UC Berkeley Library

Documentaries on the 1950's

Call It Home.

A pictorial history of suburban development planned by developers, government agencies and savings and loan companies. Begins at the time of the Depression (1929-1940) and concludes with the 1960's. Includes garden cities and Levittowns and financial, real estate and building industries. Maps show racial segregation. Depicts the mutual influence of highways and urban sprawl. And ends with interior design and Special features: 17 rare film clips from advertising, industrial and government films.

Can the Rosenberg Case Be Reopened?

A historical review of the Rosenberg treason case, followed by interviews with one of the Rosenberg's two sons and two civil rights attorneys about the legal possibility of re-opening the case. They discuss the complex legal issues involved and the continuing efforts to force the FBI to unseal their extensive files of the case. Videocassette release of a film originally televised in 1957. Interviewer: Robert Cohen. Robert Meeropol (Son of Rosenberg), Ben Margois (attorney), Luke McKissack (Attorney). 86 min.

Chinatown Files

A documentary exploring the legacy of McCarthyism on the Chinese American community. For the first time, Chinese American men and women who were hunted down, jailed and targeted for deportation speak out on how they and their friends were investigated and persecuted by government agents during the McCarthy witch-hunts of the fifties. At the height of the hysteria, thousands of Chinese immigrants and American citizens of Chinese descent were investigated because of their ethnicity and alleged risk to national security.

Chronicle of an American Suburb

Presents the history of Park Forest. Ill., a suburb that came into being after World War II. Includes interviews with people who were the first residents of the town as well as their children who grew up there. Directed, written & edited by H. James Gilmore. 2002. 58 min.

Coming Apart: Picture This. (Century: Events that Shaped the World; 10.)

In the late 1940's, while the Soviet Union and the U.S. eyed each other over the Iron Curtain, conservative Americans at all levels of society worried about communist infiltration--especially in the movie industry, since that medium plays a huge role in shaping public perceptions and attitudes. This program reveals a time of McCarthyism and career-ending blacklists, a time when freedom of speech itself became a casualty in the desperate fight to protect democracy from "The red menace." 43 min.

Committee on Un-American Activities

The first film by a private citizen which criticizes a US government committee, includes 1930s footage of House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) Chairman Martin Dies (D) of Texas attacking "subversives" in labor unions; the Hollywood Witch Hunts; the Cold War blacklistings; and the 1960 San Francisco hearings. The film contains an analysis of how the HUAC subpoened the newsfilms of the City Hall protests from TV stations KRON & KPIX and used federal facilities to edit them into "Operation Abolition.

Current Events 1950s Style, II.

Contents: Plymouth news caravan (4/18/55) -- Plymouth news caravan (4/20/55) -- You can change the world (1952) -- The White House Story (1961). A compilation of television news programs from the 1950s and 1960s. Includes two episodes of Plymouth news caravan, an early television news program produced by NBC with host John Cameron Swayze. You can change the world is a promotional program for the Christophers, a movement that tried to recruit good people into jobs important to society such as education. Jack Benny and other Hollywood stars show their support for the movement.

Current Events, 1950's Style: 1951/1952.

Contains: Nixon's "Checkers" speech (9/23/52) -- See it now (12/23/51) -- See it now (2/24/52) -- See it now (6/29/52). In the "Checker's speech" Richard Nixon responds to accusations of receiving illegal campaign contributions. See It Now produced in the 50s by CBS, though not television's first public affairs program, was surely its most significant. Hosted by Edward R. Murrow, it was the first public affairs show to use its own film footage instead of newsreel; no interviews were rehearsed and it pioneered the use of field producers, who supervised the filming on location.

David Halberstam's The Fifties Part 1: The Fear and the Dream.

First segment in a six part series on the United States in the Fifties. In the postwar U.S., new affluence mingled with the fear of the new menace of communism. Film discusses the conditions encountered by WWII veterans, the building of the first housing tract, the development of the nuclear arms race and the hydrogen bomb, anti-Communist hysteria and McCarthyism, events leading to the Korean War and the development of popular literature in the 50's focusing on Mickey Spillane. 90 min.