1950s

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

There are few Golden Age Hollywood directors as willing to embrace the comical leading power of his female stars as Howard Hawks, but it is through Marilyn Monroe’s powerfully mesmeric screen presence carrying vibrant musical numbers and hilarious visual gags that Gentlemen Prefer Blondes becomes all the more flamboyantly intoxicating.

The Band Wagon (1953)

In bringing narrative tension to a classic Broadway revue of disconnected musical numbers, The Band Wagon lands as a boisterous examination of failure and success in the entertainment industry, rolling along with zeal while Vincente Minnelli’s exhilarating camerawork brings propulsive dimensions to that which unfolds onstage.

Shane (1953)

The looming Wyoming mountains form a majestic backdrop to George Stevens’ story of Western ranchers, gunmen, and sensitive melodrama in Shane, its vast landscapes containing a masterfully staged exploration of a modern America’s dwindling need for classical action heroes in favour of a new, civilised society of stability and prosperity.

Imitation of Life (1959)

It is an unusual family portrait that Douglas Sirk paints in Imitation of Life, foregrounding two pairs of single mothers and daughters struggling against the 1950s American patriarchy, racial prejudices, and each other, their expressive sensitivities flourishing to form delicate cinematic paintings of privilege and social adversity.

Written on the Wind (1956)

All the money and oil in Texas can’t save the Hadley family from its own self-sabotage, and in following their downfall in Written on the Wind, Douglas Sirk crafts an eloquent Southern Gothic tale of bitterness, envy, and impotence, matching its colourful melodrama with an equally affecting visual style.

Magnificent Obsession (1954)

Any instance where pure goodness and elegant beauty wins out over insensitivity in Magnificent Obsession is infinitely precious to a soft-hearted melodramatist like Douglas Sirk, as his leading of a spoiled playboy down a path of moral rehabilitation poetically transforms him into an image of the selfless man whose death he indirectly caused.

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