The Korean War, lasted from June 25, 1950 until a cease-fire on July 27 1953 (as of now, there has been no peace treaty signed), started as a civil war between communist North Korea and the Republic of South Korea. When it began, North and South Korea existed as provisional governments competing for control over the Korean peninsula, due to the division of Korea by outside powers. While originally a civil war, it quickly escalated into a proxy war between the capitalist powers of the United States and its allies and the Communist powers of the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union.
On September 15, General Douglas MacArthur planned a grand strategy to dissect North-Korean-occupied Korea at the city of Incheon (Song Do port) to cut off further invasion by the North Korean army. Within a few days, MacArthur's army took back Seoul (South Korea's capital). The plan succeeded which allowed American and South Korean forces to cut off further expansion by the North Koreans. The war continued until a cease-fire was agreed to by both sides on July 27, 1953. The war left 33,742 American soldiers dead, 92,134 wounded, and 51,000 MIA.
The Suez Crisis was a war fought on Egyptian territory in 1956. Following the nationalisation of the Suez Canal in 1956 by Gamal Abdel Nasser, the United Kingdom, France and Israel subsequently invaded. The operation was a military success, but after the USA and Soviet Union united in opposition to the invasion, the invaders were forced to withdraw. This was seen as a major humiliation, especially for the two Western European countries, and symbolizes the beginning of the end of colonialism and the weakening of European global importance, specifically the collapse of the British Empire.
Popular music in the early half of the decade featured vocalists like Frankie Laine, Patti Page, Johnnie Ray, Kay Starr, Perry Como, Georgia Gibbs, Eddie Fisher, Doris Day, Teresa Brewer, Guy Mitchell and vocal groups like The Four Lads, The Four Aces The Chordettes and The Ames Brothers. Jazz stars who came into prominence in their genre at this time included Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk. Rock and roll emerged in the middle of the decade as the teen music of choice with Pat Boone, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard and Buddy Holly being notable exponents. Elvis Presley was the musical superstar of the period with rock, rockabilly, gospel, and romantic balladeering being his signatures. Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash were rockabilly musicians. Doo Wop was another popular genre at the time. Calypso enjoyed popularity with Jamaican Harry Belafonte being dubbed the "King of Calypso". The Kingston Trio was instrumental in launching the folk music revival of the fifties and sixties. On March 14, 1958, the RIAA certified crooner Perry Como's single, "Catch A Falling Star" its first ever Gold Record.
Dramas included William Inge's Come Back, Little Sheba (1950), the Pulitzer Prize-winning Picnic (1953), Bus Stop (1955) and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1957). Tennessee Williams won a Tony Award for The Rose Tattoo (1952) and the Pulitzer Prize for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955). Arthur Miller followed his 1949 success Death of a Salesman with The Crucible (1953) and A View from the Bridge (1955). Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, written 1941, was first performed 1956 and A Touch of the Poet, completed in 1942, was first performed 1958.
Musicals of the period included Guys and Dolls (1950), Rogers and Hammerstein's The King and I (1951), The Pajama Game (1954), Peter Pan (1954), Damn Yankees (1955), Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady (1956), Meredith Wilson's The Music Man (1957), Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story (1957), Lerner and Loewe's musical film adaptation of the stage play Gigi (1958), and Rogers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music (1959).
With television's rapidly growing popularity producing a marked decline in fifties movie-going, Hollywood was prompted to seek ways to draw its former audience back to the theaters. New film techniques were developed (Cinemascope, VistaVision, Cinerama, and 3-D film) that were ideally suited for the big budget sword and sandal epics The Robe, Demetrius and the Gladiators, The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur and Cleopatra (1963). Hercules (1958) and its follow-up Hercules Unchained launched internationally popular low budget epics with bodybuilders Steve Reeves, Gordon Scott, and others cast as the heroes of Greco-Roman mythology.
