UC Berkeley Library

Movies Set In or About the 1950's

Dead Poets Society (1989)

Directed by Peter Weir. Cast: Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles, Gale Hansen. English professor John Keating, in an age of crew cuts, sport coats and cheerless conformity, inspires his students to live life to the fullest, exclaiming "Carpe Diem, lads! Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary!" The charismatic teacher's emotionally charged challenge is met by his students with irrepressible enthusiasm--changing their lives forever. 129 min. Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database

Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)

Directed by Carl Franklin; featuring Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Jennifer Beals, Tom Szemore, Mauri Chaykin, Leon Lee. Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins is a decorated war hero who returns home to work as a private eye. His job of finding a missing socialite puts him between the white power elite and the vibrant black commumnity of Central Avenue. As soon as Easy and his trigger-happy friend Mouse find Daphne Monet, trouble follows. 101 min.

Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

Directed by Bruce Beresford. Cast: Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy, Dan Aykroyd, Patti Lupone, Esther Rolle. Set in Atlanta in the 1950's, a textile factory owner insists on hiring an ever-patient chauffeur for his aging head-strong mother. The Jewish woman and her African American driver eventually build a relationship over many years. 99 min. Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database

Ed Wood (1994)

Directed by Tim Burton. Cast: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette, Jeffrey Jones, Bill Murray. A stranger-than-fiction true story of the early career of Edward D. Wood, Jr., the undisputed worst movie director of all time. Wood was the auteur behind Glen or Glenda? and Plan 9 from outer space, and it is during the making of these two no-budget flicks that Wood is profiled.

Fellow Traveller (TV, 1989)

Directed by Philip Saville. Cast: Ron Silver, Hart Bochner, Imogen Stubbs, Daniel J. Travanti. In Hollywood during the 1950's, screenwriter Asa Kaufman reflects on his Communist associations and knows that he will soon be forced to testify before committees investigating "Un-American" activities. He can no longer find employment in Hollywood anyway, so decides to flee to England and get work there writing children's TV. Soon after arriving, he hears that his best friend since childhood, actor Clifford Byrne, has committed suicide.

Godfather II (1971-74)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Featuring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton, Lee Strasberg. The saga of two generations of successive power within the Corleone family continues with the roots and rise of a young Don Vito and the ascension of Michael as the new Don. 200 min. ; Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database See separate bibliography of reviews and articles about this film

Good Night and Good Luck (2005)

Directed by George Clooney. Featuring David Strathairn, Patricia Clarkson, George Clooney, Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey, Jr., Frank Langella. Takes place in the 1950's America, during the early days of broadcast journalism. It chronicles the real-life conflict between television newsman Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Grease (1978)

Directed by Randal Kleiser. An exuberant musical celebrating the 50's era of rock 'n roll centering around the romance between a teen-age gang leader, his naive girlfriend and other "hip" seniors at Ridel High School. Featuring: John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, Eve Arden, Frankie Avalon, Joan Blondell, Edd Byrnes, Sid Caesar, Alice Ghostley, Didi Conn, Jeff Conway, Sha-na-na. 103 min. Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database

Guilty by Suspicion (1990)

Directed by Irwin Winkler. Cast: Robert De Niro, Annette Bening, George Wendt, Patricia Wettig, Sam Wanamaker. Based on the McCarthy witchhunts of the 1950's, Guilty by Suspicion tells the story of the destruction of the career of a director- all he has to do to revive his stalled career is testify against friends who are suspected of being Communists. 105 min. ; Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database Reviews and articles: Hall,Jeanne.

Heart Beat (1979)

Directed by John Byrum. Cast: Nick Nolte, Sissy Spacek, John Heard. Part ode to the Beat Generation, part domestic comedy, this film, based on the memoirs of Carolyn Cassady, tells of her life with Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac. They were three unconventional people who thumbed their noses at the conventional 1950's, sharing a lifestyle that foreshadowed the social and sexual upheavals of the 60's. Based on the memoir Heart beat by Carolyn Cassady. ; Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database