Hollywood in the 1950’s cut a very different landscape than it does today. Though there are definitely parallels to be drawn between that decade, and the movies that are being produced today. Hollywood was having to compete with television and had to contend with the paranoia of the cold war and the possibility of a nuclear explosion as well.
The introduction, and subsequently, the threat of television, led production companies and film studios to stretch themselves a lot more to keep people coming back to theatres. Some of the types of things they used were VistaVision, Cinemascope, Cinerama, and even 3-dimensional viewing. There were many movies at this time created simply to be spectacles and to fit in with this new technology that they were trying to sell.
Genres that thrived during this time varied. However, this was the golden age for horror and thriller director Alfred Hitchcock. But fears that were close to home were not the only fears that audiences craved back in the 1950’s. Due to the threat of the cold war, a new fascination with science because of the atomic bomb, and a curiosity for the stars and the cold mysteries of outer space, the science-fiction era was born. This is the genre that the 1950’s is most famous for, and there are some myriad movies to choose from that center around space as their main plot point.
Hollywood in the fifties was also a time for rebellion. It wasn’t actually until this decade that the term ‘teenager’ came into popular use, before that you were either a child or a young adult, there was no in between. But with the rise of the sullen teenager, parents began to fear for their children, and their children reacted to this by becoming their fears. Some of the most famous movies that endure to this day are based on teenagers who don’t want to do what their parents or society at large wants them to do.
Similarities to the Present
It’s funny how many similarities Hollywood movies share today with those of the 1950’s. For one thing, our fascination with space and science-fiction has come back with a vengeance. Some of the highest grossing movies of the last few years have been set in space. We have entire franchises dedicated to science fiction that have endured through the decades. We also have not lost our love of the thriller and though Hitchcock is long gone, his predecessors are definitely picking up the slack. And we are also not shy about using our own gimmicks. Three-dimensional viewing has come back again and it looks like it might just be here to stay this time. Not only that, but we now have four-dimensional viewing, which can be anything from moving seats to smells pumped into the theatre. Hollywood will do anything to get us into those seats and buying cinema tickets, and if this means spending entire budgets on computer generated graphics, then so be it.