MOVIE PALACES, TRAINS, CLASSIC CARS, SPORTS, DEPARTMENT STORES
Just the names conjure up memories:
Astaire, Garland, Bogart, Hepburn, Gable, Monroe
1951 - A Stellar Year for Hollywood Films
Memorable Dramas, Glorious Musicals, and Iconic Stars
The blockbuster spectacle, glittering musical, absorbing drama, frisky comedy, stylish film noir, haunting mystery, raucous western, and sci-fi thriller all lit up the screen in 1951. For less than $1.00, you saw the feature and often a second film (a double feature) plus a cartoon, newsreel, and ‘selected short subjects’ (might be a travelogue, a Disney nature film, or a ‘Pete Smith Specialty’). Dozens of iconic actors and actresses populated the galaxy of movie stars on the silver screen in the 1950s and the most popular movies of the year encompassed an unprecedented assortment of genres.
This page focuses on Movies in 1951. Click on the image above to see films from the entire decade of the 1950s.
Top Grossing Films of 1951
Quo Vadis (MGM) Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, and Peter Ustinov starred in this lavish Biblical epic. Set in Rome during Nero’s reign, it included 30,000 extras and the astonishing burning of the city.
Alice in Wonderland (Disney / RKO) Animated feature supervised by Walt Disney himself, combined elements from Lewis Carroll's ‘Alice's Adventures in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking-Glass.’
Show Boat (MGM) Glorious Technicolor musical starring Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, and Ava Gardner based on the Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II musical and the novel by Edna Ferber.
David and Bathsheba (20th Century Fox) In this historical epic, Gregory Peck stars as King David, adjusting to ruling as a King, and his relationship with Uriah's wife Bathsheba, played by Susan Hayward.
The Great Caruso (MGM) Set at the turn of the century, this biopic stars American tenor Mario Lanza playing his tenor idol Enrico Caruso. Ann Blythe and Dorothy Kirsten co-star as the two women he loves.
A Streetcar Named Desire (Warner Brothers) A dramatic adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ play, directed by Elia Kazan and starring Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden.
An American in Paris (MGM) This musical, inspired by George Gershwin’s composition, stars Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, and Oscar Levant. The film is set in Paris and was directed by Vincente Minnelli.
The African Queen (United Artists) Humphrey Bogart (who won the Academy Award for Best Actor) and Katharine Hepburn (who was nominated as Best Actress) star in this dramatic film classic.
A Place in the Sun (Paramount) Montgomery Clift is a working-class young man entangled with beautiful socialite Elizabeth Taylor and factory worker Shelley Winters in this dramatic film.
Strangers on a Train (Warner Brothers) Produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, this taut mystery masterpiece stars Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, and Robert Walker.
The 1951 Academy Awards
went to a variety of films
The MGM musical An American in Paris won the Academy Award for Best Picture and George Steven was awarded Best Director for A Place in the Sun.
Humphrey Bogart won his only Oscar for his portrayal of Charlie Allnut in The African Queen and Vivien Leigh won the Best Actress Oscar for her role as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Katharine Hepburn received her fifth Best Actress nomination in 1951 for The African Queen.
1951 Academy Awards
Best Picture: An American in Paris
also nominated:Decision Before Dawn, A Place in the Sun, Quo Vadis, A Streetcar Named Desire
Best Director: George Stevens for A Place in the Sun
also nominated: John Houston for The African Queen; Elia Kazan for A Streetcar Named Desire; Vincente Minnelli for An American in Paris; William Wyler for Detective Story
Best Actor: Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen
also nominated: Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire; Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun; Arthur Kennedy in Bright Victory; Frederick March in Death of a Salesman
Best Actress: Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire
also nominated: Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen; Eleanor Parker in Detective Story; Shelly Winters in A Place in the Sun; Jane Wyman in The Blue Veil
Best Supporting Actor: Karl Malden in A Streetcar Named Desire
also nominated: Leo Genn in Quo Vadis; Kevin McCarthy in Death of a Salesman; Peter Ustinov in Quo Vadis; Gig Young in Come Fill the Cup
Best Supporting Actress: Kim Hunter in A Streetcar Named Desire
also nominated: Joan Blondell in The Blue Veil; Mildred Dunnock in Death of a Salesman; Lee Grant in Detective Story; Thelma Ritter in The Mating Season
Best Original Song: ‘In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening’ from Here Comes the Groom
also nominated: ‘A Kiss to Build A Dream On’ from The Strip; ‘Never' from Golden Girl;‘Too Late Now’ from Royal Wedding; ‘Wonder Why’ from Rich, Young and Pretty
There was an incredible array of film genres in the fifties
Outstanding dramatic films, Decision Before Dawn, A Place in the Sun, and A Streetcar Named Desire, were all 1951 Academy Award nominees;
Riveting mysteries, thrillers, and detective stories, including the Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece, Stranger on a Train, kept audiences spellbound;
Epic, sweeping action/adventure spectacles, like Quo Vadis and David and Bathsheba, were breathtaking on the new wider screens;
There were memorable, haunting, critically acclaimed science-fiction movies;
The western was an extremely popular genre all through the 1950s, with heroes John Wayne, Clark Gable, Roy Rogers, and Randolph Scott;
The amusing comedies from outstanding writers and directors captured the comedy timing of Cary Grant or Spencer Tracy, the foolishness of the screwball farce, or the slapstick antics of Jerry Lewis;
The frothy light drama films always had a happy ending, while the heart- warming sentimental drama brought the audience to tears;
The armed forces provided material for military combat films that tended to glorify battlefield heroes and idealize their stories;
Stylized, low-key, black-and-white film noir (French for ‘black film’) crime melodramas featured cynical, hard-boiled attitudes and sexual motivations;
Splashy, musicals starred Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, and Fred Astaire; Plus there were documentaries, travelogues, nature films, and serials.