BECK index
Movie Mirrors Index

More Movies from 1954

Movie Mirrors

by Sanderson Beck

Best Movies of 1954

Movie Mirrors Introduction

Abbreviations
 Title

Min.

c S M H P V En Ed
 About Mrs. Leslie 104   b  5  6  5      5  5
 Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, The 90   c  8  7  7      5  5
 Apache 88   c  5  4  5  3  5  5  5
 Athena 95   c  4  5  4  3  5  5  5
 Beachcomber, The 84   c  5  6  5      5  5
 Beachhead 90   c  5  6  4      5  4
 Belles of St. Trinian’s, The 91   b  6  7  5  6  6  5  3
 Bengal Brigade 87   c  4  4  4      5  5
 Bob Mathias Story, The 80   b  5  6        5  5
 Boy From Oklahoma, The 89   c  6  5  5      5  5
 Creature from the Black Lagoon 79   b  6  6  4  6  6  5  4
 Deep in My Heart 132   c  6  5  5  3  5  5  5
 Demetrius and the Gladiators 101   c  4  5  6  1  5  5  4
 Desirée 110   c  5  5  4  3  5  5  5
 Destry 95   c  5  5  5      5  5
 Detective, The 91   b  6  6  7 6 6  5 5
 Down Three Dark Streets 85   b  6  5  5    3  5  5
 Drum Beat 107   c  5  5  4  5  5  5  5
 Duffy of San Quentin 78   b    5        5  5
 Egyptian, The 139   c  4  4  5  4  5  5  5
 Elephant Walk 103   c  5  4  5  3  5  5  5
 French Cancan (French) 102   c  7  8  7  5  6  5  5
 Garden of Evil 100   c  5  5  5      5  4
 Gold of Naples, The (Italian) 138   b  7  6  4  6  6  5  5
 Green Fire 100   c  5  5  4    5  5  4
 Hell and High Water 103   c  5  5  5      5  4
 Her Twelve Men 91   c  5  6  4      5  5
 Journey to Italy (Italian) 83   b    6  6  5    5  5
 Jubilee Trail 103   c  5  5  5  3  5  5  4
 Last Time I Saw Paris, The 116   c  5  6  4  5  5  5  5
 Lease of Life 90   c  7  5  5      5  5
 Men of the Fighting Lady 79   c  5  6  4  6  7  5  5
 Naked Jungle, The 95   c  6  6  5  3  6  5  4
 Night People 93   c  5  6  4      5  5
 Phffft 88   b  7  6  4    5  5  5
 Prince Valiant 100   c  3  5  5  6  5  5  4
 Prisoner of War 91   b  4  4  4      5  5
 Pushover 88   b  6  5  5      5  4
 Raid, The 83   c  5  6  5      5  5
 Rebellion of the Hanged, The 82   b            4 5
 Rhapsody 115   c  4 5  4  5  5  5  5
 Riders to the Stars 81   c  5  5  5      5  5
 River of No Return 91   c  5  5  5  5  5  5  4
 Senso (Italian) 117   c  7  5  5    6  5  5
 Sign of the Pagan 92   c  4  5  4      5  5
 Silver Lode 78   c    5  4    5  5  4
 Sitting Bull 105   c  5  4  4      5  5
 Student Prince 107   c  4 4  4  7  5  5  4
 Suddenly 75   b  4  7  5  7  7  5  4
 Susan Slept Here 98   c  6  5  4  4  5  5  4
 Taza, Son of Cochise 79   c  4  5  4   4  5  5
 Tennessee Champ 73   c  5  5  4      5  4
 They Rode West 84   c  6  5  4      5  5
 Three Coins In the Fountain 102   c  5  6  6    6  5  5
 Three Hours to Kill 77   c  6  6     5  5  5
 Too Bad She’s Bad (Italian) 95   b  5  4        5  5
 Top Banana 84   c  6  6  5      5  5
 Twenty-Four Eyes (Japanese) 156   c       6  6  5  5
 Vera Cruz 94   c  5  6  6  5  5  5  4
 Witness to Murder 82   b  6  6  5      5  5
 Woman’s World 94   c  5  6  6  7  6  5  5

