The Truth about the 1950s in the United States
The Fifties, or the 1950s, were the era of changes for the whole world. Someone has heard good things about these years, someone vice versa only unpleasant facts. It was the after-war period that brought many promises and hopes for people worldwide. The Fifties is described as the era of prosperity, rock music, scientific inventions, and “having fun”. Although, despite the positivism of this decade, all issues mentioned above were a common lie and illusion. There were still problems: conflict in Korea, nuclear weapon testing, confrontation between the communists and capitalists, conflict between the USA and the Soviet Union best known as Cold War. However despite these difficulties and the Great Depression in the United States of those times, Hollywood did not stand still; moreover, it created a new movie style. It was called ‘film noir;’ these movies described reasons and consequences of criminal acts in the pessimistic reality of those years. The new movie style did not save the Fifties in the cinema and all people could see who was pretending and how. Moreover, pretending appeared not only in life, but also on the screen. The movies as a social mirror reflected the fears people had in those times, their principles and motivations, and influence of capitalism.
First of all, it should be mentioned that even though the 1950s were the years after the World War II, people were mostly trying to think only about good things, they were trying to make their life happier. Eventually, expectations faced realities of the postwar problems and turned into lies, panic, and fears. These pessimistic images became the main themes of film noir. These movies were a scream, manifest of despair and melancholy. European immigrants brought to the USA this new style in cinematography with their awe of gangsters’ families and the dark side of the society.
One of the greatest classic examples of film noir is Kiss Me Deadly directed by Robert Aldrich. It was an apocalyptic movie in which ordinary detectives were passing through a sort of labyrinth facing violence and mystery in it. Mike, the main character, was characterized as a violent, rude, and brutal man. He was searching for troubles and very soon was burnt. Moreover, the movie ends with an explosion; nevertheless, the movie does not reveal whether it was a nuclear bomb or an ordinary one. Nuclear threat was a popular suppression of the 1950s, and now it was uncovered in the movie. Kiss Me Deadly is the movie full of symbolic features and tricky plot twists. It is the masterpiece of the 1950s; it perfectly showed its viewers the threads and fears of those times, in this case, the fear of the Cold War and possible nuclear attacks.
Another masterpiece and another criminal drama of 1950s was the movie called On the Waterfront. It was directed by Elia Kazan and received several Academy Awards, including the Best Picture award. In this movie, Marlon Brando, who is playing the main character Terry Malloy, is fighting against corruption. On the Waterfront has a simple plot where two brothers, so close in childhood, are now like a fire and water, with different moral choices and political principles. Even thought, this movie seems to consist of several mini-stories that take place at different locations. The theme of brothers’ loyalty and then betrayal is in the center; nevertheless, On the Waterfront has a political theme too. Later the director of this movie received many awards for describing the realistic America of the 1950s in his movie.
On the contrary to the mentioned above drama movies, Singing in the Rain is the 1950’s American musical comedy that even nowadays is considered the best musical of all times. This hilarious musical tells viewers the story about the transition from silent movie to the sound one; it tracks the development of cinematography. Singing in the Rain contains a romantic theme; a story of a silent movie star Don Lockwood and Kathy Selden. There is also a sort of triangle when Don’s co-star Lina became jealous of Kathy. Although Kathy was young and talented, silent scenes at first and then dialogues performed by Lina got more success and fame. The ending of Singing in the Rain describes viewers the fears of cinematography in those times when talented and young actors were afraid of their future.
In conclusion, these movies are just the most famous examples in the movie industry that tried to uncover the hidden truth about the 1950s. Three different stories described above reflected the most popular foibles and anxieties of the 1950s in the USA. In general, Americans of those times were afraid of everything modern and new; they were afraid of nuclear inventions, drugs, violence, political prejudices, and political conflicts of those times. The US citizens were confused and influenced by continuous psychological and anxiety disorders. The United States was involved in the Cold War with the Soviet Union; everyone in the country was afraid of communism. The World War II had just ended; nevertheless, global political and economic tension made people aware of the World War III. Nevertheless, the government tried to hold back the truth; consequently, the anxieties of the 1950s were hidden under pretense and social fears were shown only with hints. Even though the society of those times could seem the happiest one, the reality described in movies proved the opposite.