The 1950s were a time of great change in the world of film. From the introduction of Technicolor to the rise of the British New Wave, the decade saw a variety of groundbreaking films that left an indelible mark on cinema history. Here, we take a look back at some of the most iconic British films of the 1950s, reviewing their successes and shortcomings. From the classic comedies of Alec Guinness to the daring dramas of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, these films have stood the test of time and remain beloved by audiences around the world. We will discuss how they captured the spirit of a decade and explore why they remain so influential today. So join us as we dive into the world of 1950s British film and explore why these movies continue to delight us.
The 1950swere a key decade for British film, with a variety of iconic films released during the period.
From the Ealing Studios' black comedy The Ladykillers to the gripping naval drama The Cruel Sea, the 1950s saw the emergence of a distinctive British film style. This article takes a look at some of the most popular and well-known films from this era, providing an overview of their critical reception and box office success.
The Ladykillers (1955)The Ladykillers is a black comedy directed by Alexander Mackendrick and starring Alec Guinness as the leader of a gang of crooks. The film tells the story of a group of criminals who rent a room in an elderly lady's house as they plan to commit a robbery. Despite its low budget, the film was praised for its witty dialogue and clever direction, and it won an Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay).
Upon release, the film was a moderate success at the box office, grossing approximately £1 million in total.
The Dam Busters (1955)The Dam Busters is a World War II drama directed by Michael Anderson and based on a true story. The film follows an RAF squadron as they attempt to destroy three dams in Germany using a revolutionary bouncing bomb. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, and was highly acclaimed upon release. It was also successful at the box office, grossing over £3 million in total.
The Cruel Sea (1953)The Cruel Sea is a naval drama directed by Charles Frend and starring Jack Hawkins and Donald Sinden.
The film follows two Royal Navy officers as they fight against German U-boats during World War II. Upon release, the film was praised for its realistic portrayal of life at sea, and it won an Academy Award for Best British Film. The Cruel Sea was also a box office success, grossing £2 million in total.
The Man in the White Suit (1951)The Man in the White Suit is a science fiction comedy directed by Alexander Mackendrick and starring Alec Guinness as a scientist who invents an indestructible fabric. The film was praised for its witty dialogue and clever direction, and it won an Academy Award for Best British Film.
Upon release, the film was moderately successful at the box office, grossing approximately £1 million in total.
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)The Lavender Hill Mob is a heist comedy directed by Charles Crichton and starring Alec Guinness as a mild-mannered bank clerk who plots to steal gold bullion from his employer. The film was praised for its clever script and witty dialogue, and it won an Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay). Upon release, the film was a moderate success at the box office, grossing approximately £1 million in total.
Overview of 1950s British CinemaAs well as these individual films, the 1950s saw a number of wider trends emerging in British cinema. One notable trend was the emergence of widescreen epics such as Ivanhoe, which used Cinemascope technology to create spectacularly wide shots.
These films were often highly successful at the box office, with Ivanhoe grossing over £3 million upon release. Another trend was the influence of censorship on British cinema during this period. Films such as The Man in the White Suit, which dealt with controversial topics such as science and religion, were often heavily censored by the British Board of Film Censors. This had a significant impact on the types of films that were produced during this period.
Box Office SuccessThe 1950s saw a number of British films that achieved both critical acclaim and box office success.
Films such as The Third Man (1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and The Dam Busters (1955) all set records for box office takings, with The Third Man becoming the highest grossing British film of all time at the time of its release. The Dam Busters became the first British film to gross over £1 million at the UK box office, while The African Queen (1951) was one of the most profitable films of its era, earning almost $5 million in worldwide rentals on an initial budget of only $2.2 million. Other popular films of the decade included The Colditz Story (1955), Genevieve (1953) and The Cruel Sea (1953), all of which were well-received by critics and earned substantial box office returns. Overall, the 1950s saw a number of British films achieve both critical success and financial success at the box office, setting records that would stand for many years to come.
Critical ReceptionMany of the 1950s British films were critically acclaimed, with some receiving a number of awards and accolades.
Films such as The Dam Busters (1954) and The Man in the White Suit (1951) won numerous British Academy Film Awards and received glowing reviews from critics. The Dam Busters, for example, earned a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics praising its ‘riveting’ action sequences and ‘stirring’ score. The Man in the White Suit, another popular film from the 1950s, was also well-received by critics, earning an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics praised the film's 'hilarious' script and 'engaging' performances.
Other 1950s British films that were well-received by critics include The Cruel Sea (1953), Reach for the Sky (1956), and The Colditz Story (1955). The Cruel Sea was nominated for three British Academy Film Awards and earned an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics praising its 'emotional impact' and 'gripping' story. Reach for the Sky was also nominated for three British Academy Film Awards, while The Colditz Story earned an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was praised by critics as 'inspiring'.In conclusion, the 1950s were an important decade for British film, with a variety of iconic films released during this period. This article provided an overview of some of these films, their critical reception, and box office success.
It is evident that the 1950s saw a surge in the popularity of British cinema, and the success of these films has continued to influence British film-making today.