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Documentaries on the 1950's

45/85: America and the World Since World War II

v. 1. From the jubilation of V-J day to the shocking Rosenberg Trial, 1945-1952 -- v. 2. From the invention of television to the first steps in space, 1953-1960 -- v. 3. From the Kennedy era to the final U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, 1961-1975 -- v. 4. From America's bicentennial celebration to the Geneva summit, 1976-1985. 213 min.

A Crime to Fit the Punishment

In 1956, during the height of the Cold War and despite severe pressure from McCarthy ravaged Hollywood and the U.S. government, blacklisted filmmakers joined together to create the controversial pro-union semi-documentary Salt of the earth. This film investigates the background and political atmosphere surrounding the film's production through interviews with the film producer Paul Jarrico and actors, newsreels from the '50s, and clips from the film. 1992. 46 min.

An American Ism, Joe McCarthy.

Uses archival film segments and interviews with friends, business associates, and politicians to provide a film biography of Joseph McCarthy. 1980. 84 min. [preservation copy];

An Interview with Ring Lardner, Jr.: The Blacklist Years [sound recording]

Ring Lardner Jr. talks about his years as one of Hollywood Ten and about the investigation by the Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947. Los Angeles, Calif.: Pacifica Tape Library, [1983?]

Arguing the World.

Traces the lives of four of the 20th century's leading thinkers, Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, Irving Howe and Irving Kristol. They have been disagreeing with a vengeance since they studied together at New York City College in the 1930s. This film traces their early idealistic days, their controversial role in the McCarthy era, their battle with the New Left in the sixties, and their vastly differing political views today. A film by Joseph Dorman. 1997. 84 min.


A chronicle of the rise and fall of queer cult photographer Robert Henry Mizer, creator of the popular 1950's magazine Physique Pictorial. A blend of fact and fiction, Beefcake focuses on the 1950's world of male-physique magazines and Mizer's Athletic Model Guild. Written and directed by Thom Fitzgerald. 1999. 93 min.

Brave New World, 1945. (The Peoples' Century )

Just over fifty years ago, Soviet and American troops met at the River Elbe and rejoiced at the defeat of Nazi Germany but their optimism was short lived. This film tracks the building tensions between these two superpowers, from the post-war world of the late 1940s through the early 1960s, as the hope for peace swiftly disintegrated into a "cold" war. Here eyewitnesses recall the meeting on the Elbe, the impact of Stalin, Churchill and Khrushchev, propaganda wars between the two nations, the Berlin blockade, the Hungarian uprising and the installation of the Berlin Wall. 1998. 56 min.

Breaking the Blacklist. [Sound Recording]

This documentary explores blacklisting in the entertainment industry in the U.S. in the 1940's and 1950's. 1998. 56 min.

Building the American Dream: Levittown, NY.

Discusses the history of the housing development Levittown, New York, the first suburb that was made up of tract houses which established the prototype for modern suburbia. Tracing the period from 1947 to the present day, the film includes rare archival footage and photos, an interview with William Levitt and the reminiscences of numerous Levittown residents. The film also shows how a policy of racial discrimination prevented blacks from buying the homes and traces the subsequent collapse of Levitt's construction empire. c1994. 60 min.