Abbreviations
b = black and white
c = color
S = Scheuer's rating
M = Maltin's rating
H = Halliwell's rating
P = Martin & Porter's rating
V = Videohound's rating
En = Beck's entertainment value
Ed = Beck's educational value

About Mrs. Leslie

(1954 b 104') En: 5 Ed: 5

Adapted from the Viña Delmar’s novel, Mrs. Leslie (Shirley Booth) runs a boardinghouse in Beverly Hills and gives advice to her tenants Nadine (Marjie Millar) and Lan (Alex Nicol) and to her neighbors, but she remembers the happy times she spent with the wealthy manufacturer George Leslie (Robert Ryan).

         This romantic drama depicts how a friendly relationship makes life feel more precious. Two people, who are among the many who do not find success in show business, hope that they can find happiness in a more humble life with each other. All this occurs within the context of another destructive war.

The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

(1954 c 90’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on the classic novel by Daniel Defoe and directed by Luis Buñuel, Robinson Crusoe (Dan O’Herlihy) survives a shipwreck and salvages things on a deserted island where he lives alone for more than twenty years before meeting the native Friday (Jaime Fernandez) whom he civilizes over the years.

            This version is based on the portion of the novel on the island and depicts how a 17th-century Englishman is able to survive with the help of tools. Though at first he treats the native as a slave, he learns to trust him and benefit from his skills.

Apache

(1954 c 88'') En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on the historical novel by Paul Wellman, after Geronimo is captured, the warrior Massai (Burt Lancaster) escapes from the train taking Apaches to Florida, meets the Cherokee Clagg (Ian MacDonald), and returns to the tribe of Santos (Paul Guilfoyle) and his daughter Nalinle (Jean Peters). Santos and Hondo (Charles Bronson) betray Massai, who thinks Nalinle did also. Massai and Nalinle try to escape from the soldiers led by Al Sieber (John McIntire).

         Director Robert Aldrich was persuaded to film two different endings and complained about the one they chose; but neither one reflected the true story, which is that Massai was never caught. Released soon after Brown v. Board of Education, Lancaster hoped this film would expose racism and America’s betrayal of human rights. This drama illustrates the point Martin Luther King often made that those who make nonviolent change impossible make violent revolution inevitable.

Athena

(1954 c 95') En: 5 Ed: 5

Crooner Johnny Nyle (Vic Damone) is being sued and goes to lawyer Adam Shaw (Edmund Purdom), who is engaged to Beth (Linda Christian). Athena Mulvain (Jane Powell) is a numerologist helping revive Adam’s peach trees. She says they are compatible, and she introduces Johnny to her sister Minerva (Debbie Reynolds). The sisters have been raised by their vegetarian Grandpa (Louis Calhern) and astrologer Grandma (Evelyn Varden), who approves both marriages.

         This innovative romantic musical comedy was about fifteen years ahead of its time, but one thing they did not realize then was the harmfulness of DDT. Most of society has still not caught on to the healthy ideas already apparent in this unusual film.

The Beachcomber

(1954 c 84') En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on a story by Somerset Maugham, Gray (Donald Sinden) replaces the governor on a tropical island colony and meets the pious missionaries Owen Jones (Paul Rogers) and his sister Martha (Glynis Johns) and incorrigible alcoholic, the Honourable Ted (Robert Newton), who likes the native women. When he does not take advantage of Martha on an island, she becomes enamored. Having helped an elephant, Martha later saves her life and Ted’s with a surprising result.

         In this dramatic comedy a miracle occurs because of an elephant’s ability to remember a person by smelling one’s breath. In an isolated situation a prude is contrasted to a wastrel, but facing death together they discover their common humanity.

Beachhead

(1954 c 90') En: 5 Ed: 4

Based on Richard Hubler’s novel, Sergeant Fletcher (Frank Lovejoy) and Burke (Tony Curtis) fight their way across a Japanese-held island, finding the French planter Bouchard (Eduard Franz) and his daughter Nina (Mary Murphy) along the way.