The spectacle approach to film-making, Cold War paranoia, public fascination with Outer Space, and a renewed interest in science sparked by the atom bomb lent itself well to science fiction films. Martians and other alien menaces were metaphors for Communism, foreign ideologies, and the misfits threatening democracy and the American way of life. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951 film), Invaders from Mars, Them!, The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, It Came from Outer Space, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Thing from Another World, This Island Earth, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, and Forbidden Planet were popular. Queen of Outer Space (1958) with Zsa Zsa Gabor brought sex to the genre. There were also Earth-based subjects, such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and When Worlds Collide (1951). Companies such as American International Pictures, Japan's Toho, and Britain's Hammer Film Productions were created to solely produce films of the fantastique genres. Japanese films included Godzilla (1954), Godzilla Raids Again (1955), and Rodan (1956), and Battle in Outer Space (1959).
Teen films came into their own during the decade. MGM's Blackboard Jungle (1955) examined race and class dynamics in an inner-city high school, and is regarded by some as the spark that lit the Rock and Roll revolution by featuring Bill Haley & His Comets' Rock Around the Clock over the opening credits. Screenings of the film occasionally led to teen violence and vandalism, and, for some, the film marks the start of visible teen rebellion in the 20th century. Rebel Without a Cause (1955) thrust its angst-ridden star James Dean to international stardom, and, unlike Blackboard Jungle, told its story from the viewpoint of its teen characters. Gidget (1959) set off a tsunami of light-hearted teen beach party and surfing movies that flirted with sex but respected fifties morality, conformism, and traditional values. Love, sex, marriage, divorce, alcoholism, dysfunctional families, and adultery were themes of A Summer Place featuring Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue as teen lovers and Dorothy McGuire and Richard Egan as their adulterous parents. Low budget teen films punctuated with rock and roll soundtracks were produced through the decade with provocative titles such as High School Hellcats, High School Confidential, Girls in the Night, Girls Town, Hound-Dog Man, Lost, Lonely, and Vicious, Running Wild, Hot Rod Girl, Juvenile Jungle, Teenage Devil Dolls, and the Ed Wood-scripted The Violent Years. Teen and sci-fi genres were wedded in B-film The Blob with Steve McQueen in his first starring role while teen horror flick I Was a Teenage Werewolf launched Michael Landon's Hollywood career.
The Walt Disney Studios enjoyed a decade of prosperity with animated feature-length films Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp (Disney's first wide-screen animated film), and Sleeping Beauty. The studio began producing live-action period and historical films such as The Sword and the Rose, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, Johnny Tremain, Old Yeller, Light in the Forest, Tonka, and Darby O'Gill and the Little People. The studio produced its first live-action contemporary comedy The Shaggy Dog in 1959 with Disney teen stars Annette Funicello and Tommy Kirk.
Established stars appeared in films that have come to be regarded as classics such as Sunset Boulevard (Gloria Swanson), All About Eve (Bette Davis), Some Like It Hot (Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon), High Noon (Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly), The Searchers (John Wayne), North by Northwest (Cary Grant), The Bridge on the River Kwai (Alec Guinness), Singin' in the Rain (Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor), White Christmas (Bing Crosby), and Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), a film which holds (with Titanic and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) a record for most Academy Awards. The Stanislavski method's natural approach to acting was exemplified in screen stars Marlon Brando and Paul Newman. Brando's performances in The Wild One and A Streetcar Named Desire influenced sales of T-shirts and motorcycles.
European cinema experienced a renaissance in the fifties following the deprivations of World War II. Italian director Federico Fellini won the first foreign language film Academy Award with La strada and garnered another Academy Award with Nights of Cabiria. In 1955, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman earned a Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival with Smiles of a Summer Night and followed the film with masterpieces The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries. Jean Cocteau's Orphée, a film central to his Orphic Trilogy, starred Jean Marais and was released in 1950. French director Claude Chabrol's Le Beau Serge is now widely considered the first film of the French New Wave. Notable European film stars of the period include Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Max von Sydow, and Jean-Paul Belmondo. Japanese cinema reached its zenith with films from director Akira Kurosawa including Rashomon, Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, and The Hidden Fortress. Other distinguished Japanese directors of the period were Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi. Russian fantasy director Aleksandr Ptushko's mythological epics Sadko, Ilya Muromets, and Sampo were internationally acclaimed.
