Movies from the 1950s

A collection of scenes, people, lines, props, and other details from the movies of the 1950s.

Dial M for Murder

Dial M for Murder (1954)

Fans of Alfred Hitchcock will know where he makes his trademark director’s cameo in Dial M for Murder (1954), appearing in the photograph taken at Tony Wendice’s class reunion dinner.

But there may be another, more obscure cameo in this picture: the man sitting across the table from the director looks remarkably like Jimmy Stewart, who starred with Grace Kelly in Hitchcock’s other 1954 film, Rear Window.

It may be Ray Milland, who plays Tony Wendice, as the two actors do sometimes look similar, but the man in the photograph parts his hair on the right (like Jimmy Stewart), while Milland usually parted his on the left. Judging by the white aura around the figure, he also seems to have been added later as a cutout. (Perhaps by the same person who got a bit too enthusiastic when touching up Charles Swann’s cigar, just to make absolutely sure the viewer could see it.)

We’re pretty convinced it’s Jimmy Stewart, but until we know for sure, we’re filing this under ‘unconfirmed rumour’.

The Twilight Zone: Time Enough at Last

The Twilight Zone: Time Enough at Last (1959)

When bank teller Henry Bemis goes down to the bank vault for some peaceful reading in this Twilight Zone classic episode ‘Time Enough at Last’, he takes with him a newspaper that gives us a good quick explanation of what’s about to go seriously wrong with the world. The headline reads H-Bomb Capable of Total Destruction.

Not much might survive the subsequent apocalypse, but the newspaper itself shows up again, four episodes later, in ‘What You Need’. In this case, it’s the violent loser Renard who has the paper brought to him, hoping to use a mysterious fountain pen to divine the winners of the listed races.

The recurrence of the newspaper might be an in-joke by the programme’s makers, or just a handy reuse of a prop. As the latter episode continues into the evening, however, there’s no chance that the two episodes take place on the same day. (Unless Bemis is still carrying yesterday’s paper…)

The newspaper in The Twilight Zone: What You Need
The Twilight Zone: Judgment Night

The Twilight Zone: Judgment Night (1959)

In Judgment Night, an episode from the first series of The Twilight Zone, the British Ship SS Queen of Glasgow makes an ill-fated voyage through the dangerous waters of the Atlantic Ocean in 1942.

One odd omission from a British vessel is any mention of tea, and this isn’t entirely by chance. The original screenplay did call feature references to the British sailor’s favoured refreshment, but they were cut.

One of the sponsors at the time was General Foods, who were selling an instant coffee called Sanka, and they objected to this reference to a rival beverage. Eventually, one line was changed to a reference only to a ‘tray for the bridge’, and elsewhere, the characters are seen drinking only coffee.

The Twilight Zone: Where is Everybody?

The Twilight Zone: Where is Everybody? (1959)

In the first episode of The Twilight Zone, airman Mike Ferris stumbles around a deserted town, unable to either recall who he is, or work out where everybody else has gone.

The town itself should have been familiar to him, though perhaps not as much as it is to film viewers today. The episode was filmed in the Universal Studios backlot known today as Courthouse Square. The set was built in 1948 for An Act of Murder, and by the time this Twilight Zone episode had been filmed, it had already been used for the Ma & Pa Kettle films, as well as B-movies It Came from Outer Space and Tarantula (compare the picture above with the second photo in our post about Tarantula).

The square was later used in To Kill a Mockingbird (which led to it being known temporarily as Mockingbird Square), and in the eighties it appeared in Knight Rider and Gremlins and, most famously, the Back to the Future films, which gave it its current name. You can see the courthouse itself in the still below, albeit without the clock tower: like many features of the square, the clock has come and gone as needed by the various productions.

still showing Courthouse Square in Where is Everybody? (The Twilight Zone)
Bridge on the River Kwai

Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

The “Colonel Bogey March”, or “theme from the Bridge on the River Kwai” as it’s occasionally mistakenly called, began life in 1914, when it was pseudonymously written by Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts, inspired by a golfer and military man who would apparently give a two-note whistle in place of shouting ‘fore!’. Those two notes provide the beginning of each line of the melody.

It was originally a tune without lyrics, but people soon began to put words to it. Many informal sets of lyrics exist, but arguably the most famous, and the one that’s being referred to in Bridge on the River Kwai is “Hitler Has Only Got One Ball”.

Hitler has only got one ball,
Göring has two but very small,
Himmler is somewhat sim’lar,
But poor Goebbels has no balls at all!

(Director David Lean had originally wanted the soldiers to be singing the lyrics when they arrived in the camp, but they were considered to be too obscene, so the whistling was a compromise.)

It’s been suggested that these lyrics were originally written as propaganda by Tony O’Brien, who worked for the British Council, and originally had Göring with one ball and Hitler with the two little ones. There’s a huge number of different versions of the song, including extended versions, which are catalogued in dizzying detail on Wikipedia.

As you might imagine, Youtube isn’t exactly short of versions of the song either: see Colonel Bogey March.