         This tense war drama is a nihilistic look at the terror of war barely relieved by an unexpected romance. Released soon after another Asian war in Korea, it reflects the futility of war with the prospect of another one (Vietnam) in the future, 1954 being the year the French were defeated at Dienbienphu.

The Belles of St. Trinian’s

(1954 b 91') En: 5 Ed: 3

Millicent Fritton (Alistair Sims) runs a school for girls that is broke and has discipline problems. When a Sultan sends his daughter Fatima there with £100 in spending money, their fortunes begin to change. Policewoman Ruby Gates (Joyce Grenfell) is sent undercover as a teacher. Chemistry lab is bottling gin for sale, and the girls discover secrets of the Sultan’s racehorse.

         This farce, in which Alistair Sims gives a remarkable performance playing a twin brother and sister, is hilarious in its depths of depravity. A cinematic fantasy allows people the release of seeing the rules that usually inhibit them being broken with impunity.

Bengal Brigade

(1954 c 87') En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on Hall Hunter’s novel, at the end of 1856 British officers of Indian soldiers are fighting rebels. Captains Jeffrey Claybourne (Rock Hudson) and Ronald Blaine (Dan O’Herlihy) are in love with Vivian Morrow (Arlene Dahl). Claybourne disobeys an order by Col. Morrow (Torin Thatcher) that would harm his soldiers but instead leads a charge. Claybourne is court-martialed and resigns. When the sepoy mutiny breaks out in 1857, all the British are in danger of being killed by Rajah Karam (Arnold Moss) and other Indians.

         This historical drama is a melodramatic war story, but the context explores the bitterness and oppression of British imperialism in India.

The Bob Mathias Story

(1954 b 80’) En: 5 Ed: 5

In 1948 Bob Mathias (himself) is helped by his high school track coach Jackson (Ward Bond) to prepare for the decathlon in the Olympic tryouts. Bob is supported by his father, Dr. Charles Mathias (Howard Petrie), and his mother Lillian Mathias (Ann Doran), and he is going steady with Melba Mathias (herself). Mathias wins the gold medal, plays football for Stanford, and competes in the 1952 Olympics also.

            This sports biopic is especially accurate with the two main characters played by themselves. Having suffered from anemia, the 17-year-old Mathias astounded the world by winning the grueling decathlon and by breaking the world record.

The Boy From Oklahoma

(1954 c 89') En: 5 Ed: 5

Tom Brewster (Will Rogers Jr.) is studying law, but attractive Katie Brannigan (Nancy Olson) helps persuade him to accept the position of sheriff offered him by Mayor Barney Turlock (Anthony Caruso). Brewster does not carry a gun and avoids violence; but he is handy with a rope and clever at investigating the murder of Katie’s father.

         This western portrays the Lincolnian wisdom and humanity of the sheriff as he cleans up the corruption in a western town, showing that the law can be enforced without excessive violence.

Creature from the Black Lagoon

(1954 b 79') En: 5 Ed: 4

Scientists Mark Williams (Richard Denning), David Reed (Richard Carlson), and Dr. Thompson (Whit Bissell) explore the Amazon River for fossils. David is accompanied by his fiancée Kay (Julie Adams), and he often quarrels with the aggressive leader Mark as they discover and struggle with a monstrous Gill Man who can breathe in water or on land.

         This classic horror film shows that the conflict between the two scientists makes it more difficult to overcome the monster, who represents a peculiar divergence of evolution.

Deep in My Heart

(1954 c 132') En: 5 Ed: 5

Adapted from the biography by Elliott Arnold, Sigmund Romberg (Jose Ferrer) becomes a successful composer for musical plays with help from Dorothy Donnelly (Merle Oberon), encouragement from Anna Mueller (Helen Traubel), and financing by Bert Townsend (Paul Stewart). Romberg woos Lillian Harris (Doe Avedon), and eventually they are married.

