Cinema 1959: You Must Remember This….Events, Trends, Movies, Stars

Cineliteracy: What You Need to Know about 1959 as Movie Year

Top-Grossing films (U.S.)

Rank Title Studio Box-office gross rental

1 Ben-Hur Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $36,000,000

2 The Shaggy Dog Walt Disney/Buena Vista Distribution $9,600,000

3 Operation Petticoat Universal Pictures $9,321,555

4 Some Like It Hot United Artists/The Mirisch Company $8,127,835

5 Pillow Talk Universal Pictures $7,669,713

6 Imitation of Life $6,417,807

7 Suddenly, Last Summer Columbia Pictures $6,375,000

8 Rio Bravo and The Nun’s Story Warner Bros. each $5,750,000

9 North by Northwest Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $5,740,000

10 Anatomy of a Murder Columbia Pictures $5,500,000


January 23 –

Republic Pictures releases its last production, Plunderers of Painted Flats.

January 29 –

Disney’s Sleeping Beauty premieres, their most expensive film to date and the first animation to be shot in Super Technirama 70. It initially loses money for the studio due to high cost. However, eventually it gained cult following; it’s now considered one of Disney’s classics.

April 30 –

François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows opens the 1959 Cannes Film Festival bringing international attention to the French New Wave.

June 4 –

The Three Stooges release their 190th and last short film, Sappy Bull Fighters.

June 7 –

A contract between Paramount and Jerry Lewis stipulates payment of $10 million plus 60% of the profits for 14 films over a seven-year period. This contract made Lewis the highest paid talent to date and was unprecedented in that he had unlimited creative control, including final cut, and the return of film rights after 30 years.

July 1 –

Herbert J. Yates, founder of Republic Pictures, sells controlling stake in the company.

July –

Les Cousins, another film of the French New Wave, wins the Golden Bear at the 9th Berlin International Film Festival.

July 22 –

Joseph E. Levine promotes the release of Hercules, starring Steve Reeves which popularizes the sword and sandals genre.

August 4 –

The Big Fisherman is the first film released in Super Panavision 70.
September 30 –

The film of Mise Éire, made by George Morrison for Gael Linn, is premiered to close the Cork Film Festival, the first feature-length Irish language film.
October 7 – Rock Hudson, voted top in the Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll for the year, appears in Pillow Talk alongside Doris Day for the first time.

October 14 –

Australian-born star Errol Flynn dies of a heart attack in Vancouver, at the age of 50.

November 18 – William Wyler’s film Ben-Hur, the most expensive film made ($15,175,000) premieres at Loew’s State Theater in NYC. It won a record 11 Academy Awards.
December 2 –

The battle of the smellies starts with the release of the docu Behind the Great Wall in AromaRama, with scents pumped during the screening.


March 10, 1960 12th BAFTA Awards
March 26, 1960 32nd Academy Awards
April 4, 1960
Comedy or Musical Drama
Best Film Some Like It Hot (Comedy)
Porgy and Bess (Musical) Ben-Hur Room at the Top Ben-Hur
Best Director William Wyler
Ben-Hur – William Wyler
Best Actor Jack Lemmon, Some Like It Hot Anthony Franciosa
Career Sidney Poitier
The Defiant Ones Charlton Heston
Best Actress Marilyn Monroe
Some Like It Hot Elizabeth Taylor
Suddenly, Last Summer Simone Signoret
Room at the Top Simone Signoret
Room at the Top
Best Supporting Actor Stephen Boyd
Ben-Hur – Hugh Griffith
Best Supporting Actress Susan Kohner
Imitation of Life – Shelley Winters
The Diary of Anne Frank
Best Screenplay, Adapted Room at the Top
Neil Paterson Orders to Kill
Paul Dehn Room at the Top
Neil Paterson
Best Screenplay, Original Pillow Talk
Russell Rouse, Clarence Greene, Stanley Shapiro, and Maurice Richlin

Festival Awards:

Palme d’Or (Cannes Film Festival): Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro), Marcel Camus, France

Golden Lion (Venice Film Festival): Il Generale della Rovere (General della Rovere), Roberto Rossellini, Italy / France
La grande guerra (The Great War), directed by Mario Monicelli, Italy / France

Golden Bear (Berlin Film Festival):

Les Cousins (The Cousins), Claude Chabrol, France