The different film genres in the Fifties
In the fifties Hollywood began to change its films. First the length changed from 90 minutes to 3 hours (in the sixties it became 2 hours). Second every production was presented as a splashy big-budget spectacle whether this was the case or not. Thus most genres lost their original forms and new ones had to be created.
The Musical (blz. 486-487)
The musical had reached a high point under auspices of MGM producer Arthur Freed. With him were directors as Vincente Minelli, Stanley Donen, Charles Walters and Gene Kelly. Also performers as Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, June Allyson and Cyd Charisse. This team produce medium-budget musicals as Singin' in the rain (Kelly / Donen, 1952) and Brigadoon (Minelli, 1954). Freed believed that musical production numbers should be integrated with te film's dialogue and not stand-alone intermezzos. In theory it should advance the narrative but it practice id produced the fact that the character began to sing at the slightest dramatic convention. An example of this is The Wizard of Oz (1939). This went on during the fifties and sixties. By 1955 musicals adapted the popular Broadway stage plays as West Side Story (Robert Wise, 1962) and My Fair Lady (George Cukor, 1964). The stars in these musicals couldn't sing (professional singers and dancers were used as stand-ins) and most directors had never filmed a musical before. Peak in this tendency was The sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965). This one was followed by more enormous productions wich destroyed nearly the fortunes of the repective studios, glutted tyhe public on musicals and viryually killed the genre by blowing it out of proportion. In the seventies it returned to its original form (Hair (1979), Pennies from Heaven (1981)).
Comedy (blz. 487 - 491)
Comedy was another genre that suffered seriously from widescreen inflation and the generally depressed social ambiance of the MacCarthy - Cold War era. There were clear exeptions as Minnelli's Father of the Bride (1950) and Father's little Dividend (1951). The big-budget widescreen comedy was represented by films like How to marry a Millionaire (Negulesco, 1953) and High Society (Walters, 1956).The strong point of film comedies like these was less verbal or visual wit than excellent production values. This was, after all, the major strategic element in Hollywood's war on television. Bob Hope and Danny Kaye, whose fil careers had begun in the decade past, were both popular in class-A productions throughout the fifties, as was the slapstick team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis who had succeeded Abbott and Costello. Martin and Lweis made 17 films together and when the team split up, Martin began a successful career as an actor and television entertainer, while Lewis went on to become a major comic star by himself in such films as The Delicate Delinquent (Don McQuire, 1957) and ultimately directing his own films in the sixties. Much more sophisticated than Lewis, and certainly as briljant as Hope and Kaye, were the era's two major comediennes: Judy Holliday and Marilyn Monroe. Both appeared in a number of witty, adult comedies before early deaths. These films were succeeded by the sanitized sexiness of the expensively produced Rock Hudson / Doris Day battle-of-the-sexes cycle, beginning in 1958 with Pillow Talk (Michael Gordon). These films and other that imitaded them were in turn succeeded by a cycle of cynical big-budget sex comedies concerned with the strategies of seduction (David Swift's Under the Yum-Yum Tree, 1963; Gene Kelly's A Guide for the Married Man, 1967) wich reflected, sometimes rather perversely, the "sexual revolution" of the late sixties. Related to the amoral cynicism of this cycle was what might best be called the "corporate comedy" of films, wich dealt openly and humorously with business fraud and prefigured the morass of corporate and governmental deceit underlying the Watergate and "Koreagate"...
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