Sitcoms offered a paternalistic, conservative vision of idealized middle class American life with The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966), Father Knows Best (1954-1960), and ABC's The Donna Reed Show (1958-1966) exemplifying the genre. Emmy-winning comedy I Love Lucy (1952-1957) starred husband and wife Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball and enjoyed such popularity that some businesses closed early on Monday nights in order to allow employees to hurry home for the show. In Life of Riley (1953-1958), blue collar Chester A. Riley (William Bendix) became the protype for a long line of bumbling television patriarchs that included Fred Flintstone and Archie Bunker. The show's first incarnation for the DuMont Television Network lasted a season (1949-1950) and won television's first Emmy. The Honeymooners (1955-1956) followed bus driver Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) and his sewer-working sidekick Ed Norton (Art Carney) while archetypal suburban life was limned in Leave It to Beaver (1957-1963), purportedly the first sitcom to be told from a child's point of view and the first to strike a blow for television realism by displaying a toilet in an early episode. Genre series were popular with Dragnet (1952) starring Jack Webb representing police procedural drama, British syndicated series The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955) starring Richard Greene representing historical drama, and Gunsmoke (1955) with James Arness and Amanda Blake representing the western. Mid-decade, Warner Bros. produced a clutch of five westerns with Maverick starring James Garner and Cheyenne starring Clint Walker leading the group in popularity.
Musical programs distinguished the decade. Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors, the first opera written for television, was performed on December 24, 1951 at the NBC studios in New York City, where it was telecast as the debut production of the Hallmark Hall of Fame. The opera was performed live on or near Christmas Eve annually until the mid-sixties when a production starring Teresa Stratas was filmed and telecast for several years. The Broadway musical Peter Pan was televised in 1955 on NBC with Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard in their original roles as Peter Pan and Captain Hook. The telecast drew the largest ratings for a single television program up to that time, and was restaged in 1956 and 1960. On September 9, 1956, Elvis Presley made his first televised appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, while, the same year, musical film The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland saw its first telecast on November 3 on CBS. Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella was written for a live television broadcast in 1957 and starred Julie Andrews.
Children's programs included the 19-season, Emmy-winning CBS dramatic series Lassie (1954-1973), sci-fi series Adventures of Superman (1952), variety show The Mickey Mouse Club (1955), anthology series Disneyland (1955), and live-action fairy tale anthology series Shirley Temple's Storybook (1958). Bozo the Clown enjoyed widespread franchising in early television, making him the best-known clown character in the United States. Ding Dong School (1952), Captain Kangaroo (1955) and Romper Room were aimed at pre-schoolers. Howdy Doody (1947-1960) was a pioneer in early color production during the period. Fury, Sky King, The Roy Rogers Show, Heckle and Jeckle, Mighty Mouse and similar live-action and animated half-hour shows held sway on Saturday mornings.
Quiz and panel shows included The $64,000 Question, What's My Line, I've Got a Secret, The Price is Right, Beat the Clock, Truth or Consequences, Queen for a Day, and Name That Tune. The quiz show scandals of the period rocked the nation and were the result of the revelation that contestants were secretly given assistance by the producers to arrange the outcome of a supposedly fair competition.
Newscasting and journalism were distinguished by NBC's Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, and CBS' Walter Cronkite. On July 7, 1952, the term "anchor" was coined to describe Cronkite's role at both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, which marked the first nationally-televised convention coverage. Talk shows had their genesis in the decade with NBC's Today creating the much-sopied genre format. The Tonight Show debuted in 1954 with Steve Allen as host. The coronation of Elizabeth II was televised on June 2, 1953, highlighting the start of pan-European cooperation with regards to the exchange of TV programs. The Academy Awards show was first televised in 1953 on NBC, and the show holds the distinction of having won the most Emmys in history, with 38 wins and 167 nominations.
