Movie Love in the Fifties by James Harvey

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From the author of Romantic Comedy (“brilliant, meticulous, a monumental work of scholarship” —Margo Jefferson, New York Times), a fresh, illuminating look at the films of the 1950s.

Harvey begins by mapping the progression from 1940s film noir to the living-room melodramas of the 1950s. He shows us the femme fatale of the 1940s (Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Bennett) becoming blander and blonder (Doris Day, Debbie Reynolds) and younger and more traditionally sexy (Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly) in the 1950s. And he shows us how women were finally replaced as objects of desire by the new boy-men—Clift, Brando, Dean, and other rebels without causes.

Harvey discusses the films of Hitchcock (Vertigo), Ophuls (The Reckless Moment), Siodmak (Christmas Holiday), and Welles (Touch of Evil, perhaps the single greatest influence on the “post-classical” movies). He writes about the quintessential 1950s directors: Nicholas Ray, who made movies in the old Hollywood tradition (In a Lonely Place, Johnny Guitar), and Douglas Sirk, who portrayed suburbia as an emotional deathtrap (Imitation of Life, Magnificent Obsession). And he discusses the “serious” directors, such as Stanley Kramer and Elia Kazan, whose films exhibited powerful new realism.

Comprehensive, insightful, written with intelligence, humor, and affection, Movie Love in the Fifties is a masterful work of American film, and cultural, history.

About James Harvey

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Harvey is a playwright, essayist, critic, and author.
Published October 23, 2001 by Knopf. 464 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction

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Typical of his style is his take on Brando’s portrayal of Stanley Kowalski: he “felt at times like the kind of explosive truth-teller the culture will occasionally produce just when the cant and the banality seem most unchallengeable, someone who cuts through all the bullshit and to hell with it....

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Publishers Weekly

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This ambitious project is at times enormously successful, as when he moves seamlessly through a discussion of the role of "the blonde" in '50s films, noting not only performances by Doris Day, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Holliday, Grace Kelly, Gloria Graham and Kim Novak, but also the contexts in which ...

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Entertainment Weekly

Originally posted Nov 09, 2001 Published in issue #624 Nov 09, 2001 Order article reprints

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