Greatest Films of the 1950s
Greatest Films of the 1950s

Greatest Films of the 1950s
1950 | 1951 | 1952 | 1953 | 1954 | 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1958 | 1959


Academy Awards for 1956 Films
Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

Anastasia (1956), 105 minutes, D: Anatole Litvak
Director Anatole Litvak's and 20th Century Fox's dramatic biopic was a fictionalized account of how an amnesiac woman named "Anna Anderson" had appeared as an inmate in a Berlin asylum in the 1920s, and claimed to be Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov (a surviving daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia) after the Russian Revolution. In the film, Anna was manipulated and used by others to claim her inheritance of £10 million pounds. The film's opening prologue explained (in part): "A woman appeared, a woman who was said to be the youngest daughter of the last Tsar, her Imperial Highness, the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Only she, if she is still alive, knows the truth behind the story you are about to see." The main setting was 1928 in Paris where Gen. Sergei Pavlovich Bounine (Yul Brynner), working with two scheming acolytes-partners banker Boris Adreivich Chernov (Akim Tamiroff) and former theological student Piotr Ivanovich Petrovin (Sacha Pitoeff), were alerted to a coughing, destitute and sick amnesiac woman out on the street. She had just been released from the St. Cloud asylum ("madhouse") where reportedly, the woman had told one of the attendant nuns that she was the Grand Duchess Anastasia from ten years earlier. Bounine's ultimate goal in a scam was to acquire the £ 10 million pound inheritance - Anastasia's father Tsar Nicholas II's bounty money that was currently frozen in the Bank of England. They groomed and manipulated Anna to present her as the real "Anastasia." They had to convince others, including investors and stockholders in their business enterprise, that she had miraculously escaped and hadn't been executed with the rest of the family in 1918 by the Bolsheviks. During her training, Anna awoke one night screaming about her lack of an identity: "I don't know who I am any more!" The General's last-ditch manipulative effort was to "go to the top" - and introduce Anna to Anastasia's highly-skeptical elderly grandmother the Dowager Empress, Maria Feodorovna (Helen Hayes) who resided in Copenhagen, Denmark, to further confirm her identity and legitimacy. A meeting was orchestrated at the Royal Theater between Anna and Prince Paul von Haraldberg (Ivan Desny), the Empress' nephew and Anastasia's betrothed when she was 16 years old. Their staged romance was designed to encourage his stubborn-minded Aunt to meet Anna, although she suspected that Anna was an imposter being promoted by the General. The ploy seemed to work - the Empress soon after unexpectedly appeared to speak to Anna in her hotel room. Anna pleaded that she wasn't melodramatically faking her identity as the Empress' lost grand-daughter; the Empress' feelings were stirred but she was still reticent to believe, until Anna mentioned that she coughed when frightened, as Anastasia used to do as a child. The Empress embraced Anna and accepted her as the true Grand Duchess. After returning to Paris a few weeks later, there were marriage-engagement rumors (between Prince Paul and Anna); the Empress and His Highness Prince Paul had arrived by train for the official presentation ceremony and announcement. Before the evening's ceremony scheduled at their hotel, Anna sensed that Bounine was now jealous of her new-found identity as the Grand Duchess. Anna agreed with him that all she had ever wanted was to find out who she was. Bounine also had harsh and sarcastic words about the fortune-hunting Prince Paul. Behind the scenes, Bounine met with the Empress and told her that he planned to depart before the pronouncement of the engagement: "I want no further part in it"; she thanked him for bringing everyone together. Bounine bluntly admitted that he was personally "not pleased" with the outcome. The Empress called Anna aside, while she ordered that Bounine was to wait in the nearby green-room. She directly asked Anna if she truly loved the Prince - her equivocating and indecisive answer convinced the Empress that Bounine was the only one who was truly in love with Anna, not the Prince. The Empress facilitated their escape and the two vanished from the green-room before Anna was to be presented to everyone. Paul seemed to realize that Anna was not the true Anastasia: ("She was not Anastasia after all"). As the Prince escorted the Empress to appear before the many awaiting ballroom guests to announce the engagement, he asked her: "What will you say?"; the Empress replied to him: "Say? Oh, I will say, 'The play is over. Go home.'"

Aparajito (1956, India) (aka The Unvanquished) (Apu Trilogy 2), 110 minutes, D: Satyajit Ray
Legendary Indian director Satyajit Ray's humanistic and evocative drama was a follow-up film to the first film in the "Apu Trilogy" - Pather Panchali (1955), that was followed by The World of Apu (1959) (aka Apur Sansar). In the previous film, 10 year-old Apu (Subir Banerjee) was living with his Brahmin priest-father Harihar Ray (Kanu Bannerjee) and mother Sarbojaya Ray (Karuna Bannerjee) in a bamboo forest, under difficult conditions, especially after the death of Apu's sister. In 1920, the family - with their 10 year-old son Apu (Pinaki Sengupta as youth) moved from their "ancestral home" by train to the holy Indian city of Benares on the banks of the Ganges River. Apu's priest-father sang and recited holy Hindu scriptures for worshippers as the family's only income, while his overworked mother tended to house duties. Struggling with poverty and harsh conditions, Harihar suddenly and mysteriously fell feverish and ill, and died. It was now to be assumed that Apu - as a Brahmin boy, would become an apprentice priest. However, there was no longer any means of financial support for the family, although Apu's prideful mother briefly served as a maid and cooked for a wealthy Bengali family. After a short period of indecision, Apu's mother finally decided to accept a long-standing invitation to move to the small Bengali village of Mansapota, to stay in the home of her elderly great-uncle Bhabataran (Ramani Sengupta). While there, the restless Apu finally persuaded his mother to let him attend the local westernized, British-influenced school in the afternoons. Apu obviously impressed everyone with his love of knowledge and seemed to have a promising future as a student. For being second in the District, the Headmaster (Subodh Ganguli) offered the now-teenaged Apu (Smaran Ghosal as adolescent) a scholarship of ten rupees a month to go to a prestigious university in Calcutta (aka Kolkata). His mother was enthralled by her son's progress, but also reticent and upset that the excited, teenaged Apu would be leaving her to find his new destiny. Apu prepared to set out to Calcutta with help from his mother to pack his suitcase. She also gave him two postcards and pleaded with him to write to her once he arrived. He walked to the train station with his suitcase and a miniature globe, with one glance backwards. In the big city of Calcutta after a 3-hr. train trip, Apu took lodging with a printer named Akhil (Kali Roy) and studied science at college during the day; he also worked at the printer's Royal Press business at night with a printing press job in exchange for rent. It was inevitable that he would become distant from his mother, although he did visit her for a short period. One evening during the visit, she proposed that she could move to be with him - and then asked if he would one day take care of her, but she realized that he had fallen asleep and hadn't heard anything she had said. The film concluded with Apu receiving a letter from his anxious and very despondent mother: "Why don't you write regularly? I worry when I don't hear from you"; she begged for him to visit again since she hadn't seen him in two months ("I long to see you"). He wrote a letter to respond, saying that his studies would suffer if he left Calcutta. Upon reading Apu's reply-letter, Sarbojaya looked mournful, lonely and sick. She turned feverish and her health was quickly deteriorating. Her death was symbolized by the dimming and extinguishing lights of fireflies at dusk. News of Apu's mother's illness arrived from neighbors. Once Apu arrived home, he found out that he was too late - she was already dead. With the sad realization that his mother was gone, Apu sank down by the roots of a tree and began to cry. Apu was determined to move on, however, and was viewed from behind by the camera in a long-shot, as he walked to the train station under cloudy skies to return by train to his modern-day studies in Calcutta.

Around the World in 80 Days (1956), 175 minutes, D: Michael Anderson
In producer Michael Todd's and British director Michael Anderson's Best Picture-winning, exciting globe-trotting travelogue - a three-hour epic and adaptation of Jules Verne's 1872 classic escapist adventure novel, was about a proper, eccentric Victorian/English gentleman Phileas Fogg who made a financial wager about circumventing the globe (by every means of transportation including balloon, train, stagecoach, ostrich-rickshaw, steamship, elephant, etc.); it was the largest scale film ever made - created with Todd-AO, a special wide-screen format. The film featured almost 69,000 extras and thousands of animals including sheep, buffalo, donkeys, horses, monkeys, bulls, elephants, skunks, and ostriches! The film also used 140 sets built at six Hollywood studios (as well as on location shoots in England, Hong Kong and Japan). There were many major big-name Hollywood and international stars, including David Niven as the traveling gentleman, Cantinflas (in his American film debut as valet Passepartout), Shirley MacLaine (as a rescued Indian princess), and Robert Newton (as a pursuing detective). It also featured a globe-trotting ensemble cast in over four-dozen cameo appearances. In the film's 10-minute introduction-prologue set in an office-library, reporter Edward R. Murrow (as Himself) narrated as he paid homage to Jules Verne's novel. He also spoke about another shorter Verne book published in 1865, From the Earth to the Moon, that inspired the first science fiction film - a short directed by Georges Melies, titled Le Voyage Dans La Lune (1902, Fr.). In the film's opening set in the Victorian Era in England, weathly gentleman Phileas Fogg (David Niven) was introduced living a modest and solitary life; he was known for being meticulous and punctual about everything. While playing a card game of whist with other members of London's Reform Club, the arrogant-minded Fogg wagered £ 20,000 pounds with fellow gentlemen in the club that he could circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. He believed he could return to his starting point at the Reform Club on Saturday, September 21st at the same time, 8:45 pm. He immediately began his 'around-the-world' adventure tour with his new, resourceful Latin-American manservant-butler Passepartout (Mexican actor Cantinflas). The journey began from London via a train bound for Dover and Calais (Northern France coast) to Paris, and from there, the two were forced to travel via a purchased hot-air balloon that drifted off-course and crossed the Alps to Spain, where Passepartout engaged in a bull-fight. Throughout the film, it was suspected that Fogg has stolen his wagered money from the Bank of England. From Spain, the two travelers caught the R.M.S. Mongolia steamer through the Suez and onward to the west coast of India (mostly off-screen). On the Great India Peninsula Railway from Bombay on their way to Calcutta, they discovered that about 50 miles of the railway tracks to Allahabad were not completed as previously reported, so Fogg was forced to hire an elephant and guide to proceed. Along the way, they rescued Princess Aouda (Shirley MacLaine) who was about to be ritualistically sacrificed. From Calcutta, they took the S.S. Rangoon steamer to cross the Bay of Bengal, passing Thailand, and then traversing across the South China Sea to Hong Kong (with streets filled with rickshaws pulled by ostrichs); then, they crossed the East China Sea on the S.S. Carnatic - passing Shanghai, China and docking in Yokohama, Japan before setting sail on the majestic clipper ship - the S.S. General Grant (during intermission) to San Francisco. After a short evening in a Barbary Coast saloon, they took a trans-continental train to traverse the frontier of the US, with obstacles including an unstable suspension bridge and threatening Sioux Indians. They inventively rigged up a sail-powered train cart to proceed from Nebraska to Chicago, where they planned to board a train to NYC, but once they arrived in the city, they were too late for their scheduled eastbound Cunard steamship China. The group was forced to commandeer a coal-burning trading steamship - the S.S. Henrietta bound for Caracas, Venezuela; they redirected it to Liverpool, England. Upon their departure from Liverpool to London by train, Scotland Yard Inspector Fix (Robert Newton) arrested Fogg for allegedly robbing £ 55,000 pounds from the Bank of England on July 3rd. Fogg was released when the "real culprit" was arrested in Brighton, but they had lost valuable time, and once they arrived at Fogg's home in London, they believed that they were too late and had forfeited the wager. However, Passepartout and Fogg suddenly realized that it was actually Saturday - since they had traveled Eastward across the International Date Line and saved one day, and still had time to get to the Reform Club. Fogg arrived at the club punctually at 8:45 pm to win the wager, but the gentlemen were more concerned about the Princess entering their exclusive mens-only club than the bet itself!

