Movie Love in the Fifties

Movie Love in the Fifties

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From the author ofRomantic Comedy("brilliant, meticulous, a monumental work of scholarship" --Margo Jefferson,New York Times), a fresh, illuminating look at the films of the 1950s. Harvey begins by mapping the progression from 1940s film noir to the living-room melodramas of the 1950s. He shows us the femme fatale of the 1940s (Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Bennett) becoming blander and blonder (Doris Day, Debbie Reynolds) and younger and more traditionally sexy (Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly) in the 1950s. And he shows us how women were finally replaced as objects of desire by the new boy-men--Clift, Brando, Dean, and other rebels without causes. Harvey discusses the films of Hitchcock (Vertigo), Ophuls (The Reckless Moment), Siodmak (Christmas Holiday), and Welles (Touch of Evil, perhaps the single greatest influence on the "post-classical" movies). He writes about the quintessential 1950s directors: Nicholas Ray, who made movies in the old Hollywood tradition(In a Lonely Place,Johnny Guitar), and Douglas Sirk, who portrayed suburbia as an emotional deathtrap (Imitation of Life,Magnificent Obsession). And he discusses the "serious" directors, such as Stanley Kramer and Elia Kazan, whose films exhibited powerful new realism. Comprehensive, insightful, written with intelligence, humor, and affection,Movie Love in the Fiftiesis a masterful work of American film, and cultural, history.
Publisher: New York : A.A. Knopf ; Distributed by Random House, Inc., 001
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780394585918
Characteristics: xi, 448 p. : ill. ; 25 cm
Alternative Title: Movie love in the 50's


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Dec 18, 2014

Though the 50s has a reputation as repressed, optimistic, and bland, it was a great period for American film and it produced such masterpieces as "Vertigo," "Rebel Without a Cause," "The Searchers," and "Touch of Evil," among others. So I was excited to read this book, which takes as its subject the actors, actresses, directors, and films (each one gets a section) of the 50's. Harvey's idea is sound, but his execution is lacking. Too often he simply recounts the plot, rather than offering much insight, illumination, or analysis. Despite quoting Nabokov, Godard, and Gore Vidal, there's a lack of intellectual rigor that undermines what could've been a much more nuanced and thoughtful book. It is generously illustrated with photographs, there's some juicy behind the scenes gossip, and it will send you back to some of these films, which is maybe its greatest accomplishment. If you want better film writing, J. Hoberman, Pauline Kael, Jonathan Rosenbaum, and Manny Farber all have good books.


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