UC Berkeley Library

Documentaries on the 1950's

The Trials of Alger Hiss

Documentary and factual review of the Whittaker Chambers-Alger Hiss controversy. Consists of archival film and interviews. 165 min

The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer

J. Robert Oppenheimer's life and legacy are inextricably linked to America's most famous top-secret initiative - the Manhattan Project. Embroiled in controversy during his lifetime he was forced to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he admitted that he had associations with the Communist Party in the 1930s, but he refused to name members. This biography presents a complex and revealing portrait of one of America's most influential scientists with commentary by his former colleagues and eminent scholars.

The Twentieth Century: A Moving Visual History: The 1950s

Brings the 20th century back to life through narration, rare photographs and stunning footage. Promoting the American dream: The U.S. solidifies its position as a world leader, while on the home front; the "traditional family" takes center stage. Milestones include: the arms race between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.; Senator Joseph McCarthy's "witch hunts"; the birth of the Civil Rights movement; the rising influence of television; and Rock 'n Roll and the conservative/religious reaction.

The Un-Americans

Between 1945 and the early 50's the lives of thousands of ordinary citizens were destroyed because they were accused of un-American activities. Teachers, writers, anyone who expressed a liberal opinion could be accused. In this film both the anti-Communists and the victims of the notorious McCarthy witchhunts talk candidly about the era of anti-Communist hysteria and blacklists.

The Unforgettable Fifties: The Newsreels 1: Human Interests.

Human Interests. A film on the popular culture of the 1950s beginning with footage of children followed by films of animals. Includes newsreels of beauty contests of children and women and concludes with novelties and popular entertainments like the circus, yo-yo games, water fights, car and boat shows, underwater boxing, and more. Contents: Kids of the fifties (13 min.) -- Animals of the fifties (16 min.) -- Ladies of the fifties (8 min.) -- Fun of the fifties (20 min.). 57 min. 1996.

The Unforgettable Fifties: The Newsreels 2: Disasters.

Presents disasters of the 1950's including the power of hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms, floods, earthquakes, avalanches, shipwrecks and landslides. Also includes newreel footage of airplane crashes, train wrecks and fire and gas explosions. Contents: Plane crashes of the fifties (13 min.) -- Train wrecks of the fifties (4 min.) -- Nature's fury in the fifties (22 min.) -- Shipwrecks in the fifties (5 min.) -- Fire in the fifties (8 min.) -- Landslides and explosions in the fifties (6 min.). 58 min. 1996.

The Unforgettable Fifties: The Newsreels 3: Inventions.

Starts with new items in underwater trucks and moves on to motorcycles, bicycles, moving sidewalks, elevators, robots and future cars. Includes new aviation and speed achievements in sky rockets, the B-47 and B-52 bombers, a car plane, helicopters and supersonic jets and the newest in speed boats, jet cars and boats and new kinds of weapons including tanks, rifles, jets, guided missiles and atomic submarines. Contents: Gadgets of the fifties (21 min.) -- Aviation news in the fifties (18 min.) -- Speed in the fifties (9 min.) -- Weapons of the fifties (9 min.). 57 min. 1996.

The Unforgettable Fifties: The Newsreels 4: Fashion.

Presents the world of international and domestic fashions in the 1950's in newsreels highlighting dresses, shoes, hats, swim wear, furs, lingerie, and sports wear. The latest in hair styles and the hottest clothing from Paris, Italy, England, France and the United States are revealed here to assist the ladies in keeping up with the seasonal style changes in fashions. Contents: International fashion scene (28 min.) -- United States fashion scene (29 min.). 57 min. 1996.

The Unforgettable Fifties: The Newsreels 5: Royalty.

Newsreels of royalty starting with the British Monarchs King George, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and The Queen Mother, including newsreel excerpts of the impressive coronation ceremony of young Queen Elizabeth. Next viewed are Prince Rainier and his wife, former film star Grace Kelly and their children. Queen Juliana of the Netherlands travels the world and addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress. Concludes with King Paul and Queen Frederica of Greece visiting New York, followed by brief looks at the royal life of Japan, Spain, Denmark and Austria.

The Unforgettable Fifties: The Newsreels 6: Faces.

Begins with newsreels of movie stars of the fifties in public appearances, traveling, at awards ceremonies and making public service announcements, four of them for U.S. savings bonds. Key world statesmen in newsreels are presented followed by major sports legends of the times and other famous faces including the mobster Frank Costello, Pope Pius XII, and a rare early view of the Dalai Lama of Tibet. / Contents: Stars of the fifties (36 min.) -- Leaders in the news (13 min.) -- Legends in the news (5 min.) -- People in the news (7 min.). 59 min.