Baby Doll (1956), 114 minutes, D: Elia Kazan
Director Elia Kazan's landmark, tragi-comedy film - one of the most erotic cinematic works ever produced, was based on Tennessee Williams' first original film screenplay, interweaving and adapting two of his earlier one-act plays: "Twenty-Seven Wagons Full of Cotton" and "The Long Stay Cut Short" (aka "The Unsatisfactory Supper"). To make the film appear more genuine and authentic, most of it was filmed on location in Benoit, MS. Its advertisements and posters featured a sultry young "Baby Doll" curled up in a crib in a suggestive pose, sucking her thumb. The stark, controversial, black and white film was so viciously denounced by the Legion of Decency upon its release that many theaters were forced to cancel their showings, but it still did moderately well at the box office despite the uproar. Its themes were moral decay, lust, sexual repression, seduction, infantile eroticism and the corruption of the human soul. In the story, rural, middle-aged, deeply-indebted Mississipian and cotton gin operator Archie Lee Meighan (Karl Malden) had just married thumb-sucking, white-trash, naive, uneducated 19 year-old 'baby doll' child bride "Baby Doll" Meighan (Carroll Baker, 25 years old and in her second film). His mental state was degenerating (and he had become lecherous and voyeuristic) due to his constant sexual-frustration that their marriage wouldn't be consummated until her 20th birthday - two days away as the film opened. Archie was literally ruled by his stuck-up, spoiled, child bride. Archie's vengeful and competitive business rival was a covetous, wily, sleek, beady-eyed and cocky Sicilian named Silva Vacarro (Eli Wallach). He was the unscrupulous business-manager of the up-and-coming Syndicate Plantation and Gin Company that had stolen away all of Archie's business. To retaliate against his competitor, Archie took a kerosene can and set the Syndicate gin building on fire. While awaiting the ginning of his 27 wagon loads of cotton at Archie's once-grand plantation manor, Vacarro's main aim was to deflower Archie's child bride as revenge for arson of his business. Behind Archie's back, there were numerous cat-and-mouse seduction scenes of Baby Doll by the cunning Vacarro - in a rusty, old wheel-less Pierce-Arrow limousine, on a decrepit double-swing on the property, and upstairs in Archie's dilapidated mansion, including a childhood game of hide-and-seek with a barely-clothed Baby Doll that extended into the unsafe attic area. He compelled her to sign an incriminating statement attesting to the fact that her husband set fire to the gin and that Archie had lied about his alibi. During a subsequent supper scene, Vacarro further seduced Baby Doll in a sneaky and steamy kissing scene behind a wall almost within view of Archie. The film ended with Vacarro confronting Archie with Baby Doll's signed affidavit. Vacarro further enraged Archie by admitting that he had coaxed other favors from Baby Doll. Archie responded by retrieving his shotgun and chasing Vacarro outside while Baby Doll called the police. Archie was promptly arrested by the authorities after Vacarro presented the signed affidavit for the crime of arson - at around midnight when Baby Doll turned 20.

Bigger Than Life (1956), 95 minutes, D: Nicholas Ray
This insightful Nicholas Ray-directed film - an Eisenhower-Era, 20th Century Fox, CinemaScope melodrama, told about the disintegration of a nuclear family; it also functioned as a superb critique of the suffocating and claustrophobic conformity of 50s middle-class life (a film pre-dating American Beauty (1999) by over 40 years!), and it served as an profound examination of prescription drug abuse. Underpaid and frustrated schoolteacher and devoted, suburban middle-class father Ed Avery (James Mason) was secretly moonlighting as a cab dispatcher a few afternoons a week to support his family, wife Lou (Barbara Rush) and one son Richie (Christopher Olsen), as a solid masculine provider to pay the bills. He had been experiencing memory lapses and more painful symptoms, but had kept his physical ailments to himself. Suddenly he blacked out and collapsed in the bedroom and was rushed to the hospital. He was diagnosed with a severe and rare illness (periarteritis nodosa - a destructive inflammation of the arteries due to a deadly blood disease) that might end his life within a year. To treat his condition, Ed was prescribed and treated with an experimental 'miracle drug' or hormone (cortisone). Immediately after his hospital release, there were two scenes of Ed's manic, wild, and reckless consumer spending spree - a sign of his medical deterioration and developing megalomania and tyrannical nature: (1) he unnecessarily bought an expensive dress for his wife, and (2) purchased a fancy bicycle with "three gears, hand brakes" at a pricey bike shop for Richie. He began to scare and concern his family with his 'keyed-up' activity, and unpredictable and dictatorial nature. A cracked medicine cabinet mirror metaphorically expressed how his tormented personality was beginning to fracture. Ed was beginning to go through increasingly-wild personality changes and fractured mood swings (with manic highs and depressive lows) due to his unauthorized overdosing on his expensive prescription drug (costing $2 dollars a day). Although he was having intense personal problems, Ed denied having any long-term effects such as mental problems or bouts of depression. Family friend and gym teacher Wally Gibbs (Walter Matthau) expressed his concerns to Lou about Ed's strange behavior and possible mental issues: "He just isn't the same guy. You know, uh, big shot. He even looks bigger." Ed began to denigrate his family life - calling it "petty domesticity." He planned to leave the household and begin some unknown life venture elsewhere, and also declared to Lou that she was intellectually inferior to him. He even impersonated his physician and forged a new prescription in order to acquire more cortisone (due to his constant overdosing). The increasingly pushy, fragmented and opinionated Ed constantly belittled and tyrannized Richie with verbal abuse - during a game of football catch, and during home-schooling in a mathematics lesson. During a late night dinner at their long family table (borrowed from American Beauty (1999)), Ed declared that their marriage was basically over, although he would remain solely for Richie's sake. Ed's worried son Richie was caught when searching for his father's hidden medicine bottle. He locked himself in the bathroom and struggled to call the family physician to help end his father's prescription. To belittle and punish his son Richie for being disobedient, Ed read from a Bible (following the text with scissors in his hand) and became determined to emulate Abraham's sacrifice of his son Isaac in the Old Testament by murdering his son. He was only restrained from killing Richie upstairs with a pair of scissors (and urging the family's complete suicide) by the saving actions of Wally Gibbs, who rushed into the house and scuffled one-on-one with Ed. He was returned to the hospital for sedation. Dr. Norton (Robert F. Simon) realized that the only treatment that might work to help Ed recover and be cured of his deep psychosis would be to have him recall everything that happened, including threats to kill Richie. The film ended with Lou and Richie around his hospital bed when Ed came out of sedation and seemed to have been relieved of his psychosis. He hugged his family members and asked for them to be "closer" to him - a happy ending?

Bob le Flambeur (1956, Fr.) (aka Bob the Gambler), 98 minutes, D: Jean-Pierre Melville
Director Jean-Pierre Melville's gangster-caper/heist crime drama was a great character study with post-noirish characteristics and themes similar to many other American caper films. Some claimed that it was the first French New Wave film due to some of its aspects (including on-location shooting, jump cuts, hand-held camera work, monochromatic shading and natural lighting). The film's opening for the "strange tale" was in the year 1955 in the Montmartre district of Paris, France. The title character was an unlucky, almost-broke, high-rolling, genteel, slick-backed white-haired, fedora-wearing, aging gangster named Bob Montagné (Roger Duchesne) - known popularly as compulsive 'Bob the Gambler.' His usual daily routine was to sleep during the day and gamble at night until 6 am. One of his unlikely friends was local police inspector Commissioner Lieut. Ledru (Guy Decomble), who knew that Bob was an ex-con who had served time 20 years earlier for the Rimbaud Bank robbery, but had now aged and "quieted...down." Bob's other friends included his handsome young punk protege Paolo (Daniel Cauchy) - a wannabe gangster, and the corner-bar-restaurant manager/owner Yvonne (Simone Paris). He had developed a marked distaste for "no-good," un-reformed, ex-con pimp Marc (Gerard Buhr), who was trying to entice young, coquettish and flirtatious streetwalker-nymphet Anne (Isabelle Corey) to become one of his sex clients. Marc was hauled into Lieut. Ledru's office and threatened with being charged and arrested for a beating and pimping-procurement, but was freed when he promised to become a police informer. Bob decided to befriend and platonically protect Anne by inviting her to stay with him in his swanky Montmartre penthouse apartment. Meanwhile, Paolo became entranced with Anne and had sex with her. During a visit to the Deauville Casino with his professional safecracker-expert friend Roger (André Garet), they met up with another ex-con gang member named Jean de Lisieu (Claude Cerval), who worked there as a casino-croupier. Once Roger explained what Jean had told him about the casino's usual big haul during the Grand Prix at 5:00 am of 800 million francs in the safe, Bob decided to attempt one last score - an audacious plan to rob the casino. Bob and Roger received inside help from Jean, who provided detailed floor-plans of the casino's layout and the number and make of the safe. The plan to rob the casino started to go awry when Jean's avaricious new wife Suzanne (Colette Fleury) became suspicious, and Paolo foolishly bragged about the idea to Anne, who then went on to divulge the plan to Marc. There was considerable suspense regarding whether Marc or Suzanne would be able to reveal the heist's plan to Lieut. Ledru. After Paolo was reprimanded by Roger and Bob for being a "jerk" and " the sack" to Anne (who then shared the information with Marc), Paolo jealously sought out Marc (who had just dialed Lieut. Ledru on a pay phone) and lethally shot him in the back before he divulged anything. In the film's ironic and anti-climactic conclusion, before the safecracking attempt by the gang at 5:00 am, Bob couldn't resist entering the Deauville Casino as a customer at 1:30 am to non-chalantly bet at roulette and a card-game known as chemin de fer; remarkably, Bob's tremendous winning streak netted him millions of francs. While Bob was cashing in his chips inside the casino at about 5:00 am, the police converged outside and confronted Bob's team of criminals. A brief shoot-out left Paolo dead before the heist even took place. Both Bob and Roger were arrested by Commissioner Ledru as Bob's winning piles of cash were loaded into the back of the squad car. Inside the car, Ledru, Bob, and Roger briefly discussed what Bob's fate might be (as the plan's mastermind, he hadn't robbed the casino or actually committed any crime). Bob even joked in the film's final line that he might even be able to sue the police for damages: "And with a really top lawyer, I might sue for damages."

The Burmese Harp (1956, Jp.) (aka Biruma No Tategoto), 116 minutes, D: Kon Ichikawa
Director Kon Ichikawa's haunting black and white anti-war drama with musical elements was a fable-like story - a meditation upon evil, the devastating aftermath and horrors of the chaos of war, the mystery of why mortals suffer, and spiritual awakening. The narrator described it as "a story we shall never forget." At the close of the Pacific theatre of WWII in July of 1945, a group of weary Japanese soldiers led by Captain Inouye (Rentarō Mikuni), after years of war and fighting in Burma, were retreating and planning to return to Japan. As they marched through the jungle, they sang nostalgic homeland songs with music provided by self-taught, Burmese harp-playing Private First Class Mizushima Yasuhiko (Shoji Yasui), the regiment's scout, who played his hand-crafted Burmese harp. In a peasant village, they were surrounded and peacefully captured by a contingent of British and Indian forces and taken as POWs, while learning that their nation had surrendered three days earlier and the war was officially over. Mizushima volunteered to the British forces to talk to another resistant and besieged group of Japanese soldiers who refused to quit fighting up in Triangle Mountain, a half a day's trek away. He failed in his mission to persuade them to surrender - ending with the British destruction of the cave where the hold-outs were encamped and the death of the entire squadron. The wounded Mizushima regained consciousness and emerged from the pile of bodies in the cave - he was the sole survivor. Meanwhile, the captured Japanese regiment led by Captain Inouye were marched to a British prison work camp in Mudon about 200 miles to the south - fearing that Mizushima had been killed. However, Mizushima had been rescued and cared for by a Buddhist monk. In order to rejoin his fellow soldiers without being identified as a soldier, he took the monk's monastic robes and shaved his head. Barefooted and soon starving, he began an itinerant journey through the countryside to be reunited with his regiment in Mudon. Mizushima experienced a spiritual transformation after he saw many unburied and abandoned corpses of hundreds of Japanese war casualties on a hillside and shoreline, with vultures lurking nearby. He decided to honor the dead by saluting and burying some of them in mass burial mounds or graves. He continued on to Mudon to a Buddhist temple near the POW camp to become a reclusive monk in hiding, while often returning to bury the corpses. He dedicated and devoted himself to finishing the task of burying all of the left-behind corpses of fallen Japanese soldiers. The Captain's men were inspired to continue searching to find their fellow comrade. They soon doubted the news of his brave death at Triangle Mountain after various sightings and other suspicious instances suggesting that Mizushima was still alive. Within days of being shipped to Japan, the regiment communicated with Mizushima at the Buddhist temple through a talking parrot (trained to speak: "Hey, Mizushima! Let's return to Japan together"). He responded by sending back his own parrot who replied: "No, I can't go back," and in addition wrote a lengthy letter about his motivations to remain in Burma. The film concluded with Captain Inouye reading the heartfelt letter outloud to his men on the deck of their Japan-bound ship. it explained why Mizushima couldn't return to his beloved homeland of Japan - he had become dedicated to the priesthood, to adopt the Buddhist lifestyle and live a peaceful life. He would remain to continue burying the bodies and one day, might be able to return to his war-ravaged country if possible, but probably not ("My life may end here"). The film's final image was of Mizushima wandering and walking alone on the landscape of a Burmese plain, and the words from the film's opening: "The soil of Burma is red, and so are its rocks."

