Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

As Pumpkin Fest gets closer and it is time to create a costume for the scarecrow, I have to admit I am a bit stymied.

I keep thinking about 1950 fashions with those great wide skirts and soft cashmere sweaters. But I am not putting that sweater on a scarecrow that is going to be outside in all sorts of weather.

While I am trying to go through clothing options what I have, I have to admit there are some movies that rolled through my head almost iummediately.

One of the most popular teen movies from the 1950s is Rebel Without A Cause in which there is a new boy in town who has a tendancy to find trouble. But of course, right away he find a girl who understands him and wants to be by his side. This is one of the three movies that made James Dean into a Hollywood legend before his tragic early death. Natalie Wood stars as the girl who loves him.

This next selection might be harder to find but it used to be a classic on late night TV as the star of the movie became a huge TV star on Bonanza, Ponderosa, Little House on the Prairie and Higway to Heaven. I was a Teenage Werewolf starred Michael Landon as a new kid in town with a hot temper. When a fight leads to an appointment with a psychologist, the teen discovers too later that the doctor is really a mad scientist. Things go from bad to worse after that but this movie is great campy fun.

The 50s were a strange time in which we feared nuclear destruction which lead some film makers to create all sorts of monster movies. Godzilla always comes to mind for me as Tokeyo is once again destroyed by various creatures that have grown to ginourmous size about being hit with radiation. Another monster movie from the era was The Blob in which a gelatinous mass tries to absorb the community after coming from outer space. Perhaps one of the best horror/thriller movies from this era might be Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Once again we are being invaded by aliens. But this time they are able to replicate humans and take our lives away.

The fear and suspicion of the era wasn’t just about what could come from outside of our planet. Alfred Hitchcock played on the suspicion we felt about the people around us with Rear Window as Jimmy Stewart’s housebound photographer who starts to wonder if his neighbor has killed his wife. Hitchcock’s 1951 movie, Strangers on a Train, focused on the fears of a mad man that Farly Granger meets on a train as he is trying to figure out how to get his wife to divorce him so Granger can marry the woman who is his true love. The merry-go-round scene still gives me a thrill.

Thankfully, not all movies focused on our fears. Some went out of their way to be crazy fun. This was the era of the musical. One of my favorites is Guys and Dolls which stars Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando as two gamblers who are trying to find a way to get a place for a big game that is hosting a gambler not known for his kindness and generosity. It involves a Slavation Army-type girl in Jean Simmons and show girl Vivian Blaine. But for me the show-stopping number is “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat.”

However, that is not the best musical of the ear. That honor goes to Singin’ In The Rain starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Conner. The story is about the movie industry as it changes over from silent movies to sound. But really the film is built around a collection of songs. One of my favorites is the “Make ’em Laugh” dance routine with Donald O’Conner and a variety of props.

Do you have a favorite movie from the 1950s?

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

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