         This biopic shows the ups and downs in Romberg’s career while presenting some of his greatest songs. He begins by getting up to speed with ragtime, but at the end of his career the young consider him too operatic. Yet the romance comes through in his songs.

Demetrius and the Gladiators

(1954 c 101') En: 5 Ed: 4

In this sequel to The Robe the Christian Demetrius (Victor Mature) is in love with Lucia (Debra Paget), but he rebels against Emperor Caligula (Jay Robinson) and is made a gladiator owned by Claudius (Barry Jones) and his wife Messalina (Susan Hayward). Peter (Michael Rennie) tries to strengthen the faith of Demetrius, who strays.

         This fictional story contrasts the brutality of the Roman empire with the simplicity of the early Christians as the belief of Demetrius is challenged in many ways. Claudius seems foolish, but he is much wiser than the fiendish Caligula.

Desirée

(1954 c 110') En: 5 Ed: 5

Adapted from the historical novel by Annemarie Selinko, Napoleon Bonaparte (Marlon Brando) quickly falls in love with young Desirée Clary (Jean Simmons) and proposes to her. His brother Joseph marries her sister Julie, but to advance his career Napoleon marries Josephine (Merle Oberon). Desirée meets Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (Michael Rennie), and they fall in love and marry. As Napoleon increases his power and loses it, he retains his friendship with Desirée.

         The basic facts of this story are true. While her husband was becoming king of Sweden, Desirée did live in Paris. She and Bernadotte disagreed with the aggressive methods that Napoleon used to gain power and spread revolution. Napoleon ended up in exile, but Bernadotte became king of Sweden.

Destry

(1954 c 95') En: 5 Ed: 5

In this color remake of the 1932 Destry Rides Again a shorter Destry (Audie Murphy) appears to be young and immature; but when made a deputy by an alcoholic sheriff (Thomas Mitchell), he goes after a criminal boss (Lyle Bettger) by using intelligence rather than a gun. Finally in self-defense he shows that he can enforce the law.

         This classic western contrasts those who use guns and deceit to oppress others with an honest sheriff who prefers to solve problems without violence if he can. An analogous contrast is seen between the sensual entertainer (Mari Blanchard) who is complicit with the criminals and Martha (Lori Nelson) who falls in love with the good sheriff.

The Detective

(1954 b 91’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on stories by G. K. Chesterton, the Bishop (Cecil Parker) advised Father Brown (Alec Guinness) that the police will try to catch the thief Gustave Flambeau (Peter Finch) when he tries to steal a priceless cross that Brown is taking to a religious gathering. Brown is an amateur detective and prefers to use his own methods to persuade the thief to give up his wrong ways.

            This mystery story is a comedy as Father Brown uses his spiritual understanding to get to the root of crime in his sermons and in his actions.

Down Three Dark Streets

(1954 b 85') En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on the Gordons’ novel, FBI agent Ripley (Broderick Crawford) investigates three cases being handled by an FBI agent who was murdered. One involves a fugitive criminal (Joe Bassett) and his girlfriend Connie (Martha Hyer). In the second Vince Angelino (Gene Reynolds) refuses to implicate car thieves to protect his wife Julie (Marisa Pavin). In the third story the FBI follows Kate Martell (Ruth Roman), who is being threatened by an extortionist.

         This crime drama has some educational narration about FBI methods and reflects the increasing use of forensics and scientific techniques applied to criminology while it also keeps the audience entertained with a suspenseful plot and interesting characters.

Drum Beat

(1954 c 107') En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on a true story and written and directed by Delmer Daves, the Indian fighter Johnny MacKay (Alan Ladd) meets with President Grant (Hayden Rorke) and is sent as a peace commissioner to try to stop the violence of the Modocs led by Captain Jack (Charles Bronson). MacKay is accompanied by Nancy Meek (Audrey Dalton), who competes with the native Toby (Marisa Pavan) for his affection. War is provoked by Bill Satterwhite (Robert Keith) and Captain Jack, who kills General Canby (Warner Anderson).