Bus Stop (1956), 94 minutes, D: Joshua Logan
Aka The Wrong Kind of Girl, this comedy/drama, adapted by George Axelrod (who also co-wrote The Seven Year Itch (1955) that also starred Monroe) and based on the hit Broadway play by William Inge, was Marilyn Monroe's first "serious" lead role. It has been widely considered the best role of her career, mixing comedy with dark pathos, and clearly proved that she was a more-than-capable actress reflecting her skillful acting talent and some of her own personal insecurities. Cherie (Marilyn Monroe), a fifth-rate, dim-witted, wanna-be saloon singer (or chanteuse) was performing in Phoenix, AZ at the run-down, hillbilly saloon-bar - the Blue Dragon Cafe. She was originally from the Ozarks in Arkansas, with dreams of eventually going to Hollywood ("Look where I'm goin'...Hollywood and Vine"). The most memorable moment of Bus Stop was Cherie's famous off-key, inept, but torch-song performance of "That Old Black Magic" for an unappreciative audience, mixing sensuousness with a wistfully sad, soulful quality. Her life's path crossed that of naive, virginal 21 year-old callow and rude cowboy Beauregard 'Bo' Decker (Don Murray in his film debut) from Montana - in town for a rodeo competition. He was immediately smitten by his sweet 'angel.' The country bumpkin persistently tried to woo Cherie (whom he crudely called Cherry), and almost immediately imagined or assumed that they were engaged after kissing her, and that they would be married at the rodeo the next day after the purchase of a marriage license. She immediately rejected him: "I have no intention in the world of marryin' you." When the rodeo ended (and Bo had been awarded $4,000 for winning almost every event), he announced that he had bought tickets back to Montana - including one for Cherie. When she resisted again, Bo literally roped her and dragged her onto his bus to Helena, Montana - he forcefully kidnapped her to take her home with him. In the film's conclusion, the bus became stranded due to a blizzard-snowstorm, and the passengers had to seek shelter inside a familiar roadside bus stop known as Grace's Diner. When Bo finally realized that he had overstepped his bounds, he humbly asked for Cherie's forgiveness: "Cherry, it wasn't right of me to do what I did to you, treatin' you that way, draggin' you on the bus, and tryin' to make you marry me whether you wanted to or not. Do you think you can ever forgive me?" Cherie began to realize that Bo was a man who could show her respect when he again professed his sincere love to her. Bo bolstered up his courage ("guts") and gently asked her to resume their relationship. She breathlessly responded: "I'd go anywhere in the world with you now. Anywhere at all!" - they happily hugged and spun around - deciding to get married and live on his Montana ranch. Bo was overjoyed: "She's gonna marry me!", and Cherie was ecstatic also: "Ain't it wonderful when somebody so terrible turns out to be so nice?" The film ended with the couple boarding the bus to Montana.

Carousel (1956), 128 minutes, D: Henry King
This downbeat, serious, semi-bleak and haunting yet ambitious Henry King-directed 20th Century Fox film, made in Cinemascope 55, was a dramatic, romantic-fantasy musical with a flawed, misogynistic central character in a doomed and troubled marriage. It included themes of unspoken love and feelings, and a meditation on death. It was the filmic adaptation of a Rodgers/Hammerstein stage musical that opened on Broadway in 1945. The 'Heaven Can Wait' plot opened with a pre-credits sequence, set in the year 1888. Already-deceased Billy Bigelow (Gordon MacRae) was working in a heavenly-setting (outside the pearly gates to Heaven?) polishing glass stars for the Starkeeper (Gene Lockhart). He had already been dead for 15 years. Billy began to describe his previous life in 1870s New England and the small town of Boothbay Harbor, Maine, hoping to receive permission to return for a single day to Earth. The film consisted of Billy's flashback - a dramatized story of his life, in order to convince the Starkeeper to allow him one day back on Earth. He wanted to deal with the rumored problems occurring there and rectify or make amends for the mistakes he had made. The handsome, macho, fast-talking Billy described how he was hired by tough, shrewish, streetwise carousel owner Mrs. Mullin (Audrey Christie) to be a barker at her Mullin's Carousel. Billy came to the attention of lovely, innocent-minded and decent Julie Jordan (Shirley Jones), accompanied by her best friend Carrie Pipperidge (Barbara Ruick), and stood next to Julie as she took a carousel ride, causing jealousy with Mrs. Mullin. When the amorous bad-boy Billy refused to comply and obey Mrs. Mullin (who ordered that Julie must never ride the carousel again), he was promptly discharged from his job. An increasing romantic interest between Julie and Billy grew when they met down the road by the water later that evening, and discussed their feelings about each other, and agreed they were incompatible with each other. Millworker Julie purposely decided to stay behind with Billy, beyond her curfew, knowing that she would definitely lose her mill job. They sang a beautiful and melodious duet titled: "If I Loved You" about the possibilities of marrying each other. The two kissed twice and walked off hand-in-hand, and in the next scene returned to town as a married couple. Due to their financial difficulties, they were forced to live with Julie's Cousin Nettie Fowler (Claramae Turner) at her seaside spa. Billy began to feel embarrassed and humiliated about being idle and unemployed and unable to provide for Julie. The unhappy and bitter Billy was rumored to have hit Julie once (off-screen), but she defended him in regards to the abusive wife-beating charges. Shortly later, Julie announced to Billy that she was pregnant. Unwisely, he became a deckhand for jailbird sailor Jigger Craigin (Cameron Mitchell), who unfortunately tempted him down a criminal path toward bad behavior, laziness, drinking and card-game gambling. During a clambake and treasure hunt of all the townsfolk on a nearby island, Billy and Jigger snuck back to town to rob one of the rich ship-owners on the dock, mill-owner boss Mr. Bascombe (John Dehner). He resisted with a gun, and during the botched robbery and altercation, Billy fled but fell from a collapsing pile of crates onto his own knife and was lethally wounded in the abdomen. He died in the arms of his soon-to-be widowed and pregnant wife Julie. Cousin Nettie consoled the heartbroken Julie with "You'll Never Walk Alone." Fifteen years later when the flashback ended, Billy was back in the heavenly, other-worldly setting. The Starkeeper suggested that Billy could help his troubled 15 year-old teenaged daughter Louise Bigelow (Susan Luckey) who had been traumatized with the knowledge that her deceased father was a thief. Billy was allowed entrance to Earth (accompanied by his Heavenly Friend (William LeMassena)), and grabbed a star to take with him. Without identifying himself, Billy became visible to Louise and attempted to console her and make amends when she complained about contiinual mistreatment and vilification. He attempted to present her with the gift of a heavenly star, but when she refused, he again acted abusively and slapped her hand. Louise rushed inside her home to tell Julie - not that she was slapped, but that it hadn't hurt and she had felt a kiss. Julie suspected that Billy had returned. The last scene took place at Louise's graduation ceremony, attended by an invisible Billy and his Heavenly Friend. The town's beloved doctor Dr. Selden (Gene Lockhart, in a dual role) delivered an inspiring and hopeful speech about not being held back by one's parents' failures. Twice during the speech, Billy directed encouraging thoughts to Louise: "Believe him, darling. Believe!" He also vowed his true love to Julie: ("I loved you, Julie. Know that I loved you"). A view of the setting sun appeared behind the redeemed Billy as he departed to enter into Heaven.

Forbidden Planet (1956), 98 minutes, D: Fred McLeod Wilcox
This influential, classic science-fiction space adventure - the first science-fiction film in color and CinemaScope - and an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest - was a forerunner of the entire Star Trek (and Lost in Space) franchises. The story, set in the 23rd century, told of a journey by astronauts, led by Commander Adams (Leslie Nielsen), on a flying saucer-shaped United Planets space cruiser C-57D to a distant planet-star named Altair-IV with green skies, to investigate the fate of a colony (the Bellerophon expedition) planted about 20 years earlier. Upon their landing in a desert area, the crew's space-ship was met by a fast-moving Jeep-like vehicle driven by a large bi-pedal robot, about 7 and a half feet tall. It was the film's real star - friendly Robby the Robot (voice by Marvin Miller) (who influenced and was the progenitor of many other future robotic creations). Two of Adams' fellow officers (Lt. "Doc" Ostrow (Warren Stevens) and Lt. Farman (Jack Kelly)) were transported (and escorted) to the home of the sole surviving Bellerophon expedition crew member, reclusive philologist Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) - chauffeured by Robby, who served as both a house servant and guard, and provided comic relief: ("Sorry miss, I was giving myself an oil job!"). Adams and the other officers were astounded by news about the fate of the other Bellerophon research expedition members who were violently killed in their first year by some dark, ambiguous, unknown and mysterious "planetary force," acc. to Morbius. The crew was introduced to Morbius' lovely, doe-eyed and very naive, barefoot and Eve-like 19 year-old daughter Altaira (Anne Francis) who had never seen men. She marveled: ("I've always so terribly wanted to meet a young man, and now three of them at once"), A few days later, Adams and "Doc" visited a second time and Adams found Altaira swimming nude in a pool, and innocently asking "What's a bathing suit?" Dr. Morbius decided to give Adams and "Doc" a tour of "Krell Wonders" - in length, he described the civilization from the past; it was an advanced technological and sophisticated civilization from 2,000 centuries earlier, inhabited by a mighty race of beings who called themselves the Krells. But for some reason, the superior alien race of geniuses had destroyed itself or become extinct. Morbius toured "Krell Wonders" as he led them through a huge network of underground rooms, deep shafts (composed of "78 hundred levels"), and cranium head-set devices, and how he had greatly increased his own mental prowess and psychic powers through the Krell's I.Q. machine. The Krells had been the subject of Morbius' research for the past 20 years. A few of the film's scarier sequences were the three night-time scenes of the lethal attacks on the crew of the flying saucer, revealed eventually to be a sinister, invisible Id monster - a living, giant biped monster with sloth-like claws that was repelled at the perimeter of a force field fence around the spaceship. Once Commander Adams learned that Morbius - in a dream state - was creating the invisible creature in his own sleeping mind, he confronted Morbius and demanded that he explain the Id ("What is the ID?"). At first, Morbius called the Id an outdated and obsolete term, but then offered names for the invisible Id monster: ("The beast. The mindless primitive! Even the Krell must have evolved from that beginning"). It became clear that the Krell from 2,000 centuries earlier didn't realize the power that was destroying them from within (their inner subconscious thoughts), and Morbius was reluctant to face the conclusion that he himself was a "living monster." Finally with a startling confession, Morbius admitted that the Id was his own projected or externalized sub-conscious. He explained that he was the source of the monstrous creature, after the Krell had built a machine able to release his inner beast. Morbius was forced to realize that he was unable to control his subconscious desires. In the concluding sequence, Morbius delivered instructions to Adams to explosively destroy the 'forbidden planet' of Altair-IV (after triggering the machine's self-destruct mechanism that would detonate in 24 hours) to prevent its terrible Krell technology from ever being used again. As the crew flew off (with Altaira who had been saved, along with Robby), they watched the planet's destruction from afar in space.

Friendly Persuasion (1956), 137 minutes, D: William Wyler
UA's and director Wyler's nostalgic, western 'family' drama was based on Jessamyn West's 1945 novel The Friendly Persuasion (a series of vignettes or short stories) about a pacifist Quaker family, the Birdwells, living in southern Indiana in the town of Vernon (Jennings County) during the Civil War (in 1862). It was Wyler's first color film for a commercial studio. The script was written by uncredited and blacklisted writer Michael Wilson. It won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and was the recipient of six Academy Awards nominations (with no wins), including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor (for Anthony Perkins appearing in his second film). The family was composed of patriarchal father and nurseryman Jess Birdwell (Gary Cooper) and his devout Quaker minister wife Eliza (Dorothy McGuire) of a local fellowship, who insured that the family was stringently pacifist. The pious sect members spoke with antique pronouns for the second person singular (i.e., thou and thee) - judged as sounding "mighty queer." Temptations often arose for the inner religious convictions of the Birdwells who were continually challenged and tested by "worldly" things, such as gambling, the county-fair, dancing, swearing, violence, horseracing (one of Jess' sinful loves), and even music. The loving couple had three children: sensitive eldest teenaged son Joshua or "Josh" (Anthony Perkins), daughter Martha True "Mattie" (Phyllis Love) (who fell in love with non-Quaker neighbor son Gardner or "Gard" Jordan (Mark Richman) who served as a lieutenant in the Union cavalry), and younger brother "Little" Jess (Richard Eyer) (who was in a never ending battle with pet goose Samantha). The Birdwells employed a farmhand Enoch (Joel Fluellen), a runaway slave. Meanwhile, there were reports of increasing threats to the peaceful lives of the Birdwells by Morgan's Raiders - 1,500 rebel Confederate guerrillas and cavalry, who had now crossed the Ohio River and were conducting raids into S. Indiana, to burn barns and loot houses. They were currently only 30 miles from Vernon and would arrive soon. Troubled son Josh - who was conflicted by his religious beliefs, was worried about the approach of the Raiders. He was concerned when his mother reacted passively: 'If it's the Lord's will, there's nothing we can do." To his parents' surprise, Josh announced his reluctant, sudden decision to join Gard and the Home Guard, and that he would be leaving from Vernon the next morning. Various incidents brought to light the violence and horrors of war: during the fighting by the nearby river, Josh witnessed the death of one of his comrades and fired back at the Confederates, as tears streamed down his face. During Jess' absence to find his feared-dead son, a group of Confederates arrived to pillage the Birdwell farm. The openly-hospitable Eliza defused the situation by greeting and welcoming the enemy soldiers, allowing them to take all the meat, chickens and supplies they wanted, and feeding them in her kitchen. At the river while looking for Josh, Jess found his Methodist neighbor Sam Jordan (Robert Middleton) dying (with a stomach bullet wound after a "reb bushwhacker" tried to steal his horse) and they talked about their ritualistic horse-racing rivalry before he passed away. Jess was also ambushed by the lone Confederate "Rebel" bushwhacker (Richard Garland) and appeared to be hit, but was only slightly grazed on the forehead. He fell and pretended to be dead and then - although he had the opportunity to kill the soldier, he only disarmed him and then freed him unhurt. Jess located his heart-sick, wounded (in the arm) but surviving son Josh lying on the ground amongst other bodies, and reaching out to the corpse near to him. He was distraught over having killed the young Confederate soldier. As the film was concluding, Jess brought his son back home on his horse.

