Cinema 1955: Seminal Year in Film World

Why is 1955 such a Crucial, even Seminal Year?

You could say that 1955 was the year in which American pop culture was born, manifest in music, fashion and film, and the use of new kind of music in film, Rock N’ Roll.

It’s the year that saw two of James Dean’s movies released, East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause. Of the two, Rebel Without a Cause was more influential, particularly after Dean’s shocking death in a car crash in September of that year.

In 1955, Samuel Arkoff and James H. Nicholson founded American International Pictures, which will specialize in cheap exploitation films, many of which aimed specifically at the youth market. New age of exhibitionism, the schlock, the exploitation era began.

The courtship of teenage audience began: Movies were discovering and then quickly exploiting the youth market.

Film Noir

Some of the best film noirs were made in 1955, including: Joseph H. Lewis’ The Big Combo; Aldrich’s double bill: Kiss Me Deadly and The Big Knife; Kubrick’s Killer’s Kiss; and Orson Welles’ Mr. Arkadin.

Fritz Lang, the founder of film noir, made his last quintessential film of the genre.

Patricia Highsmith published “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” thus launching an influential line of books, many of which would be made into American and European movies.

Melodrama:

After a decade of making films of varying degrees of success, Douglas Sirk changed the melodrama genre with several stylish films that prove to be extremely influential: “All That Heaven Allows,” followed by “Written on the Wind,” both starring Rock Hudson, Catapulting him to the status as the most popular male star, a symbol of the new sensitive masculine man.

Critics: Change of Guards

Two of the country’s leading critics, James Agee and Robert Warshow, die, thus leaving a vacuum in film criticism, clearing the way to Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael to become the most influential film critics over the past two decades.

The magazine “Film Culture” is launched with Andrew Sarris as its editor.

Movie Stars: Change of Guards

It was the year in which Betty Grable, the country’s popular star for over a decade, lost her appeal, and made her last two pictures: “How to Be Very, Very popular,” and “Three for the Show.”

Marilyn Monroe and especially Doris Day rose to major stardom, the former as a sex symbol, the latter as “the girl next door.”

On the male side of the spectrum, Humphrey Bogart made his last two films (he died in 1956).  Two new actors began their rise to prominence: Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, ironically in the same film: Robert Wise’s Somebody Up There Likes Me.” (Newman played the lead, McQueen had a bit part).

Directing Debut

British actor Charles Laughton makes a stunning feature directorial debut with “The Night Hunter,” starring Robert Mitchum at his very best, the only movie he would ever direct.

Ten Best Films of N. Y. Times critic Bosley Crowther are:

The Bridges at Toko-Ri
Bad Day at Black Rock
A Man Called Peter
Marty
The Great Adventure
Mister Roberts
The Phoenix City Story
It’s Always Fair Weather
Oklahoma!
The Prisoner

Controversial Films:

Bad Day at Black Rock
Blackboard Jungle
Kiss Me Deadly

The Man with the Golden Arm

Rebel Without a Cause

Box-Office Hits of 1955 are:

Lady and the Tramp $12.8 million*
Cinerema Holiday 12.0
Mister Roberts 8.5
Battle Cry 8.1
Oklahoma 7.1
Guys and Dolls 6.9
Picnic 6.4
Not as a Stranger 6.2
I’ll Cry Tomorrow 6.0
Strategic Air Command 6.0
Sea Chase 6.0
Blackboard Jungle 5.5
East of Eden 5.0
Pete Kelly’s Blues 5.0
The Tall Men 5.0
A Man Called Peter 4.8
Rebel Without a Cause 4.6
To Catch a Thief 4.5
The Rose Tattoo 4.2
Love Me Or Leave me 4.2
The Man With Golden Arm 4.1

*Domestic rentals in millions of $