         This western drama depicts the historical context of Captain Jack’s rebellion and murder of General Canby while the character of MacKay seems to be a fictionalized hero. President Grant did in fact insist on isolating the murderers and avoided a war of extermination, approving the death sentence only for Captain Jack and two others.

Duffy of San Quentin

(1954 b 78’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on Clinton T. Duffy’s autobiography, Duffy (Paul Kelly) is appointed temporary warden at San Quentin and implements liberal reforms in spite of advice from Boyd (Jonathan Hale). Edward “Romeo” Harper (Louis Hayward) is a troublesome prisoner who resents his unjust conviction. Duffy consults with his wife Gladys Duffy (Maureen O’Sullivan), and she recommends Anne Halsey (Joanne Dru) to be the prison nurse who is assisted by Romeo, and three others. Prosecutor John C. Winant (George Macready) is convicted and arrives where he sent 1,320 inmates including Romeo.

           This prison drama is a true story of the man who was warden (1940-52) and brought such liberal reforms as eliminating corporal punishment, improving food, vocational training, allowing an Alcoholics Anonymous program, desegregating the dining hall,  and starting a prisoner-run radio program and a newspaper.

The Egyptian

(1954 c 139') En: 5 Ed: 5

Adapted from the historical novel by Mika Waltari, the physician Sinuhe (Edmund Purdom) gains the servant Kaptah (Peter Ustinov). He begins by serving the poor and is loved by the waitress Merit (Jean Simmons), but he becomes physician to Pharaoh Akhenaton (Michael Wilding) and falls in love with the beautiful Nefer (Bella Darvi). Nearly ruining his life, Sinuhe and Kaptah flee during civil war. Sinuhe learns the Hittites have iron swords and brings one back to his warrior friend Horemheb (Victor Mature). As the peaceful Akhenaton is not defending Egypt, his sister Baketamon (Gene Tierney) urges Sinuhe to take over.

         This epic melodrama simplifies history to make broad philosophical points, forcing cynical political power into a confrontation with a monotheistic pacifism that foreshadows the teachings of the Christ. In fact young Tutankhamen was pharaoh for a while in between Akhenaton (r. 1380-63 BC) and the militaristic Horemheb (r. 1348-20 BC).

Elephant Walk

(1954 c 103') En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on Robert Standish’s novel, wealthy John Wiley (Peter Finch) visits England and marries Ruth (Elizabeth Taylor) to take her to his tea plantation in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). John and his English friends are dominated by the departed spirit of his father Tom, except for his foreman Dick Carver (Dana Andrews), who falls in love with Ruth. John is nearly as autocratic as his father Tom, who had the bungalow mansion built on the elephants’ path to water.

         This melodrama reflects the arrogance of British colonialism that imposes its will on the people and land they are exploiting. Ruth is thrown into this nightmare and would escape with Dick, but she is drawn in to help by humanitarian motives during the cholera epidemic. Somehow her independence and sacrifice precipitates the disaster that may free and redeem John from his father’s tyranny.

French Cancan

(French 1954 c 102’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Written and directed Jean Renoir, in the gay 1890s Henri Danglard (Jean Gabin) has a café in Paris where his mistress Lola (Maria Félix) is a belly dancer. He sees beautiful Nini (Françoise Arnoul) and persuades her to train to dance the can-can. She falls in love with Henri but attracts the love of Prince Alexandre (Giani Esposito). Henri opens the Moulin Rouge and presents a show that includes the singing of Eugénie Buffet (Edith Piaf) and concludes with the cancan.

This musical comedy is an entertaining story of a historic era in France that promoted a more modern form of dancing.

Garden of Evil

(1954 c 100') En: 5 Ed: 4

Former sheriff Hooker (Gary Cooper), gambler Fiske (Richard Widmark), and young Luke Daly (Cameron Mitchell) are heading for California gold fields but get stranded in Mexico, where attractive Leah Fuller (Susan Hayward) hires them and Vicente Madariaga (Victor Manuel Mendoza) to rescue her husband John Fuller (Hugh Marlowe) from his gold mine. His leg is broken, and they are attacked by Indians.