Giant (1956), 197 minutes, D: George Stevens
The sprawling, grandiose and iconic western epic and drama was based on the celebrated Edna Ferber novel. It told about two generations of a wealthy American cattle ranching family spanning a twenty-five year period, who clashed over money, property, class differences, and racism in Texas (the film was mostly shot on location in Marfa, TX). The film received only one Oscar out of its 10 Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture, two Best Actor nominations (for Rock Hudson and James Dean), Best Supporting Actress (McCambridge), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Color Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Color Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Music Score (Dimitri Tiomkin)) - Stevens won the Best Director Oscar. It was particularly poignant as the last (and 2nd posthumous Oscar-nominated) performance of James Dean's tragically short career. In the film's opening set in the 1920s, newly-wed Maryland socialite belle Leslie Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor), arrived with her new, wealthy Texas rancher-husband Jordan 'Bick' Benedict, Jr. (Rock Hudson) at his sprawling Benedict Texas ranch (known as "Reata"). He had become acquainted with her on a trip to Maryland to purchase a spirited stallion named War Winds from her father - and they were quickly married and honeymooning while on their way back to Texas. There, they met his older, tough, cattle-driving spinster-sister Luz Benedict (Mercedes McCambridge), who managed the ranch, and uneducated, laconic Texas ranch-hand cowboy Jett Rink (James Dean), who was seen in an iconic pose - sitting in the back of a black convertible with his feet up during an outdoor BBQ. After Luz's tragic death when she was thrown from Leslie's horse War Winds, as a dying sentiment, Luz had bequested a little piece of land (part of Reata) to resentful, lowly ranch hand Jett. Bick offered to acquire the willed Reata land from Jett for twice its true value, to keep it in the Benedict family, but Jett declined the offer. He visited his property where he climbed the tower of a wooden windmill to survey his property - he sat and looked out at his new possession - as Dimitri Tiomkin's magnificent score boomed. The pushy, stubborn-headed Bick insisted on the manly tradition of governing his property and its people, with errant ideas about child-rearing, and he often disputed with Leslie over the future careers of the Benedict children. The couple spoke about the distance and frictions growing between them (due to Bick's insensitivity to her efforts at social reform and his insensitive, misogynistic tendencies, especially toward his non-manly son Jordy (Dennis Hopper as adult)). Meanwhile, Jett Rink had become a nouveau-riche tycoon millionaire when he struck oil on his own small piece of land (Little Reata). Covered with the gushing liquid black gold (crude oil), he made boastful, defiant and resentful statements to the Benedict family at Reata about how he would be richer than them, and made an inappropriate pass toward Leslie (the object of his unrequited love) - this established the origins of a long-standing fierce rivalry. Over the years, Rink aged from a young man to a mumbling outcast and dissolute drunkard (known as "Mr. Texas"). He spitefully dated the rebellious Benedict daughter Luz Benedict II (24 year-old Carroll Baker). Bick had become distraught that his children had all abandoned his plans to take over Reata, and reluctantly agreed with Jett in the 1940s to allow oil production and oil-well drilling on his land to help the war effort. Cattle-ranching and oil drilling were seen to co-exist, and the oil-rich Bick was now a Texas oil baron as well as cattle rancher. Rink's downfall came during a celebratory scene to commemorate the opening of his new airport and hotel in Hermosa, Texas, with the entire Benedict clan in attendance. With racial tensions increasing, both Jordy and Bick entered into separate quarrels with Jett and challenged him to a fight. Bick realized that Jett was drunkenly incoherent and incapable of defending himself: ("You’re ain't even worth hittin'. Jett, you wanna know somethin' true? You’re all through"). Jett became so drunk that he was unable to deliver his prepared speech - he fell forward and passed out on top of the table, and the room was cleared and everyone prepared to return home. Later in the empty banquet room, the lonely, self-destructive, self-pitying and pathetic Rink drunkenly mumbled, sobbed, and rambled to an imaginary audience. The tragically-defeated figure began to speak about his unrequited, covetous love - not for Luz, but for Leslie, and ultimately collapsed. The next day, Bick drove Leslie, Luz, and Jordy's Hispanic wife Juana Villalobos (Elsa Cárdenas) (and her baby Little Jordy IV) toward home. They stopped at a roadside cafe-diner known as Sarge's Place, owned by bigoted cafe owner Sarge (Mickey Simpson). Although Sarge made an exception to serve the racially-mixed, but well-to-do family of Benedicts, he indignantly refused to serve another elderly Latino couple while "The Yellow Rose of Texas" blared on the jukebox. The proud member of the ruling elite Bick confronted Sarge and the two commenced a brawling, bruising fist-fight. The often-racist, close-minded rancher Bick had finally proven to his equally-stubborn feminist wife, a champion for the rights of the downtrodden Mexicans, that he had evolved in his thinking and hadn't failed in life, although he actually lost the physical fight. Back at Reata, Leslie considered their own family legacy a success, and how she was newly proud and respectful of Bick's enlightened understanding of racial differences - they now had two multi-racial grandsons (one Caucasian and one Hispanic).

High Society (1956), 111 minutes, D: Charles Walters
This entertaining, light-hearted Technicolored, VistaVision MGM musical comedy with an original Cole Porter score was a tuneful remake of director George Cukor's screwball comedy The Philadelphia Story (1940). The original non-musical film set in Philadelphia starred Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart. Both films were based on Philip Barry's 1939 play The Philadelphia Story. The romantic musical comedy, now set amongst the rich elite of Newport, RI, starred miscast Bing Crosby as ex-husband CK Dexter Haven, Frank Sinatra as tabloid writer Mike Connor, and Grace Kelly (in her last film before marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco), as rich girl Tracy Samantha Lord. In the film's plot covering about a day and a half, musician Louis Armstrong (as Himself) and his band were delivered to a palatial estate home where they were greeted by successful jazz singer-composer C.K. Dexter-Haven (Bing Crosby), a financially-successful and popular composer-singer who was organizing the upcoming Newport Jazz Festival. He was living in a mansion where rehearsals would be held in the lobby, and it happened to be located across the street from where his ex-wife Tracy Lord (Grace Kelly) lived. Dexter had been divorced from wealthy, strong-minded Newport, Rhode Island socialite Tracy Samantha ("Sam") Lord (Grace Kelly), but was still in love with her. Dexter retained his love for bride-to-be Tracy ("I'm still in love with you") and was maneuvering to win Tracy back. Tracy was in the midst of preparations in the Lord's estate for her impending marriage the next day to a stuffy and bland gentleman named George Kittredge (John Lund). Two employees of the tabloid magazine Spy arrived to stay at the Lord's residence to cover the high-society wedding: reporter Mike Connor (Frank Sinatra) and photographer Elizabeth "Liz" Imbrie (Celeste Holm). Tracy's Uncle Willie (Louis Calhern) had been promised by a SPY editor (Paul Keast) - or blackmailed - that a scandalous, "unsavory" article about Mr. Seth Lord's (Sidney Blackmer) infidelity with a dancer would be withheld and not published if they were given permission to attend. Tracy sternly ordered no interference from Dexter to ruin her wedding, but he still brought her a wedding present. By the pool, Dexter met with Tracy (in her bathing suit), and mused about the reason for their failed marriage. After he left, she opened the gift - a scale model of their former sailboat-yacht "True Love." Tracy was inspired - in an evoked flashback sequence or reverie, to recall her romantic honeymoon with Dexter aboard their yacht. She remembered Dexter on shipboard singing to her (with a squeezebox) the romantic popular Oscar-nominated hit song "True Love." Tracy was beginning to have second-thoughts about marrying Kittredge who unrealistically idealized her as a "goddess." Mike was also expressing his increasing affection for 26 year-old Tracy, and seductively sang "You're Sensational" to her ("I don't care if you are called The fair Miss Frigidaire 'Cause you're sensational"). Complications arose the night before the planned wedding as a messy love triangle (of sorts) was developing around Tracy, while she experienced a series of flirtatious escapades with three men. She was faced with a difficult choice between her pompous but clueless fiancee, her reassessment of Dexter, and her growing romantic attraction to Mike. Mike also sensed Dexter's ongoing love for Tracy, and in a clever duet, Mike and Dexter sang the recycled song: "Well, Did You Evah?" The night before the wedding, at a celebratory dance at Uncle Willie's place, Tracy slipped away with Mike to return to her home. While dancing together by the Lord's pool, she suggested that they go swimming in the moonlight ("Tonight I want to do everything"). Mike sang the beautiful love song "Mind If I Make Love to You" to her as they kissed and embraced, before jumping in the pool. The next morning at the Lord's residence, George showed up and both George and Dexter witnessed Tracy being carried up to the house by Mike (both were slightly drunk, wet and dressed in robes) after their pool experience. George was now jealously angry with both Dexter and Mike, and Tracy was still hung-over and miserable: "I'm such an unholy mess of a girl" - she thought she had compromised her own virtue with Mike. Mike calmed George's and Tracy's nerves by admitting that due to her drunkenness, he had treated her with the utmost respect the previous evening - and her virtue remained intact. However, Tracy successfully coaxed George into calling off their nuptials, by claiming she was unworthy for him and couldn't behave herself. However, the guests had already arrived and an organ began playing the 'Wedding March.' Tracy awkwardly informed them of the change in plans and that her fiancee had cancelled the wedding. Dexter stepped forward to volunteer as the groom, to make up for the wedding they didn't have earlier. They had eloped two years earlier to Maryland to get married, and would now have the opportunity for a full ceremony. Tracy accepted Dexter's offer, and her father began to escort her down the aisle, as Mike and Liz mentioned how the idea of marriage was becoming "contagious" - a declaration of their own love for each other.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), 80 minutes, D: Don Siegel
Director Don Siegel's thrilling, allegorical, intensely paranoid, chilling and disturbing classic science fiction/alien film - a parable about alien possession, was based on Collier's Magazine's serialized story The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney. It was one of the greatest low-budget 50's films. Its cautionary plot, told in flashback, was often interpreted as a metaphor or as philosophical commentary upon the spread of McCarthyism or Communism in the mid-1950s. The subtle, low-budget film (at about $420,000) was very effective in eliciting horror with slow-building tension, even though there were no monsters (just indestructible plant-like pods), minimal special effects, no violence in the take-over of humans, and no deaths. Its main theme was the alien (read 'Communist') dehumanization and take-over of an entire community by large seed pods (found on a pool table, in a basement, greenhouse, and automobile trunk) that replicated and replaced human beings. And it told of the heroic struggle of one helpless but determined man of conscience, a small-town doctor to vainly combat and quell the deadly, indestructible threat. In the opening prologue (and closing scene - added bookends), Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) - seemingly psychotic and insanely mad, expressed paranoic fear and mania about an alien takeover in his idyllic hometown of Santa Mira, California; he shouted to an unbelieving group of nurses, interns, psychiatrists (including Whit Bissel as Dr. Hill), and doctors (including Richard Deacon as Dr. Harvey Bassett) in the emergency room of the city's Emergency Hospital; he warned them about seed pods taking over the planet. In the film's original opening (after the added prologue), Dr. Bennell explained, in a series of flashbacks from a few days earlier about the town's take-over. Miles began to become paranoid and suspicious when his patients reported that their loved ones, friends, and relatives were not themselves but emotionless shells, replicas, or imposters. Bennell was visited by his intelligent ex-girlfriend/ sweetheart-fiancee, now recently divorced Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter), who also told of relatives who had changed their identities or didn't seem to be themselves. In the parking lot of a restaurant before planning to have dinner together, Miles and Becky spoke to the town's only psychiatrist, Dr. Dan Kauffman (Larry Gates), who dismissed the cases of delusional paranoia as: "a strange neurosis" and "an epidemic mass hysteria." Miles was interrupted by a phone call from friend Jack Belicec (King Donovan) who reported a strange incident in his home. Miles and Becky were invited over, and shown his eerie discovery of a strange, corpse-like cadaver lying on his pool table - with an unfinished, half-formed, mannequin-like humanoid face. An attempt to take fingerprints failed. Later, the repugnant corpse on the pool table cloned or turned into an identical replica of Jack. Fearing that Becky might also be in danger, Dr. Bennell rushed to her home and entered through a basement window; in the darkness, he discovered a smooth-faced, replica "double" for Becky hidden in a bin, and hurried to awaken her. Then during an outdoor BBQ at Miles' home with friends Jack and his wife Theodora (Carolyn Jones), the group discovered at least three giant seed pods that burst and exploded open like rotten cabbages, with a milky fluid bubbling out. Miles took a pitchfork and stabbed at his pod's likeness in a vampire-like killing. The town was being surreptitiously invaded by strange, alien plant forms called 'pods,' that took over or replicated the likenesses, personalities and identities of human beings while they slept. As exhausted fugitives in town (and among the few unaffected by transplant absorption), Miles and Becky ended up cornered in his office where they were forced to hide and struggle to stay awake and battle the changes that threatened to overtake their bodies. Miles pondered - with a thoughtful soliloquy - about how the bodies and souls of humans were being taken over by aliens, allowing their humanity to slowly "drain away." They watched as trucks arrived, loaded with freshly harvested seed pods, to be divided among friends and relatives in other towns, to spread the invasion in other communities. They were confronted by Jack and Dr. Kauffman, obviously now transformed into clones who warned Miles and Becky that they would be next as they placed seed pods to await them and grow duplicates. Dr. Kauffman shockingly explained the alluring benefits and advantages to them of symbiosis with two fresh pods. In the gripping and frightening finale, Miles and Becky knocked out their captors with hypodermics filled with drugs, and fled from the town's pods to try to elude the enemy and get help. They fled from pursuit and sought refuge in an old abandoned mine shaft. Miles briefly left the faint Becky to discover the source of beautiful singing or music that they heard. When he returned, he found that she was slumped over and fatigued, and took her in his arms to kiss her. But then, he drew away from her unresponsive lips - in a tight closeup shot of her face, he looked into the blank, dark, expressionless and staring eyes of his fiancée, realizing with a look of utter fright that she was now one of "them" - her body had been invaded, cloned and snatched. She screamed to the pod-people searchers as he fled: "He's in here! He's in here! Get him! Get him!" Miles fled to a busy highway, filled with heavy traffic, as he attempted to flag down cars. Crazed with fear, he rushed into the onrushing traffic, nervously shouting and crying words of warning to the unheeding cars and unconvinced drivers. Miles climbed onto the back of a passing truck with the names of California cities on it. He was horrified to find it loaded with pods to be distributed and spread throughout the nation. He dropped off, jumping back on the highway - feeling completely helpless. As a crazed prophet of doom, he looked directly into the camera, desperately trying to warn others and the audience: "YOU'RE NEXT!" In the added epilogue (bookending the added prologue), Miles was still describing his fantastic tale in the city's hospital. The doctors regarded him as a lunatic and as "mad as a March hare," but then, a second accident victim was brought in from a collision between a truck (filled with pod seeds) and a Greyhound bus. The victim had to be dug out from under a peculiar pile of "great big seed pods" from the truck coming out of Santa Mira. Verifying and confirming Miles' story, the police started to take control of the invading aliens by blocking highways, and the FBI and law enforcement agencies were notified of the emergency.

