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Hidden Values: The Movies of the Fifties (2001)

TV Movie  |   |  Documentary  |  4 September 2001 (USA)
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This documentary was broadcast on the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable channel to kick off the presentation of films related to TCM's theme of the month for September 2001. Actors Lee Grant... See full summary »

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Title: Hidden Values: The Movies of the Fifties (TV Movie 2001)

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Cast overview:
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Himself - interviewee
Molly Haskell ...
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This documentary was broadcast on the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable channel to kick off the presentation of films related to TCM's theme of the month for September 2001. Actors Lee Grant and Paul Mazursky, producer Roger Corman, director John Carpenter, film critic Molly Haskell, and journalist Peter Biskind discuss the issues involved in six films of the 1950s. Topics include teenage loneliness, youth rebellion, changing gender roles, and the beginning of the sexual revolution. Written by David Glagovsky <>

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4 September 2001 (USA)  »

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Good Idea Deserving Follow-Up
7 June 2010 | by (Claremont,USA) – See all my reviews

Reviewer Elliot is right—this is a decent enough look at some hidden values within some popular movies of the 50's. Of course, a 50-minute time frame doesn't allow for much depth or breadth among the sample films. Nonetheless, the documentary succeeds by simply pointing out that movies are more than entertainment, that they convey values, sometimes overt, sometimes covert, and that the audience may not be aware of the values being conveyed. As an obvious example, how many of us matinée kids were aware of the value assumptions common to Roy Rogers-Gene Autry oaters of the time. The fact that they pleased us (good always triumphs, heroes are never ugly, etc.) makes them no less assumptions and no less behavior shaping.

I wish the choice of films were more adventurous than it is. Again, reviewer Elliot is right-- the text here is a familiar one centering mainly on restless youth themes from The Wild One (1953) to The Blackboard Jungle (1955) to Rebel Without a Cause (1955). So, likely only a newcomer to movies of that decade will hear anything new. A couple of observations—why not a movie or two exemplifying popular assumptions of that decade, instead of the strictly iconoclastic ones. That is, why not films dramatizing such popular, unexamined values as happiness through conformity (usually comedies) or the sanctity of the law (usually Westerns) or that war can be fun (the many WWII comedies). I would argue that these themes define the decade much more so than the iconic Deans, Brandos, or Taylors.

Then too, why have Roger Corman comment generally without having him comment specifically on the values of his own 50's films, which appear to convey an important anti- nuclear theme (mutant monsters). And while we're at it, why not comment on the patriarchal theme running through the Dean film instead of the over-worked teen angst angle. After all, Dean's character seems to think that things would be fine if Dad just knocked Mom around a bit more.

None of this is meant to discredit this well-intentioned documentary. It is meant to indicate how important the topic raised by this film is and not just to films of that particular decade. For raising hidden values to a conscious level remains an important way of examining not only our times, but ourselves as well.

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