peak as a world power and at the political, cultural, sexual upheavals it endured, reflected and explored in the quintessential American art form.

available on Amazon.com


ISBN-10: 0307958922
HARDCOVER: 672 pages

“Hirsch has written the definitive book on 1950s Hollywood.” —Booklist

Hollywood and the Movies of the Fifties is a book for the ages” —Engelsberg Ideas

“A rich, expansive, penetrating work of film and social history.” —Kirkus

“A remarkable analysis. Recommended for knowledgeable film lovers and for those seeking suggestions of mid-century film titles.” —Library Journal

“Hirsch’s epic historical account peels back the curtain to reveal the tumultuous uncertainty that characterized the Tinseltown of the ‘50s.” —Associated Press


Sudden Fear - Torch Song - Joan Crawford in the 50s

Joan Crawford in the 50s

In Sudden Fear, Crawford at forty-six plays a woman whose husband wants to kill her; the indignity is compounded in Torch Song in which her character ignites passion in a blind pianist (Michael Wilding). Designed as a showcase for an aging star to prove herself, Torch Song instead exposes Crawford’s icy calculation. READ MORE

Storm Warning (1951)

A bizarre film noir starring Ginger Rogers and Doris Day

In the Warner Bros. crime-movie category, the decade’s hands-down winner is Storm Warning (1951), a forceful and unexpected exposé delivered in the hard- hitting house style that had reached its apex during the Depression in such films as I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932). READ MORE