         This rugged western offers little hope in a desperate situation, suggesting that the more people try to get gold the more they put their lives at risk.

The Gold of Naples

(Italian 1954 b 138’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on six stories by Giuseppe Marotta and directed by Vittorio de Sica, Don Savrio Petrillo (Toto) rebels against a bully who dominates his life. Sofia (Sophia Loren) loses her ring while making pizza. The funeral procession for a dead child is followed by children. Count Prospero B. (Vittorio de Sica) is a compulsive gambler who loses to a clever boy. “Teresa” (Silvano Mangano) marries a wealthy gentleman but wants to leave. Don Ersilio Miccio (Eduardo de Filippo) sells his wisdom by giving people clever advice.

This comedy portrays life in Naples by depicting realistic but humorous incidents.

Green Fire

(1954 c 100') En: 5 Ed: 4

Rian Mitchell (Stewart Granger) finds an old emerald mine in Colombia, is saved by a priest (Robert Tafur), meets beautiful Catherine (Grace Kelly), and persuades his partner Vic (Paul Douglas) not to leave. However, the area is infested with bandits led by El Moro (Murvyn Vye).

         This adventure story treats much violence and killing with a cavalier attitude as the main character seeks wealth and love with confidence and perseverance.

Hell and High Water

(1954 c 103') En: 5 Ed: 4

Directed by Samuel Fuller, Professor Montel (Victor Francen) hires submarine captain Adam Jones (Richard Jones), attractive scientist Denise (Bella Darvi) and a submarine crew to foil an enemy plot using an atomic weapon in the northeast Pacific.

         This fictional action thriller reflects Cold War fears that an atomic war could break out between the superpowers. Its politics were so controversial that it was banned in France.

Her Twelve Men

(1954 c 91') En: 5 Ed: 5

Widow Jan Steward (Greer Garson) is a new teacher at a residential boys school and receives some assistance from the critical teacher Joe Hargrave (Robert Ryan). The boys give her a hard time, and she lacks experience; but gradually she wins them over with her ingenuity and love.

         This sentimental comedy explores the challenges of teaching boys who are separated from their parents and need a teacher who can fulfill both roles. She makes mistakes but learns from them and grows into her job.

Journey to Italy

(Italian 1954 b 83’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based generally on Colette’s novel Duo and directed by Roberto Rossellini, Katherine Joyce (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband Alex Joyce (George Sanders) drive to Naples to sell the villa of a deceased relative and find it difficult to relate spending more time together than usual and separate to do different things. They have no children and consider getting divorced.

            This classic example of Italian neo-realism was hailed as the first modern film by French director François Truffaut. The reserved English couple find the atmosphere and leisure in Italy cause them to examine their feelings toward each other and the emptiness of their marriage.

Jubilee Trail

(1954 c 103') En: 5 Ed: 4

Based on the novel by Gwen Bristow, Garnet Hale (Joan Leslie) and her husband Oliver Hale (John Russell) meet Florinda (Vera Ralston) in New Orleans, and they go to California along with John Ives (Forrest Tucker) and alcoholic Texas (Pat O’Brien); but Charles Hale (Ray Middleton) has made other plans for his brother Oliver.

         In this western two interesting women are the leading characters and create their own lives despite the violence of the men.

The Last Time I Saw Paris

(1954 c 116') En: 5 Ed: 5

Adapted from a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, G.I. reporter Charles Wills (Van Johnson) meets Marion Ellswirth (Donna Reed) and falls in love with her sister Helen Ellswirth (Elizabeth Taylor). They get married, and Marion weds Claude (George Dolenz). Their eccentric father James Ellswirth (Walter Pidgeon) gives them oil land that pays off. Charles writes novels that are rejected. Helen sees Paul (Roger Moore), and Charles sees Lorraine (Eva Gabor). Charles drinks, ruining his marriage. Charles returns to Paris hoping to get custody of his daughter Vicki (Sandy Descher).

