August 13, 2014 Presents... Decades: Our Top 10 Films of the 1950s
by James

by James Forryan

hmv London; 13/08/2014


"Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, Presents... Decades: Our Top 10 Films of the 1950s

To celebrate the special offers happening in hmv stores across the country over the next six weeks, each week we'll be picking our top 10 films from each decade, and today we're kicking off with the 1950s...

All the below films are included in the in-store offers - check with your local hmv for details...

Creature from the Black Lagoon

10. Creature from the Black Lagoon


Jack Arnold's 1954 sci-fi horror film may seem a little dated now, but at the time its underwater filming represented a huge technological breakthrough and even if some the special effects are unintentionally hilarious these days, the film still has the ability inspire terror in an audience.

Starring Richard Carlson as the intrepid diver-explorer David Reed and Richard Denning as the inquisitive scientist Mark Williams, the film's tale of a prehistoric amphibious creature living in the depths of the Amazon took the formula developed by early monster flicks such as King Kong and ran with it, creating a much-loved genre classic that's up there with the best monster flicks of the era. Julia Adams also co-stars and fills the '50s screen siren' role with panache.

The Ladykillers

9. The Ladykillers


Alexander Mackendrick's 1955 comedy caper about a gang of bank robbers posing as musicians while they prepare for a heist was the subject of a remake starring Tom Hanks in 2004, but the original still has a certaion charm that the new film lacks thanks to some brilliant performances from the likes of Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers.

The five bungling criminals rent a house owned by landlady Mrs Wilberforce, but don't reckon on her actually living there with them. When this makes planning the robbery impossible, they decide that the old lady must die, but their numerous attempts meet with failure after failure, with some pretty hilarious results. A comedy classic of the era that's still funny today.

On the Waterfront

8. On The Waterfront


Along with James Dean, Marlon Brando was the only other actor in the 1950s that had the same kind of on-screen magnetism and charisma that led the pair to become the superstar actors of their era, and that's thanks in part to his iconic performance in On The Waterfront as the ex-prize fighter turned dockyard worker Terry Malloy.

Elia Kazan's film tells the story of Malloy's struggles as he, along with the rest of the longshoremen he works with, stands up to union bosses and demands fair pay and rights for himself and his colleagues. Up there with his performances in The Wild One and A Streetcar Named Desire, this film cemented the actor's reputation as one of the best Hollywood ever produced.


7. Harvey


One of the most unusual films to come out of Hollywood in the 1950s, Harvey is based on the hit Broadway show of the same name and stars James Stewart as Elwood Dowd, a man who his family think is losing his mind thanks to his insistence that he has an invisible friend called Harvey – a 6ft 3in talking rabbit that nobody else can see.

His sister tries to have him committed, but his psychiatrist discovers that the situation is even weirder than it it appears. It's possible to trace ideas from the likes of Donnie Darko and Utopia back to Harry Koster's film, and while not as dark in its delivery, it's definitely spooky and loads of fun to watch.

South Pacific

6. South Pacific


Joshua Logan's 1958 film is the first screen adaptation of the classic Rogers & Hammerstein musical of the same name and even after all these years it remains a favourite for musical fans. Starring Rossano Brazzi as the enigmatic French soldier Emile De Becque and Mitzi Gaynor as the enlisted nurse who falls in love with him, this tale of wartime romance features the production of a comedy musical to keep the troops and staff entertained, but as the war intensifies the real drama is yet to begin. Featuring musical numbers like 'I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair', it carries the kind of tunes that has seen it stand the test of time.

The Bridge on the River Kwai

5. The Bridge on the River Kwai


Directed by the legendary David Lean and featuring a cast led by William Holden and Alec Guinness, Bridge on the River Kwai is a war epic some serious pedigree. The film tells the story of a bridge the Burma-Siam railway, in particular the exploits of Colonel Nicholson (Guinness) who is overseeing the construction project. The allies plan to destroy it, but his arrogance prevails and what he claims is a monument to British endeavour is actually more of a monument to his own achievements. Brilliant performances from the cast and some excellent cinematography have made this film an all-time favourite for fans of war films.

To Catch a Thief

4. To Catch a Thief


Few on-screen couples have enjoyed the kind of chemistry that Cary Grant and Grace Kelly produced in this Alfred Hitchcock film and it's still one of the key componets of a film that's every it as watchable now as it was on its initial release in 1954. Grant stars as a former cat burglar who is enjoying his retirement, but when he is wrongly accused of a crime he didn't commit he is forced to use his skills to catch the real perpetrator and clear his name. Stylish, slick and intriguing, this is a glimpse at Hitchcock just as he was starting to get really, really good.

Singin' in the Rain

3. Singin' in the Rain


Gene Kelly was at the peak of his popularity when this film was made in 1952 and it's probably his defining moment as a performer. Based around the story a film studio struggling to adapt to the new era of 'talking pictures', it's a fascinating introspective look at the film industry in the 1950s and thanks in no small part to a brilliant collection of songs from the pens of Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, Singin' in the Rain has become a timeless classic that still looks and sounds good today.


2. Vertigo


In the five years between 1958 and 1963, Alfred Hitchcock produced some of his best work, including films like North by Northwest, Psycho and The Birds, but it all began with Vertigo. James Stewart stars as retired San Francisco detective John 'Scottie' Ferguson, an acrophobic who is enlisted by an old friend to follow his wife, Madeline (Kim Novak), whom he fears might be suffering from some form of mental illness and may even be suicidal. Madeline is convinced she is possessed by the sprit of a dead relative, but when Scottie begins following her he finds himself becoming obsessed. Along with Psycho, Vertigo is one of Hitchcock's finest cinematic achievements and Bernard Hermann's classic, nerve-jangling score plays a huge part in the sense of tension throughout the film.

Rebel Without a Cause

1. Rebel Without A Cause


Nicholas Ray's film will always be remembered for being the final screen appearance of James Dean who, fresh from his Oscar-nominated role in East of Eden, had already become hot property in Hollywood, but it is his performance in Rebel Without A Cause that transformed him into a cultural icon for the youth of the era. Sadly he never saw the film's release, which came less than one month after his tragic death in a car accident, but his role as the rebellious teenager immortalised his precocious acting talent and made him a bona fide superstar even after his untimely demise. What exactly was he rebelling against? Well, as Jimmy Dean himself would put it: “what have you got?”