The Killing (1956), 83 minutes, D: Stanley Kubrick
This early and stylish Stanley Kubrick film-noir crime drama thriller was a raw story of greed and infidelity. The famed director's third film and first major and successful film effort, was a definitive heist-caper, although it was highly under-rated when first released. The doom-laden, voice-over dialogue was derived from Lionel White's novel Clean Break. The film has influenced many heist films, including the original Ocean's Eleven (1960) (also remade in 2001). The black and white heist film was similar in tone and theme to director John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle (1950) (also starring Sterling Hayden). The film opened with a view of a typical day of horse-racing at the Lansdowne racetrack in the Bay Area. The main five individuals of the film, members of a desperate gang, were plotting a heist that evening at 8 pm in an apartment. They were introduced - all were anti-hero misfits and lowlifes (in an ensemble cast). The group was led by Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden), a grim, determined, and veteran criminal and ex-convict (just released from prison after serving a five-year sentence for robbery at Alcatraz). Johnny was the mastermind - he had recently reunited with his girlfriend Fay (Coleen Gray) to whom he had promised a future together after the robbery's success. The group devised and executed a complex, carefully-timed racetrack heist of $2 million - that ultimately went terribly wrong. The plan was to cause simultaneous, diversionary confusion by shooting one of the racehorses in mid-race and instigating a bar fight, thereby allowing Johnny to rob the main track offices and seize the day's takings. Pathetic wimp and loser George Peatty (Elisha Cook, Jr.), the inside-man, the race-track betting window teller/cashier with a nagging wife, became the fatal flaw in the planned heist. He was involved in a troubled five-year marriage with cynical, devious, complaining, domineering, unfaithful, conniving and covetous femme fatale wife Sherry (Marie Windsor), and was easily tricked by her. George hinted to Sherry that he might be coming into a lot of money soon ("hundreds of thousands of dollars...maybe a half million"). Sherry was able to convince George to divulge his money-making scheme to her, and then the two-timing wife secretly met up that evening with her slick, adulterous gangster boyfriend/lover Val Cannon (Vince Edwards, the future doctor Ben Casey on a TV series), who was also two-timing her, to reveal the details of the heist. Sherry's plan with Val was that they would steal the money from George and his associates after the robbery at the rendezvous point. Sherry believed that the money would bring her out of poverty and revitalize her life. The $2 million dollar race-track robbery involved Johnny holding up accountants in the track's back counting room (after being let in by George), while others assisted in getting the money out of the building, and two other crooks created chaos during the race - including two diversionary tactics. After the theft, all of the surviving gang members were at the rendezvous point in an apartment where they planned to split up the money (but Johnny was delayed by traffic). Val barged in to steal their loot with an associate named Tiny (Joe Turkel). After a wild shootout, seriously-wounded George was the only one to survive. Johnny arrived after the massacre to see George stumbling out of the building and driving home. After staggering home, George heard Sherry call him from the back bedroom. He confronted his wife Sherry: ("Why did you do it?"), and denounced her for conspiring with Val and planning to run away with him. Before expiring, George shot her in the abdomen, and then fell to the floor, dead. Meanwhile, Johnny had crammed the cash into a recently-purchased, cheap large suitcase (but couldn't lock the overstuffed case), and met girlfriend Fay at the airport - with tickets for a flight to Boston. The doomed circumstances of the heist came to fruition when a baggage-cart driver swerved to avoid a poodle-dog on the tarmac, and sent Johnny's checked heavy suitcase of stolen money off the cart onto the runway where it broke open - there was the incredible visual shot of an airplane propeller blowing away the fallen suitcase's contents of banknotes that whirled all over the runway. In the final scene, authorities were alerted and Johnny was being approached by armed and alerted plainclothes policemen to arrest him.

The King and I (1956), 133 minutes, D: Walter Lang
Director Walter Lang's dramatic musical version of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's 1951 Broadway hit was one of the highlights of the "Golden Age of Musicals." It was based upon real-life characters from the 1860s, including English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens and the stubborn and imperious King Mongkut of Siam. In the film's opening set in 1862, widowed, prim and Victorian English (Welsh) governess Anna Leonowens (Deborah Kerr) arrived by ship in Bangkok, Siam (Thailand). She had been hired to be a schoolmistress to tutor the King's royal children in learning English. She was accompanied by her excited young son Louis (Rex Thompson). The strong-willed Anna was shocked when the intimidating and stern Prime Minister Kralahome (Martin Benson) informed her that he had come to escort them to their living quarters in the Royal Palace, rather than in a separate residence as called for in her contract. Throughout the film, she often confronted the autocratic, pompous and misogynistic King Mongkut (Yul Brynner in a star-making and Oscar-winning role) who had many wives in a harem and dozens of children. In a dark subplot, the King's unhappy Burmese slave-concubine named Tuptim (Rita Moreno, a Puerto Rican actress) was in a forbidden romance with the Burmese ambassador Lun Tha (Carlos Rivas) who had brought her to the palace. After being charmed by the King's cute children, Anna agreed to remain for the time being (and live in the Palace). Anna taught modern, advanced truths and new, more complicated and confounding "scientific" wonders to the King's children, wives, and the Crown Prince Chowfa Chulalongkorn (Patrick Adiarte). One of the King's and Anna's many conversations was about the institution of slavery and human rights, and President Lincoln's strategy to win the Civil War in America to end slavery. Prime Minister Kralahome privately expressed his concern that Anna's teachings were contrary to the country's traditional ways, and that she was duping herself to believe that she could change the stubborn King's opinions. Daringly, Anna helped to facilitate a rendezvous between the two lovers Tuptim and Lun Tha. Prime Minister Kralahome brought rumors and reports of "Western treachery" and the spread of British imperialism that regarded the King as an "unfit" ruler of Siam. The King's Number One Wife Lady Thiang (Terry Saunders) persuaded Anna to provide guidance and advice to the distressed and anxious King Mongkut, who had been called a "barbarian" and feared having his kingdom overthrown and turned into a protectorate. Anna skillfully suggested that he personally host and honor foreign guests with a high-class banquet (with European food and music). The two "distinguished" British envoys arriving from Singapore for a "friendship tour" in one week were Ambassador Sir John Hay (Alan Mowbray) and Sir Edward Ramsay (Geoffrey Toone) (one of Anna's old admirers before she was married). The event was impressive and went extremely well, until the after-dinner theatrical entertainment for the banquet guests - Tuptim's narrated traditional Siamese ballet to retell a version of Harriet Beecher Stowe's controversial anti-slavery book Uncle Tom's Cabin. When the play ended, Tuptim had disappeared to run away from her own enslavement to join her lover Lun Tha. Although the King and Anna shared a wonderful dance-waltz number (Shall We Dance), news came from the Kralahome of Tuptim's capture, and the King ordered that his dishonored slave-wife should be whipped. Anna begged for mercy, but when the King grabbed a whip to personally conduct the punishment, she called him a "barbarian." As the authoritarian King was about to strike, he crumpled over, grabbed his chest and raced from the room. Then, a report arrived that the body of Tuptim's lover was found in a river, and Tuptim reacted in shock as she was led away in tears. Anna returned the King's gift of a ring, cut off all of her responsibilities as a governess, and declared that she would be leaving on the next boat out of Siam with her son Louis. Several weeks later, Anna learned that the King was dying after isolating himself and refusing food. She read a letter that the despondent King had written about his deep gratitude and respect for her although they often clashed over major differences. She was ushered to the King's deathbed, where in an emotional scene, she spoke a few final words with the King. Anna promised to remain in Bangkok to provide guidance for the future king. The newly-appointed young Prince issued two proclamations to his subjects, and became more resolute as he spoke about how he would no longer require bowing before the King, as the ex-King quietly expired nearby. In the film's final moment, Anna placed her face next to the King's limp left hand following his death.

