The 1950s: a dull decade in Britain. In the 40s we won the war and built the NHS. Then we collapsed into a stupor until the Swinging Sixties could begin. British cinema reflected that decade without even an equivalent to the Suez crisis to liven things up. A stagnant industry produced bland comedies and identikit war films, while we all stayed at home and watched the telly.
At least that was the perception. Recently, the period has undergone a re-assessment. Though few critics are arguing for the artistic merits of the bulk of 50s production, many find the films give an insight into the social forces which simmered away underneath the surface of post-war consensus.
This book is the culmination of this re-assessment process and offers a comprehensive survey of the 50s film industry. The first chapter is an examination of the political support for the industry. Following chapters take a look at each major production company in turn and detail the personalities behind the company's output. After a quick look at the independents and occasional producers, it then devotes a chapter a piece to visual style, censorship and audience reception.
In these pages you can follow the declines of Balcon and Korda, the rise of Hammer, the arrival of the X certificate. Where it really scores strongly is in giving credit to people who don't normally appear in histories such as script editors, minor producers: names you see on the credits but never notice. It's also good at delineating the tensions within organisations and their results.
This book does for 50s cinema what Rachael Low's The History of British film did for pre-war cinema. If you need to know about the period, this is the place to start.
Pub: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 0 19 815934 X
Price: £65.00 (UK) $99 (US) hardback