Comic book audiences grew during and after World War II, with young adult males and returning GIs preferring material depicting sex and violence. Newspaper comic strip reprint books such as Ace Comics and King Comics ended their decade-long runs while caped crimefighters and superheroes declined in popularity. Attempts to bring out single character comic strip reprints, such as Flash Gordon, Steve Canyon, and Terry and the Pirates were unsuccessful. The Golden Age of Comic Books gave way to the Silver Age with romance comics, horror comics, western comics, science fiction comics, and crime comics in demand.
Romance comics kicked-off in 1947 with Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's Young Romance and its companion title Young Love. While both titles generally featured innocuous stories about youthful relationships, other romance comics of the period ventured into grim tales of alcoholic spouses, two-timing, and wife-beating. The genre was hugely successful with more than 150 series published during the early 1950s. Good girl comics of the period depicted the exploits of voluptuous women in bosom-hugging sweaters or jungle heroines clad in animal skin bikinis. 'Headlight' covers featured young women bound with ropes or chains, their ample breasts swelling against torn clothing.
Horror comics enjoyed a heyday during the same period. While superheroes had been menaced by warlocks, zombies, and vampires in the employ of Nazis and the Japanese through the war years, it wasn't until 1947 that the horror genre was established with Avon Periodicals' Eerie Comics, the first out-and-out horror comic. Marvel, Harvey Comics, and American Comics Group hopped aboard with the latter's Adventures Into the Unknown (1948) enjoying a twenty year run. In 1950, EC Comics published The Haunt of Fear, Tales from the Crypt, and The Vault of Horror with characters meeting gruesomely violent ends. Horror titles numbered in the dozens in the early years of the decade, most crudely scripted and drawn.
Western comics were fueled by popular television westerns. Dell Comics published a large number of western comics, dedicated to celebrities such as Roy Rogers, Gabby Hayes, The Lone Ranger, and Gene Autry. The Lone Ranger's pal, Tonto, had his own title. Dell also published titles based on popular television shows and films such as I Love Lucy and Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. DC published several western titles while Marvel saw fifty different titles including The Rawhide Kid, The Arizona Kid, Kid Colt, and The Ringo Kid.
Science fiction comics were published in abundance. DC Comics picked-up on the public's interest in science and Outer Space with Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space. EC Comics published Weird Science and Weird Fantasy.
The Cold War era seemed to encourage witch-hunting and comics found themselves blamed for the alarming increase in juvenile delinquency and other social ills. In 1948, American children across the country piled their comic book collections in schoolyards, and, encouraged by parents, teachers, and clergymen, set them ablaze. In the same year, the media began kicking comic books around. John Mason Brown of the Saturday Review of Literature described comics as the "marijuana of the nursery; the bane of the bassinet; the horror of the house; the curse of kids, and a threat to the future." Dr. Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent rallied opposition to violence, gore, and sex in comics, arguing that it was harmful to the children who made up a large segment of the comic book audience.
The Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency hearings in April and June of 1954, focused specifically on graphic crime and horror comic books. When publisher William Gaines contended that he sold only comic books of good taste, one of Gaines' comics cover was entered into evidence which showed an axe-wielding man holding aloft a severed woman's head. When asked if he considered the cover in "good taste", Gaines replied: "Yes, I do -- for the cover of a horror comic."
Because of the unfavorable press coverage resulting from the hearings, the comic book industry adopted the Comics Code Authority (CCA), a self-regulatory ratings code that is still used by some publishers today in a modified form. In the immediate aftermath of the hearings, several publishers were forced to revamp their schedules and drastically censor or even cancel many popular long-standing comic series.
