UC Berkeley Library

Documentaries on the 1950's

Sex, Censorship and the Silver Screen: The 1950s and '60s

After World War II, the wholesomeness of American movies faced a tidal wave of change--from outside, as a growing number of provocative foreign films made their way to the U.S., and from within, as car culture flowered and drive-in theaters sprang up across the country. This program documents the period, from the birth of art house cinema to the ascent of boundary-busting American actresses such as Ingrid Bergman, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe and directors like Marlon Brando and Stanley Kubrick.

The Atomic Café

A documentary exploration of the United States government's propaganda promoting the atomic bomb. Relies on film clips of the 1940's and 1950's, including bits and pieces of propoganda films, newsreels, popular songs, and defense training films. Includes such issues as bomb shelters, atomic fallout and teaching children to "duck and cover." 1982. 92 min. ; Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database

The Best of See It Now

Contents: Korean War -- Desegregation in the South --Eisenhower/Taft election -- Quality of American schools -- Peacetime uses of atomic energy -- Discussion with the scentists who discovered nuclear energy -- Flying into the eye of Hurricane Edna -- Flooding of the Missouri River -- Conversation with Carl Sandburg -- Marian Anderson's goodwill tour of Asia -- Two American originals: Grandma Moses and Louis Armstrong. Edward R. Murrow; host, Mike Wallace. Hosted by Mike Wallace, this documentary presents original footage from the CBS See It Now television series in which Edward R.

The Century: America's Time: Best Years

Demobilization after World War II meant difficult changes as the U.S., geared up for war, resumed a peacetime existence. This program describes America's new status as a superpower, as the nation shouldered the responsibility for rebuilding Europe and Japan--and for containing Soviet ambitions. The challenge faced by veterans and spouses to become reacquainted after years of separation and hardship is highlighted. 45 min.

The Century: America's Time: Coming Apart; Picture This.

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.

The Cold War: After Stalin, 1953-1956.

Thaw is conceivable with Stalin's death. Khrushchev outmaneuvers Malenkov for power and visits the West. Germans, Poles and Hungarians attempt to rise against Soviet rule. In 1956, an uprising in Hungary is ruthlessly crushed by Soviet tanks. The United States, pledged to contain rather than overthrow communism, does nothing. 1998. 47 min.

The Cold War: Berlin, 1948-1949.

In Berlin, the American, British and French sectors form a Western enclave in the Soviet zone of divided Germany. In June 1948, the Soviets blockade the city, but the Western allies successfully airlift in supplies. In August 1949, Soviet scientists explode an atomic bomb, establishing nuclear parity between the two superpowers. 1998. 47 min.

The Cold War: Comrades, 1917-1945.

Though ideological enemies, the Soviet Union and the United States are allies against Hitler during WWII. At the end of the war, Europe is divided, and the one-time allies now confront each other knowing that the United States has the atomic bomb. 1998. 47 min.

The Cold War: Cuba, 1959-1962.

Khruschev decides, with Castro's agreement, to install short-range and medium-range missiles in Cuba, only 90 miles from the U.S. The United States detects the missile sites and blockades the island. The superpowers confront each other; but rather than embark on nuclear war, they each step back. 1998. 47 min.

The Cold War: Iron Curtain, 1945-1947.

The Soviet Union dominates Eastern Europe. Churchill warns of the consequences. Stalin insists that the governments of the Soviet Union's client states be pro-communist. Impoverished after the war, Great Britain opts out as a world power. The United States assumes the mantle of world leadership. 1998. 47 min.