         This drama explores the lives of Americans living in Paris after the war. Charles and Helen love each other but have difficulty connecting, resulting in tragedy. Charles realizes his errors and hopes to make it up with his daughter.

Lease of Life

(1954 c 90') En: 5 Ed: 5

The Reverend William Thorne (Robert Donat) learns he has one year to live and preaches a radical sermon suggesting that schoolboys ignore the rules and enjoy life. His daughter Susan (Adrienne Corri) has earned a music scholarship but needs money to live in London. So her mother Vera Thorne (Kay Walsh) “borrows” £100 in the care of William and criticizes her husband for risking his chance for a promotion.

         This religious drama probes ethical questions of values and responsibilities apart from rigid obedience to rules and laws. The prospect of death often stimulates a religious crisis as people begin to wonder what will come after death.

Men of the Fighting Lady

(1954 c 79') En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on a true story, US Navy pilots repeatedly attack a North Korean railroad. Lt. Commander Paul Grayson (Frank Lovejoy) likes to go in low and has to ditch into freezing water. Dr. Kent Dowling (Walter Pidgeon) helps morale. World War II hero Ted Dodson (Keenan Wynn) quarrels with Grayson and misses his family. Lt. Howard Thayer (Van Johnson) helps his buddy Ken Schechter (Dewey Martin) after he is blinded in combat.

         Dowling’s narration makes this drama more educational, and set during the Korean War in 1952 it depicts warfare in its current form. Unlike in World War II, the soldiers do not really understand why they are fighting. One officer’s comment that the bombs cost more than the targets they are destroying shows the irrationality of the war. In “primitive” New Guinea warriors stop fighting after one man is wounded. Yet in this war again the death count will be in the millions.

The Naked Jungle

(1954 c 95') En: 5 Ed: 4

In 1901 Joanna (Eleanor Parker) comes to the South American plantation of Christopher Leiningen (Charlton Heston) as his wife he has not yet met. He has been isolated and has no experience with women. He is especially disturbed when he learns that she was previously married. Although she tries to please him, he decides to send her back to New Orleans. However, a horrific invasion of soldier ants forces them to retreat, and they try to survive by surrounding his house with water.

         This adventure drama contrasts the wild jungle with a sophisticated woman who tries to sensitize a man who has brought civilization to natives by building his plantation.

Night People

(1954 c 93') En: 5 Ed: 5

An American soldier is abducted in Berlin and taken to the Russian sector. His powerful father Charles Leatherby (Broderick Crawford) uses his considerable influence to try to get him back. Col. Steve Van Dyke (Gregory Peck) lets Leatherby watch him work, using Hoffy (Anita Bjork) to get information and arrange a trade with help from his secretary (Rita Gam) and his aide Sgt. Eddie McColloch (Buddy Ebsen).

         This cold-war drama has an interesting if implausible plot in which the American officer works fast and loose to obtain his objectives. The mistrust of the Russians is strong, but will the Americans show that they are any more trustworthy?

Phffft

(1954 b 88') En: 5 Ed: 5

Lawyer Robert Tracey (Jack Lemmon) and his wife Nina (Judy Holiday) become bored with their marriage and divorce. Jack moves in with his best friend, Charlie Nelson (Jack Carson), who urges him to develop his personality and date Janis (Kim Novak) and others. Robert and Nina take dancing lessons and revive their romance doing the mambo together.

         This romantic comedy explores the feelings and the life-style changes that result from divorce, and the couple learns how to put the romance back into their marriage.

Prince Valiant

(1954 c 100') En: 5 Ed: 4

Based on the comic strip by Hal Foster, Prince Valiant (Robert Wagner) is a Christian Viking in exile with his father, King Aguar (Donald Crisp). Valiant is sent to Camelot, falls in love with Princess Aleta (Janet Leigh), and becomes the squire of Sir Gawain (Sterling Hayden). Valiant challenges Sir Brack (James Mason) and fights the pagan Vikings. Finally King Arthur (Brian Aherne) dubs Valiant a knight.