Popular toys of the period included Wham-O's Hula Hoop and its flying disc Frisbee, both introduced in 1957. Kids got around on Schwinn bicycles and Radio Flyer wagons. Nomura's 9" tall, tin, remote-controlled Robbie the Robot walked, moved his arms, and sported moving lighted pistols. Girls wanted Ohio Art Company's tin lithographed tea sets and Little Chefs Stoves, Ideal Toy Company's diaper-wetting Betsy Wetsy, and Mattel's 1959 adult-bodied fashion doll Barbie. Boys wanted Daisy BB guns, Lincoln Logs, and miniature Matchbox vehicles. In 1955, Walt Disney's Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier saw the production of 'coonskin caps' and other frontier-themed toys. View-Masters, Silly Putty, and Slinky were bestsellers. Mr. Potato Head, a toy of plastic face parts that could be stuck into a potato, was the first toy to be advertised on network television, and in its first year of production (1952) made over $4 million. Television shows and films generated show-related toys and books. Popular board games included Milton Bradley's Candyland (1949), Chutes and Ladders, and Careers (1955).
This decade many auto companies produced large luxury cars designed to appear to flow through the air. Considered the "Jet Age", the new aircraft and rockets had an influence on vehicles. All Detroit manufacturers built cars with "Tail fins" and "bullet lights" --- for this reason the 1950s are referred to as the "Finned Fifties". The Cadillac Eldorado is an example of this. Cadillac is considered the epitome of luxury at this time.
Beatniks and the beat generation, an anti-materialistic literary movement that began with Jack Kerouac in 1948 and stretched on into the early-mid 1960s, was at its zenith in the 1950s. Such groundbreaking literature as William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch, Allen Ginsberg's Howl, William Golding's Lord of the Flies, Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye were published. Also published in this decade was J. R. R. Tolkien's epic The Lord of the Rings as well as C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. This decade is also marked by some of the most famous works of science fiction by science fiction writers Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, A. E. van Vogt, and Robert A. Heinlein. Other significant literary works included James Jones' From Here to Eternity, Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, John Cheever's The Wapshot Chronicle, Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Arthur Miller's The Crucible, Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, Saul Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, John Knowles' A Separate Peace, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, Grace Metalious' Peyton Place, C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces, and Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago. Agatha Christie was also at a stage where she published at an average rate of one book every year.
Abstract expressionism, the first art movement specifically American to gain worldwide influence, was responsible for putting New York City in the centre on the artistic world, a place previously owned by Paris, France. This movement acquired its name for combining the German expressionism's emotional intensity with the anti-figurative aesthetic of the European abstract schools such as Futurism, Bauhaus and Synthetic Cubism. Jackson Pollock was one of the most influential painters of this movement, creating famous works such as No. 5, 1948.
Color Field painting and Hard-edge painting followed close on the heels of Abstract expressionism, and became the idiom for new abstraction in painting during the late 1950s. The term second generation was applied to many abstract artists who were related to but following different painterly directions than the earliest abstract expressionists. In the early 1950s Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning were enormously influential. However by the late 1950s Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko's paintings became more in focus to the next generation.
Pop art, with its roots in dadaism started to take form towards the end of the 1950s when some artists, after studying symbols and products of the world of propaganda in the United States, started to make them the main subject of their artistic work. That way, they used the most ostensive components of popular culture, with powerful influence in the daily life of the second half of the 20th century. It was the return of a figurative art, in opposition to the abstract expressionism that dominated the aesthetic scene since the end of World War II. Pop art used iconography of television, photography, comics, cinema and advertising. Andy Warhol was the most known artist of this movement, and in spite of it having initiated in the 50s, its most famous works date of the later decade.
The Soviet Union continued its domination of the territories it conquered during World War II. Life was economically harsh under Stalinist rule in the Soviet Union and its client states in eastern Europe. (See the Black Book of Communism.) In 1953 Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, died and in the resulting power struggle, head of the KGB Lavrenti Beria was denounced and executed. Popular rebellions in East Germany in 1953 and Hungary in 1956 were brutally put down.
Actors: Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Dorothy Dandridge, James Dean, Sandra Dee, Troy Donahue, Audrey Hepburn, Charlton Heston, Bob Hope, Rock Hudson, Grace Kelly, Jerry Lewis, Sophia Loren, Sal Mineo, Jayne Mansfield, Jerry Mathers, Hayley Mills, Paul Newman, Kim Novak, Jon Provost, Debbie Reynolds, George Reeves, Steve Reeves,