A Man Escaped or: The Wind Blows Where It Listeth (1956, Fr.) (aka Un Condamné à Mort S'est échappé ou Le Vent Souffle où il Veut), 99 minutes, D: Robert Bresson
French director Robert Bresson's dramatic, suspenseful, documentary-styled wartime POW jailbreak-escape thriller - an effective story of intense courage and perseverance, was based on a true story about French Resistance fighting member André Devigny who was held in Fort Montluc prison at Lyon by the occupying German Gestapo during WWII in 1943. In the stunning, suspenseful opening sequence, seen without dialogue, condemned Nazi prisoner, French Resistance fighter Lt. Fontaine (Francois Leterrier) made his first escape attempt from the back seat of a car as he was being transported to the Montluc prison in Lyon, France. After failing in the effort, Fontaine arrived unconscious on a stretcher at his prison cell. There was clear evidence that he had been severely pistol-whipped and beaten off-screen. He was incarcerated in solitary confinement in a claustrophobic, sparsely-furnished small cell (3 x 2 meters) on the lower level. For much of the film, he was imprisoned in unpredictable and despairing circumstances, but refused to be resigned to his fate. He struggled to endure and survive and overcome his oppressive condition. Lt. Fontaine was brought to the prison office where he was forced to promise that he wouldn't make another escape attempt. However, he affirmed in voice-over: "As for me, I decided to escape as soon as possible." The film often used a passive camera to portray the Germans, who were often seen as shadowy, undetailed characters, often leading prisoners around, or executing convicts (with most of the events outside the cell remaining off-screen). Then, unexpectedly after 15 days, he was suddenly transferred from his first-floor cell to a different cell (# 107) on the top floor, where he wasn't required to be shackled but was actually more limited. In voice-over, he described how only once a day, he was allowed to leave his cell to wash up and empty his slop bucket, where he attempted to speak to other convicts. Much of the film detailed the sequences of Fontaine's painstaking, meticulous and patient planning for a future escape from the stark prison - he completely deconstructed his entire cell for purposes of creating makeshift tools for escape, using materials such as his whittled-down iron spoon to function as a chisel to disassemble his wooden cell door. He was also introduced to a new prisoner named Orsini (Jacques Ertaud), who expressed his interest in partnering with Fontaine in escaping. The Lieutenant was able to scope out the layout of the prison one night when he went on an exploratory trip. Fontaine also began to construct braided, wire-reinforced rope from materials in his cell. He monotonously proceeded to take apart his bed, his mattress and wire-netting/springs, and later, he also used pillow cloth, other strips of ripped clothing and a blanket to make rope. The anxious Orsini, who thought Fontaine's plan was too lengthy and complicated, decided to escape on his own. He unwisely attempted a prison escape in broad daylight during slop-bucket disposal, and was caught on the rooftop. He shared one vital piece of information with Fontaine before he was executed the next day - he simply advised that Fontaine would need metal grappling hooks for the ends of his ropes: "You'll need hooks, Fontaine" to scale the walls. During a brief off-prison trip to the notorious Hotel Terminus (Gestapo headquarters), Fontaine was informed that his case was officially closed. He had been charged with treasonous espionage and sabotage (a bombing of a bridge) against the Nazis - both punishable by death, and was to be executed in a few days. After he was returned to his cell, he was unexpectedly joined by a young cellmate - 16 year-old, teenaged conscripted soldier who had deserted - François Jost (Charles Le Clainche). During a long conversation with him, the troubled Fontaine viewed Jost suspiciously and with uncertainty (and regarded him as either a potentially untrustworthy spy and stool pigeon, or as a partner). He took a chance on Jost escaping with him, and told Jost that he no longer had a "choice," now that he had seen one of his grappling hooks and knew of his escape plan. Fortunately, Jost agreed to join him. In the film's final 20 minute sequence, the two made a daring, tense, and determined escape attempt together in the middle of a foggy and dark night - with only a limited amount of time to succeed before sunrise. They had to get to the rooftop through a skylight, scale down into the courtyard and silently kill the armed guard stationed there, get back onto the roof and then cross-over a wide corridor between the prison's inner and outer walls, without alerting a guard on a squeaky bike who was riding around the perimeter. At about 4 am after a long period of hesitation, Fontaine finally gathered up his courage and shimmied across the rope (that held his weight) between the two walls, and dropped to the ground outside the prison. Jost joined him and they embraced outside the prison's walls. The two walked away from the prison, now freed, down a backstreet in Lyon.

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956), 153 minutes, D: Nunnally Johnson
Director/co-writer Nunnally Johnson's low-key, epic-length drama with romantic elements was based on the 1955 novel by Sloan Wilson (originally serialized in mid-1955 in Collier's Magazine). It told about a discontented 'Everyman' character, typical of the 1950s Eisenhower-era in the post-war period - the main title character was a man of conscience who faced multiple issues and sought to find meaning and happiness in life. Tom Rath (Gregory Peck), a hard-working, conservative-minded, decent, stolid, middle-aged war veteran in the mid-1950s faced challenging issues with conforming and reintegrating back into society - in both his career and married life (with three young children). In the middle-class Connecticut suburbs (where he had lived for seven years), his emotionally-overwrought homemaker-wife Betsy Rath (Jennifer Jones) was dissatisfied, pushy, and continually nagged and complained about their financial situation. She wanted her husband to leave his "safe" non-profit foundation job in NYC and take a higher-paying position. She felt he was cowardly and unambitious since his war years: "You've lost your guts, and all of a sudden I'm ashamed of you." Suffering from PTSD, Rath experienced three troubling flashbacks to 10 years earlier when he served in WWII in Europe. Many of his worries were about killing in combat, slitting the throat of a young German soldier to acquire his warm coat, and the accidental hand-grenade killing of his best friend Hank. During one long flashback set in mid-1945 in Rome, he also became involved in a six-week relationship with pretty Italian woman Maria Montagne (Marisa Pavan). Due to Betsy's urgings, Tom applied for a better-paying public relations job with the national TV broadcasting company UBC in NYC. Fortunately for Rath, during the job application process, the powerful, go-getter businessman boss - network president Ralph Hopkins (Fredric March), took an instant liking to the tone of Tom's forthright, short and honest application and was interested in hiring him. Rath was soon hired for a six-month trial period to write draft speeches for his boss for a nationwide mental health campaign - Hopkins' pet project. Other conflicts arose when shady, long-time caretaker Edward Schultz (Joseph Sweeney) contested the inheritance stated in the will of Rath's recently-deceased grandmother regarding her estate's fortune and suburban Connecticut house. The case was being handled by small-town Judge Alfred Bernstein (Lee J. Cobb), the executor and probate officer of the entire estate. It was clearly possible that Schultz had forged a new bequeathing letter, and absconded with the elderly Mrs. Rath's funds. During his first few weeks at his new UBC job, Rath was befriended by his boss Hopkins, who was also experiencing serious domestic-front issues. His 18 year-old spoiled, rebellious, and unreasonable party-girl daughter Susan "Suzy" Hopkins (Gigi Perreau) was threatening to elope and marry a notorious older fortune-hunting individual named Byron Holgate. After being urged by his estanged wife Helen Hopkins (Ann Harding) to attend to the situation immediately, his efforts to talk sense with his daughter failed, and she went ahead with the elopement. In his job, Rath faced a dilemma - should he be forthright and honest in his assessment of a speech promoting a mental health campaign and prepared for Hopkins' delivery to a convention of doctors? Or should he please his boss by playing along and telling him only what he wanted to hear (so that he wouldn't lose his job)? At first, Rath felt he must abide by 'office-politics', with concerns about how his integrity had become more difficult with a wife and three children. However, after Hopkins shared his domestic issues with him, and instructed Rath to spend more time with his own kids, Rath came to realize that the success of his boss had come at the cost of personal happiness, and at the expense of his family. He decided to give his boss a different critique and abruptly changed his opinion of the speech - he called it "phony" and "untrue." At the same, Rath received news that his war-time romance had led to Maria's impregnation - their love-making had produced a secret love child son and he felt obligated to send money to her. In the interest of honesty and truthfulness, he divulged to Betsy that he had fathered an illegitimate child during the war years and now vowed to help support the mother and especially her son. He explained how he met the girl when he was at his most hopeless, scared and depressed state, and thought he wouldn't survive the war. Predictably, Betsy was furious and devastated, raced off in the family car, and didn't surface until the next morning after she ran out of gas. The film concluded with Rath's decision to forgo career advancement with his workaholic boss, in favor of spending more time with his family as a '9 to 5' man. He also made arrangements with Judge Bernstein to send regular payments of $100/month to unmarried mother Maria to support her and their son. Now supportive of her husband, Betsy added that they eventually wanted to set up a trust fund for the young son. Moved by Betsy's added gesture, Bernstein offered his services for free. The couple were reconciled when in their car, Rath told Betsy: "Would you mind if I tell you, I worship you?"

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), 120 minutes, D: Alfred Hitchcock
Hitchcock's VistaVision and Technicolored suspense-thriller, an assassination mystery, was the only one in his entire filmography that he made twice. The first was a decidedly B/W British version made in 1934, shorter by 45 minutes and less sophisticated technically, that starred Peter Lorre as the criminal villain named Abbott. The 1956 production opened with title credits that appeared over a view of a performing orchestra, with its finale marked by clashing cymbals (a foreshadowing), and the title screen prologue: "A single crash of Cymbals and how it rocked the lives of an American family." An American family (from Indianapolis, Indiana), the McKennas, was introduced - the family consisted of surgeon-husband Dr. Benjamin or "Ben" McKenna (James Stewart), his newly-retired professional singer-wife Josephine or "Jo" (Doris Day), and their 11 year-old son Henry "Hank" (Christopher Olsen). They were on a bus traveling from Casablanca to the city of Marrakesh in French Morocco (in Northern Africa), after attendance at a Paris medical conference. During their trip, one of their first acquaintances was friendly, handsome Frenchman Louis Bernard (Daniel Gelin) - a man who initially appeared to fit the title as a "man who knew too much"; he intervened when Hank accidentally pulled off the veil of one of the local Muslim women. In the McKennas' hotel-room in Marrakesh, the family was startled when a sinister-looking man knocked at their door. [Note: He would later be identified as Rien (Reggie Nalder), a hired assassin]. Louis Bernard was in the McKenna's hotel room and witnessed the incident, and then abruptly cancelled his dinner plans with them. That evening in a local Arab restaurant in Marrakesh over dinner, the McKennas met a friendly English couple: Lucy (Brenda De Banzie) and Edward Drayton (Bernard Miles); it was unusual that Louis Bernard was also in attendance at the restaurant, but basically ignored the McKennas. [Note - Spoiler: the Draytons were later revealed to be the real criminals - leaders of an anarchist terrorist group involved in an assassination plot.] While the McKennas were in a crowded Marrakesh bazaar marketplace the next day with the Draytons (and Hitchcock's customary cameo appearance watching acrobats), they saw a robed, dark-skinned man, obviously with face paint, being chased by police, and then stumbling into the square and falling to the ground, with a knife sticking out of his back. He reached out to speak to Dr. McKenna: ("Monsieur McKenna. I'm Louis Bernard"); as the disguised Arab died in Ben's arms, his face paint rubbed off, revealing he was Frenchman Bernard whom the McKennas had met earlier. With his dying words, he whispered a secret to Ben (with a close-up of his ear) - cryptic news of an impending assassination: "A man, a statesman, is to be killed, assassinated, in London. Soon, very soon. Tell them in London to try Ambrose Chappell." Ben was mystified and spoke to Jo: "Why should he pick me out to tell?" Afterwards, while speaking to police authorities, it was revealed that Bernard was a French intelligence agent working there in Morocco, part of the Deuxime Bureau, better known as the "American FBI"; he had been investigating a potential murder of a statesman, and shared the secret of what he had discovered with Dr. McKenna: ("The dead man found out what he had been sent here to discover. That's why he was killed. He told you what he had discovered... Because he placed complete confidence in you"). Dr. McKenna received an ominous phone call in the police headquarters, revealing that son "Hank" had been kidnapped for blackmailing purposes: ("If you tell even one word of what Louis Bernard whispered to you in the marketplace, your little boy will be in serious danger. Remember, say nothing"). Dr. McKenna described his sudden revelation to Jo, that he had figured out why they had been approached by Bernard before his death - they had been mis-identified as a couple (the Draytons from London) that Bernard was suspiciously tracking. The Draytons were thought to be involved, forcing Ben (now the "man who knew too much") and Jo to travel to England to avert a suspected assassination attempt and save Hank. Dr. McKenna went off track and was delayed the next day in his search back in London - when he met with two taxidermists, both named Ambrose Chappell, Sr. (George Howe) and Jr. (Richard Wordsworth) - he suddenly and shockingly realized that he had misinterpreted Bernard's whisper; he had assumed that Ambrose Chapell was a person instead of a place - and it was where Hank was being held hostage by the Draytons. Finally at the Ambrose Chapel, Edward Drayton was discovered leading a service, and revealed to be part of an anarchist terrorist group that was holding Hank hostage. The film concluded at London's famous Royal Albert Hall in a very suspenseful, wordless, 12-minute climactic sequence during a concert performance (of the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bernard Herrmann); both Jo and Ben McKenna was keenly aware of a planned assassination plot of some sort (the murder of visiting foreign dignitary - Prime Minister (Alexis Bobrinskoy)), about to take place at the end of the performance of Arthur Benjamin's Storm Clouds Cantata during a dramatic clash of cymbals, by Drayton's hired gunman Rien (Reggie Nalder); the gunshot was timed to coincide and be drowned out by the clash of cymbals at the end of a symphonic concert. The final climactic moment came when a gun barrel was visible pointing out from behind a red box curtain in the balcony. At the moment of the potential fatal shot, Jo let go a terrifying, shrieking scream, upsetting the gunman's timing and causing him to miss his mark - his targeted statesman was only wounded in the arm. Ben fought with the assassin, who fell to his death when he tumbled from the balcony. Later, the Draytons were hiding out in a foreign embassy with the Ambassador (Mogens Wieth) who had hired them for the assassination job. The McKennas were invited by the Prime Minister to the embassy, where Jo was asked to sing the film's Academy Award-winning Best Song: "Que Sera, Sera" ("Whatever Will Be, Will Be") - Hank's favorite bedtime tune. Held captive in the embassy by his kidnappers the Draytons, Hank heard his mother's voice and responded by whistling back - leading to his rescue and the death of Edward Drayton who fell down a flight of stairs and accidentally shot himself.

