UC Berkeley Library

Documentaries on the 1950's

David Halberstam's The Fifties Part 2: Selling the American Way.

Still haunted by the Great Depression, Americans needed to be coaxed into enjoying their new-found affluence. This episode shows how the invention of television and the perfection of the art of advertising were used in both commerce and politics. Highlights advertising gurus Norman Vincent Peale and Rosser Reeves, shows how Richard Nixon applied slick new media techniques to save his career and how Washington learned to manipulate the media, hiding undercover operations in places like Iran, Guatemala and ultimately, Vietnam. 50 min.

David Halberstam's The Fifties: Part 3: Let's Play House.

This segment describes the personal unrest sometimes felt in the outwardly tranquil fifties, including dissatisfaction with women's roles as housewives and men's roles in the corporate rat race. Feminist Betty Friedan, Sloan Wilson, author of The man in the gray flannel suit, and Grace Metalious, whose steamy novel Petyon Place exposed small-town hypocrisy, are discussed as representative of the gap between the idealized nuclear family of the 1950s and the way things really were. 50 min.

David Halberstam's The Fifties: Part 4: A Burning Desire.

During this time of social claustrophobia and sexual taboos, a handful of individuals brought a world of suppressed desires into the open. The publication of the famed "Kinsey Report", pin-up girl Marilyn Monroe, Hugh Hefner's Playboy, and Margaret Sanger's crusade for the pill are profiled as key movements that set the stage for the sexual revolution to come. 50 min.

David Halberstam's The Fifties: Part 5: The Beat.

This episode shows how the culture of the Beats and the rise of rock 'n' roll helped forge the youth culture that would explode in the sixties. Focuses on Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, jazz greats Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, the rise of country/rock and Elvis Presley. 50 min.

David Halberstam's The Fifties: Part 6: The Rage Within and The Road to the Sixties.

"The Rage Within" shows how America in the fifties is finally forced to examine issues of racial discrimination through the murder of Emmet Till, the rise of athletes like Bill Russell and Willie Mays, school desegregation, the Montgomery bus strike, and leadership by Martin Luther King, Jr. "The Road to the Sixties" shows American involvement with fast cars, fast food, the space race, the rise of Fidel Castro in Cuba and a rising restlessness as the country hurtles toward the next decade. 50 min.

Dawn of the Eye: Inventing Television News, 1946-1959; History of Film and TV News, 1946-1959

At first no one knew quite what to do with television news until radio news veterans like Edward R. Murrow introduced controversial subjects and the public began watching in droves. The Senate anti-communist hearings conducted by Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s drew thousands to their TV sets each day. Political conventions in the U.S. entered prime time while Korean War correspondents covered American servicemen in Korea and Canadian journalism followed American television techniques in convering their political campaigns. 47 min.

December 7th & This is Korea.

Two documentaries by John Ford. December 7th is a documentary on the Pearl Harbor attack during WWII with real and recreated footage. This is Korea (1951) is a documentary of U.S. propaganda to bolster sagging morale during the Korean War. 83 min.

Doing Justice: The Life & Trials of Arthur Kinoy.

A biography of the civil rights lawyer, Arthur Kinoy, from his attempt to stay the executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, through the civil rights movement, to the unanimous Supreme Court decision on wiretapping. 1993. 51 min.

Edward R. Murrow Collection: The McCarthy Years.

Narrated by Walter Cronkite, this documentary turns back the clock to the 1950s, a time when the country lurched into a murky period of blacklists and witch-hunts for alleged communists, all led by a young Senator named Joseph McCarthy. Murrow made a controversial series of broadcasts that challenge McCarthy's abuses of power, which -- as this program investigates -- signaled the emergence of television news as a highly influential force in American life.

Elvis '56.

Contents: Music featured: Hush little baby -- Baby what you want me to do -- Blue Suede Shoes -- Good Rockin' Tonight -- Heartbreak hHotel -- Shake Rattle and Roll -- Baby Let's Play House -- Tutti Frutti -- My Baby Left Me -- Blue Moon -- Hound Dog -- He's Only a Prayer Away -- Lawdy Miss Clawdy -- Don't be Cruel -- Trying To Get to You -- Anyway You Want Me -- Ready Teddy -- Love Me Tender -- Peace in the Valley -- Love Me.