Moby Dick (1956), 115 minutes, D: John Huston
Warner Bros' and director Huston's dramatic and tragic chase-adventure film was based on Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby Dick, about the obsessive, self-destructive hunt by a possessed and mad sea-captain for a legendary great white whale. Scripted by both Ray Bradbury and Huston himself, the film's complex themes were numerous: good vs. evil, and man vs. God, amongst others. The film opened in New England in the year 1841 with a very-familiar three words: "Call me Ishmael" - referring to the film's voice-over narrator (Richard Basehart) who arrived by foot at the Spouter Inn in New Bedford, Massachusetts. His intention was to sign on as a sailor on the whaling ship the Pequod. The eager and adventuresome Ishmael spent the night in a boarding house with a "strange bedfellow" - tattooed Pacific Islander harpooner Queequeg (Friedrich von Ledebur). Both were hired the next day to join Captain Ahab (Gregory Peck), in his demonic and maniacal quest for a white whale. Before leaving, Ishmael attended a church service led by Puritanical Father Mapple (Orson Welles), who delivered a long, stirring, cautionary sermon from a prow-shaped pulpit about the Biblical character of Job and the consequences of disobeying God's will; he ranted about the battle of good vs. evil in the soul of man, with nautical metaphors, reference to St. Paul, and inspiration from the Biblical whale tale of Jonah. The Pequod made its sailing departure from Nantucket for a whaling expedition, with one-legged Captain Ahab, who made a dramatic entrance and was described in voice-over: ("His whole, high, broad form weighed down upon a barbaric white leg carved from the jawbone of a whale. He did not feel the wind or smell the salt air. He only stood staring at the horizon with the marks of some inner crucifixion and woe deep in his face"); in the subsequent scene, Ahab described the curious crew's prey, a great white whale. He offered a "Spanish gold ounce" to the first one who sighted the whale. And then throughout the sailing, Ahab vengefully ranted and raved about the injustice of his own maiming (he lost his left leg and had a replacement peg leg) on a previous voyage years earlier against the monstrous beast. The crew toasted their objective - to bring "Death to Moby Dick." Captain Ahab also eloquently delivered a monologue to Quaker Chief Mate Starbuck (Leo Genn), about how he began hunting whales forty years earlier as a "boy harpooner"; he described his relentless, obsessive search every since to pursue the great white whale Moby Dick During the journey, Starbuck suggested a mutiny against Ahab's insane quest to change course from successful whaling, in order to follow reports of Moby Dick's whereabouts. He spoke to his fellow officers: cheerful, pipe-smoking 2nd mate Stubb (Harry Andrews) and 3rd mate Flask (Seamus Kelly), but they resisted him. Starbuck reacted by expressing the inevitability of their pre-determined fate, if he couldn't end Ahab's life with one gunshot. He trembled before Ahab, knowing he could not stop him. A foreshadowing of the ship's fate came with Queequeg's order to have the ship's carpenter construct a water-proofed coffin for him. During their ominous and unholy search for the whale, the Pequod came upon the Rachel, another whaling ship from New Bedford. Captain Gardiner (Francis de Wolff) requested that Ahab aid in a search for his missing youngest son who had been carried away by the whale, but Ahab coldly refused. After a damaging typhoon, Ahab confirmed that he sensed that they were close to the white whale, and shortly later, Moby Dick was finally spotted and there came the cry: ("Thar she blows!"). Ahab ordered his harpooners and crew to pursue the beast in long boats, for an ill-fated chase. Ahab was finally able to encounter his nemesis - the great white whale. The whale furiously retaliated and counter-attacked in a thrilling sequence. Ahab's harpoon struck the side of the whale, but also ensnared him in the weapon's rope; lashed up against Moby Dick, he became entangled in the harpoon ropes wrapping around the mortally-wounded creature, but still frantically stabbed at the whale's side until it submerged and drowned him. The sailors watched as the whale surfaced, and saw that the dead Ahab's loose arm was signaling to them: "You see? Do you see? Ahab beckons. He's dead, but he beckons"; they saw the monstrous wounded whale continue its rampage against the ship - it returned to the Pequod to sink it by circling around it and creating a deadly, maelstrom whirlpool, killing all crew members except the sole-surviving Ishmael. A final voice-over was presented by Ishmael, who was rescued by clinging and resting on Queequeg's coffin; he was later picked up and saved by the Rachel - he was the only one left to tell the tale of what had happened: ("Drowned Queequeg's coffin was my life buoy. For one whole day and night, it sustained me on that soft and dirge-like main. Then a sail appeared. It was the Rachel. The Rachel, who in her long melancholy search for her missing children found another orphan. The drama's done. All are departed away. The great shroud of the sea rolls over the Pequod, her crew and Moby Dick. I only am escaped, alone to tell thee").

Patterns (1956), 83 minutes, D: Fielder Cook
Director Fielder Cook's drama was originally produced as a teleplay written by Rod Serling (who became well-known after the debut of his 5-season TV series Twilight Zone beginning in 1959). The teleplay first aired on NBC's The Kraft Television Theatre in early 1955 before Serling wrote an adaptation and it was produced as a feature-length film, following in the footsteps of a similar teleplay that became a successful film - Marty (1955). This boardroom-office melodrama (without a musical score) - about a back-stabbing power struggle and ladder-climbing within corporate big business ("survival of the fittest") and 'gray flannel suits' - was similar in plot to MGM's Executive Suite (1954). It featured the sensationalist tagline: "Ruthless Men And Ambitious Women...Clawing For Control Of A Billion Dollar Empire!!!" The B/W drama was filmed in a Brooklyn studio and on-location in NYC. The film gave a compelling portrait of a giant industrial corporation - Ramsey & Co. The high-powered company occupying the 40th floor of a skyscraper was headed by ruthless, menacing, callous, and harsh profit-driven business executive Walter Ramsey (Everett Sloane). His assistant general manager was aging, 62 year-old, long-time executive VP William "Bill" Briggs (Ed Begley). With over 30 years of service, and one of the corporation's founders with Walter's father Jim, the humanistic-minded, decent and honorable Briggs was suffering from medical issues related to heart problems and an ulcer. Ramsey's cool, no-nonsense and efficient head secretary Miss Margaret Lanier (Joanna Roos) was assigned to prepare for a new hire's arrival. In the film's early scenes, young and ambitious production engineer Fred Staples (Van Heflin) had been newly-recruited from the small industrial town of Mansfield, Ohio, where he had worked for six years at Queen City Tool & Die when his company had been acquired by Ramsey. He had been relocated to a new suburban country house with his social-climbing wife Nancy (Beatrice Straight). Once Fred arrived for his first day of work, and after taking the Tower Elevator to enter the offices, he was shown his own luxurious private office. He met the personable, kind-hearted, ethical and honorable VP Briggs, and expressed immediate amazement to Briggs about how he was slightly taken aback by everything. Bill's secretary Marge Fleming (Elizabeth Wilson) for the previous seven years had been permanently reassigned to Staples, without Bill's prior knowledge - and she was devastated and considered resigning. In a board meeting in the conference room headed by Ramsey, one of the film's earliest contentious issues became evident during a discussion of the brutal, heartless, planned purchase proposal of a bankrupt company in the small village of Williamston. Briggs was the sole voice to disagree with Ramsey and mention that the plant was employing 900 men - half of the inhabitants, and that the acquisition would decimate the community for 6 months until the men were rehired. Ramsey counter-argued that more men would eventually be hired: "We're not going to ruin that town, we're goiing to make it!" and that it would help the corporation's bottom-line. He also insulted Briggs with a tongue-lashing about not having an original idea or point-of-view in his head for many years, while complimenting Staples for refraining to offer an opinion until he had more information. Unable to fire Briggs due to his seniority, Ramsey's devious plan was soon revealed - to degrade and exasperate Briggs by bringing him to the brink of resignation or retirement rather than firing him, for reasons related to his poor health and his inability to adjust to changing times. Ramsey was also openly grooming Staples to replace him. Briggs was self-aware of the strategy to get rid of him. Fred began to realize that he had been brought in by the demanding Ramsey to eventually replace Briggs as VP and industrial relations manager. A series of incidents occurred in which Ramsey treated Briggs with condescension and degradation, and stressfully humiliated him. A final confrontation between them in the conference room saw Ramsey refusing to give credit to Briggs for his contributions to Staples' Portland projects proposal report, and then suggesting that Briggs step down. Shortly later after the meeting adjourned, Briggs collapsed and died of a heart-attack in the hallway. Fred was outraged by Ramsey's brutal treatment of Briggs, considered resigning from his position, and he angrily told Ramsey how he truly felt. Ramsey admitted that he was a despicable human being. Fred continued to argue with Ramsey, who described how one had to be ruthless to succeed in business - and Briggs had failed in his responsibilities. Fred rejected Ramsey's implication that he would now be replacing the failed Briggs. Ramsey continued to reason with Fred and tempt him to stay by offering him a challenging position in the corporation, but Fred was fed up with Ramsey's attitude and personal callousness: ("I don't like you. I don't like anything about you"). Although the two hated each other, Ramsey knew he could get the embittered Fred to remain at the corporation by offering him a way to realize his full potential and find happiness. The ambitious-minded Fred was enticed to take Bill's place; although upset by the whole situation, he was tempted by Ramsey's offer of a double salary, stock options, and an unlimited expense account, and he decided to accept the now-vacant secondary VP position. However, in a final showdown sequence with Ramsey, Fred threatened that he would never allow Ramsey to abuse him, and would never give Ramsey any peace as his second-in-command, because he would be angling for his top job. Fred also added one reservation - and that he wanted it added to his contract - that he could break Ramsey's jaw.

The Red Balloon (1956, Fr.) (aka Le Ballon Rouge), 34 minutes, D: Albert Lamorisse
French writer/director Albert Lamorisse's imaginative, short fantasy drama - a wonderful, mostly-visual children's tale, was about an unlikely friendship between a boy and an inanimate object - a bright-red balloon, that became his soulmate and a symbol of trust, loyalty and love. In the story set in the Ménilmontant, a working-class district of Paris, a young, 6 year-old tow-headed adolescent schoolboy named Pascal (Pascal Lamorisse, the director's son) spied a lamp-post and balcony railing that had the trailing string of a solid red, glossy, helium-filled balloon tangled up in it; he climbed up the lamp-post, untied it and took the balloon with him. He wasn't permitted to take the balloon on the streetcar to school, so he ran to the Boys Community School with the balloon held on a string trailing behind him. The balloon waited for him until school was dismissed and they returned home to his upstairs apartment. His mother (Renée Marion) prohibited him from having the balloon indoors, until Pascal was able to open the window (without his mother watching) and allow the balloon inside his room for the night. On his way to school the next day, the balloon took on its own personality when it seemed to playfully misbehave by staying just out of arm's reach from Pascal. Once he arrived at school, the harsh school principal arrived, and dragged Pascal away from his class to discipline the boy for bringing the misbehaving, prankish balloon with him to school. In a street marketplace on the way home after school, the balloon paused in front of a mirror to admire itself, imitating Pascal who had also become intrigued by and was studying a life-sized portrait or painted image of a young girl his age that was for sale. Further along on their trip home, they encountered a young girl (Sabine Lamorisse, the director's daughter) who was accompanied by a blue helium-filled balloon, and a flirtatious attraction developed between the two balloons. Inevitably, a gang of older bullies in the neighborhood were attracted by the boy with his balloon, but the two were able to evade them. When Pascal attended church with his mother, the balloon couldn't resist following them inside, where an angry church official kicked them out. Pascal visited a bakery shop and instructed his obedient balloon to wait outside. While he was inside the shop, the mean bullies came along and successfully snatched the balloon, took it to a vacant lot, and heartlessly pelted it with rocks and slingshots to torment it, and they tried to pop and deflate the balloon. Pascal rescued and protected the balloon, and they were able to run away - they were chased through various Parisian alleyways. Once the large gang of boys caught up to them, they recaptured the red balloon and resumed their punishment. In the film's most heartbreaking and anthropomorphic sequence, and often recognized as a Christ-like sequence of sacrifice and reincarnation (or resurrection), damage to the balloon from a sling-shot rock caused it to slowly deflate and descend to the ground. One of the boys cruelly stomped on the inanimate balloon to effectively kill it. Pascal was devastated by the loss of his friend-companion that was now torn and unrecognizable. In the very sweet, uplifting, transcendent, enchanting and magical surprise ending, thousands of other colored balloons from around Paris empathically rebelled and broke away from their owners and rose up into the sky. The large collection of balloons had rallied together and converged to where Pascal was sitting with his dead balloon. Pascal reached up and tied all of their strings together, and then held on as the massive group of vibrantly, multi-colored balloons lifted him up from the ground and carried him off on a ride over the entire Parisian cityscape and on to another world, high above the fray.

The Searchers (1956), 119 minutes, D: John Ford
John Ford's complex, epic, 'psychological' Western story was about a man's obsessive five year quest for revenge, set in post-Civil War America. It was based on the best-selling 1954 novel by Alan Le May. This film was unquestionably Ford's finest, most influential, and most-admired film, and beautifully shot in his most popular locale, Monument Valley, but this exceptional film - a true American masterpiece of filmmaking, was not nominated for Academy Awards. As the film began in Texas of 1868, embittered loner and mysterious Civil War ex-Confederate soldier Ethan Edwards (John Wayne in a complex character role) entered on horseback, and arrived at the solitary, Texas frontier farm of his estranged brother Aaron Edwards' (Walter Coy) family with radiant wife Martha (Dorothy Jordan) - everyone expectantly watched his approach, including Ethan's two nieces: young Debbie Edwards (Lana Wood) and her older sister Lucy (Pippa Scott). Tension developed between the two brothers, because of Ethan's long-suppressed love for Aaron's wife Martha. Strains also developed between prejudiced, racist Indian hater and anti-hero Ethan and Aaron's half-breed adopted son, part-Cherokee (one-eighth) Martin "Marty" Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter). When the deputized Ethan and Martin joined a posse of Texas Rangers to investigate for Comanche marauders or cattle rustlers, they didn't know that they were deliberately being lured away. Upon their return to the Edwards' homestead, menacing renegade Chief Scar (Henry Brandon) had already attacked and butchered most of the family (including Ethan's sister-in-law and brother), and both of Ethan's young nieces had been kidnapped. The racially-hateful Ethan began a perilous, extensive, relentless, and grim five years-long search for his kidnapped niece (conveyed by a series of flashbacks) - to kill the Chief who abducted her AND to kill his corrupted, tainted, disgraced niece to 'save' her from her savage captors. The film was noted for Ethan's oft-repeated phrase: "That'll be the day." During his quest, Ethan was joined by his nephew Marty, who was equally determined to save the girl. During their hunt, Ethan found Lucy's mutilated and raped body, and told teenaged Brad Jorgensen (Harry Carey Jr.), Lucy's sweetheart and fiancee. Brad was crazed with grief, and believing that Lucy was still alive, he rode into the Indian camp and was shot to death. After many years, Martin attempted a daring rescue after he had located now-adolescent Debbie (Natalie Wood) in Scar's teepee - she had become one of the squaws of Comanche Chief Scar. During a daring pre-dawn rescue attempt, he shot and killed the Indian chief and then Ethan scalped his corpse. In the next dramatic scene, Ethan chased on horseback after Debbie - ostensibly to kill her, as Martin yelled out: "No, no, Ethan!" - as she ran down a hill and toward a cave, Ethan scooped her into his arms in one motion, lifted her into the air, and unexpectedly told her: "Let's go home, Debbie." The film concluded with a family reunion back at the Jorgensen frontier home where Debbie was delivered and welcomed home, and Martin was reunited with his long-suffering and patient fiancee Laurie Jorgensen (Vera Miles). During the gathering, everyone entered the Jorgensen home but Ethan. He did not enter the threshold of the house in the final image, although he was framed and isolated as a silhouette in the dark doorway - he grabbed his arm and watched as reunited friends and family entered the homestead. Then, he turned toward the desert behind him and ambled away as the door shut behind him. He was a tragic, 'cursed,' lonely, morally-ambiguous figure perenially doomed to wander and be an outsider.

The Ten Commandments (1956), 219 minutes, D: Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil B. DeMille's most spectacular and unequalled historical epic and also his last film (his 70th) was this 3 hour, 40 minute Technicolored film (divided into two parts with an intermission). It was the highest-earning live-action film of the decade of the 1950s until Ben-Hur (1959) toppled it. Considered a remake of DeMille's own 1923 silent film of the same name, however, its scope was narrowed to focus on the previous film's prologue to solely concentrate on the character of Moses. Throughout the film, director DeMille also served as the film's voice-over narrator. The film's title was mostly a misnomer, since the central subject was not The Ten Commandments, which appeared only in the film's concluding 20 minutes. The Ten Commandments was noted for great fire and brimstone scenes (with remarkable special effects) and its huge cast of characters, with a very appropriate tagline: "THE GREATEST EPIC OF ALL!" This commanding film was the epic account of the liberation of the Hebrew people from bondage by Egyptian prince Moses (Charlton Heston). He was born a Hebrew slave, and saved from an edict issued by Egypt's Pharaoh Rameses I (Ian Keith) to kill all newborn Hebrew males, by his mother Yoshabel (Martha Scott) who set him adrift, with help from Moses' sister Miriam (Olive Deering). Found in the Nile River as an infant in a reed basket, he was saved by the Pharaoh's daughter Bithiah (Nina Foch), a childless widow. Moses ("The Prince of Egypt") was then raised as an adopted foster son by Bithiah's brother, royal Egyptian Pharaoh Sethi I (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), in approximately the 13th Century BC. Appointed as an army general and chief supervisory architect, Moses helped in the construction of the giant pyramids for Sethi's Jubilee, fell in love with Princess Nefretiri (Anne Baxter), and was hated by his half-brother - Sethi's natural son, Rameses (Yul Brynner). Once it was discovered that he was born an Israelite through Bithiah's traitorous servant Memnet (Judith Anderson) who had kept Moses' Levite swaddling clothes, Moses was banished by Rameses. Moses returned to Egypt years later (after marrying and bearing a son with a Bedouin shepherd named Sephora (Yvonne De Carlo)) to free the slaves. He learned of his destiny to confront the Pharaoh and lead the Israelites in the spectacular Burning Bush scene on Mt. Sinai, when God instructed him to return to Egypt. During a series of confrontations with his nemesis Pharaoh Rameses II, Moses challenged the ruler with many deadly plagues, including only three that were visualized: turning the Nile blood red, fiery hail, and the death of the firstborn with a greenish smoke. Other plagues were only mentioned in the dialogue were lice, flies, sickness, boils, and three days of darkness. When the Pharaoh finally relented, Moses viewed the mass of Hebrews waiting to leave Egypt and exclaimed in the enormous crowd scene: "There are so many, so many." As the Hebrews reached the Red Sea, the Pharaoh had decided to pursue them by chariot. One of the most miraculous visual effects scenes in film history (in the pre-digital and CGI-era) was the parting of the Red Sea, prefaced by Moses' statement with outstretched arms: "The Lord of Hosts will do battle for us. Behold his mighty hand." An old man commented: "God opens the sea with a blast of His nostrils!" Other memorable scenes were dramatically enacted at Mt. Sinai including the creation and delivery of the Ten Commandments to Moses by the "finger of God" (fiery engravings upon rock tablets), and the orgiastic scene of the Hebrews worshipping the idolatrous Golden Calf during Moses' absence. The film concluded with the disobedient Hebrew peoples wandering in the desert wilderness for 40 years, and their approach to the Promised Land across the River Jordan, although Moses stayed behind to ascend Mt. Nebo alone.

Written on the Wind (1956), 99 minutes, D: Douglas Sirk
Acclaimed director Douglas Sirk's best film was this lush, psychosexual, trashy melodrama, adapted from Robert Wilder's novel, about wealth, greed and lust. It was a tempestuous, sordid and soap-opera-ish Technicolored tale about an unhappy declining, and self-destructive rich oil family in 1950s Texas. Under the title credits, weak, alcoholic, gun-loving Texas millionaire, oil heir and playboy Kyle Hadley (Oscar-nominated Robert Stack) was driving in an open sports-car while opening a bottle of alcohol with his teeth and swigging from it. After a murder sequence at the Hadley mansion, the film was told in flashback, moving from 1956 to 1955, signified by pages of a desk calendar blowing backward in time in the wind. As the ne'er-do-well son of Texas dynasty magnate Jasper Hadley (Robert Keith), Kyle had impulsively and recently married (with an elopement) a beautiful, level-headed NY ad agency executive secretary Lucy Moore (Lauren Bacall) who had been working on a Hadley Oil Company ad campaign. Kyle's sister Marylee (Oscar-winning Dorothy Malone) was portrayed as jealous, promiscuous, unstable and nymphomaniacal - she even confirmed that she was a tramp: "I'm filthy, period!" Marylee became infatuated with Kyle's best friend - handsome, successful, oil company geologist Mitch Wayne (Rock Hudson), and offered herself to the unattainable Mitch while riding in a car with him: "Do you love me, Mitch?... I don't want you as a brother...I'll wait, and I'll have you, marriage or no marriage." Kyle became suspicious of Mitch who had affection for Lucy - but only platonic. Kyle was stunned by a doctor's report (in a coffee shop/drugstore) that he was near-sterile with a low sperm count - afterwards, he walked outside and viewed a young boy on a rocking horse! Lucy expressed her concerns about her husband Kyle's heavy drinking to elder patriarch Jasper Hadley. She claimed that he was showing signs of personal demons, and becoming abusive, although he was unwilling to divulge the source of his torment. Kyle had returned to drinking after his devastating diagnosis; after seeing Kyle's return to degeneracy, his father Jasper told Mitch how he blamed himself for his children's short-comings. The lustful Marylee performed a provocative and very sexual mambo 'death' dance (dressed in a full-length, orchid pink negligee) in her bedroom (with a picture of Mitch in her arms) - symbolically intercut with Jasper Hadley having a heart attack and toppling down the full length of the Hadley mansion's spiral-curved staircase to his death. Afterwards, Marylee also fueled Kyle's anxious jealousy, suspicions of his own sterility, and urged his habitual bout with a bottle by lying about Lucy and her alleged affair with his best friend Mitch. The self-hating and suicidal Kyle manufactured mad and insane suspicions that Mitch and his wife Lucy were having an affair - he made a vicious attack upon Lucy when she became pregnant. He wrongly accused her of having been impregnated by Mitch. In the unfortunate altercation, Lucy miscarried. Roaring drunk, Kyle returned home and held Mitch at gunpoint while screaming at him about his betrayal; Kyle condemned Mitch for his past wrong-doings - stealing the love of his father, sister, and wife!; Mitch stoically denied any sexual involvement with Lucy, but couldn't convince Kyle otherwise (("I never touched Lucy, only because she's your wife"); he then informed Kyle about his lost child: ("Get this straight. The child would have been yours. Not mine. Yours"). Incensed, the abject Kyle again screamed "lousy white trash" and aimed the gun at Mitch to murder him, as Marylee lunged forward and struggled with him for the weapon; the gun accidentally fired and struck Kyle in his midsection. In the concluding scenes of the courtroom inquest into Kyle's death (and the question of Mitch's guilt or innocence), Marylee's testimony held Mitch's life in the balance. First, she blamed Mitch for Kyle's death, but then she told the truth about Mitch's pure intentions toward Kyle: "...he was worried about Kyle - as a brother for a brother." She concluded (the film's final line of dialogue) with words about her brother: "He was sad -- the saddest of us all. He needed so much and had so little." In the film's ending, Mitch and Lucy departed from the mansion; left alone in her father's office-study, Marylee (wearing a business suit) mimicked her father's pose (in front of his painted portrait) at her father's desk, as she clutched, caressed/fondled (with both hands) and smiled at the miniature bronze model of an oil rig derrick - a small, erect symbol of power, wealth, and comfort - it was a very striking, final sexually-phallic image.

The Wrong Man (1956), 105 minutes, D: Alfred Hitchcock
In this stark, film-noirish, documentary-styled crime drama, Stork Club string bass player and devoted family man Christopher Emanuel "Manny" Balestrero (Henry Fonda), living in the Jackson Heights (Queens) neighborhood of New York City, was mistakenly identified as a suspect for robberies (at gunpoint) at the Associated Life Insurance Company office - and police arrested him. He had visited the office to obtain a loan from wife Rose's (Vera Miles) policy, to pay for her expensive dental work. Detained and held for intense questioning for armed robbery without a lawyer (Manny called the grilling a "meatgrinder"), unusual coincidences caused police to believe that he was responsible for a string of robberies. The innocent 'everyman' Manny protested the charges, claiming he was "the wrong man." After being bailed out for $7,500 after a night in jail, inexperienced criminal attorney Frank D. O'Connor (Anthony Quayle) was hired to defend Manny. His alibi was that he was at a resort hotel with Rose during one of the robberies, but it couldn't be substantiated. Due to the stress of the case, Rose fell into depression, became totally apathetic, and was institutionalized in a mental hospital. During the trial, Manny was convincingly prosecuted, although it was judged a mistrial due to a juror's remarks. Meanwhile, the real robber was caught - his face closely resembled Manny's. The case was dismissed. In the film's epilogue, Rose was eventually cured two years later, and the couple moved to Florida.

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