         This adventure story entertains with daring action and fighting more than in helping the weak. Chivalry is supposed to be right makes might; but usually when fighting is emphasized, might makes right.

Prisoner of War

(1954 b 81') En: 5 Ed: 5

Major O. D. Hale (Harry Morgan) sends volunteer Webb Sloane (Ronald Reagan) to parachute into North Korea to spy as a POW. He joins Jesse (Dewey Martin) as a collaborator for the Russian Col. Biroshilov (Oskar Homolka). Only his friend Cpl. Joseph Stanton (Steve Forrest) knows Webb is an agent, and other POWs are tortured into making false confessions.

         This war drama depicts Communist efforts in the recent Korean War to spread propaganda by brainwashing prisoners with Pavlovian methods. The film may have been intended to give a patriotic explanation for some of the Americans who decided to defect. Thus ironically the film shows Communists’ attempts at making propaganda and is itself a piece of American counter-propaganda.

Pushover

(1954 b 88') En: 5 Ed: 4

Adapted from Bill Ballinger’s novel, policeman Paul Sheridan (Fred MacMurray) in a stakeout falls in love with Lona (Kim Novak) while she is waiting for a bank robber. Paul’s partner Rick (Phil Carey) is smitten by her more wholesome neighbor Ann Stewart (Dorothy Malone). Lt. Carl Ecstrom (E. G. Marshall) wants the robber taken alive, but Paul is tempted by the beautiful blonde and the stolen $200,000.

         This tense film noir shows a woman and a cop, wanting each other and a large amount of money, fall into a moral decline. Three policemen find their work making them voyeurs, and only one of them maintains his integrity. The audience are voyeurs too, but we have the added perspective of observing the police as well.

The Raid

(1954 c 83’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Adapted from a historical novel by Herbert Ravenel Sass, in the fall of 1864 six Confederate prisoners escape to Canada. Major Neal Benton (Van Heflin) visits the town of St Albans in Vermont staying with the young widow Katie Bishop (Anne Bancroft) and later leads a raid against the town with Confederate soldiers. Lt. Keating (Lee Marvin) is an aggressive southern soldier while Captain Lionel Foster (Richard Boone) is a recruiting officer for the Union Army in the town.

This Civil War drama is based on actual incidents and plays out as a violent war drama in which the Confederates kill, rob, and destroy much of the town.

The Rebellion of the Hanged

(1954 b 82') En: 4 Ed: 5

Based on B. Traven’s novel, the peasant Candido Costa (Pedro Armendariz) carries his wife to a village; but she dies before he can raise money for an operation. Candido is nonetheless taken to work chopping down mahogany trees, accompanied by his children and sister Modesta (Ariadna Welter). The bosses and foremen treat the workers so cruelly that they eventually rebel and overthrow them during the Mexican revolution led by Madero in 1911.

         This Spanish drama is effectively dubbed in English and portrays the oppression and exploitation in Mexico that provoked the revolution.

Rhapsody

(1954 c 115') En: 5 Ed: 5

In this adaptation of Henry Handel Richardson’s novel, young and beautiful Louise Durant (Elizabeth Taylor) defies her detached father (Louis Calhern) and goes to a conservatory in Zurich to be near the violinist Paul Bronte (Vittorio Gassman), whom she hopes to marry. He asks her to let him spend time practicing and dallies with other women. Meanwhile poor James Guest (John Ericson) falls in love with Louise and becomes a successful pianist.

         In this romantic drama with a love triangle, classical music is the real star as it dominates the story and fills the air with melodious sound. Those who love this music will be well entertained by that alone while the emotional conflicts explore the balancing of personal relationship and the ambition of a career.

Riders to the Stars

(1954 c 81') En: 5 Ed: 5

Dr. Donald Stanton (Herbert Marshall) heads a project to train and send astronauts into space to investigate what protects meteors. He is assisted by attractive Dr. Jane Flynn (Martha Hyer), and after testing twelve men they choose Stanton’s son Richard (William Lundigan), Dr. Jerome Lockwood (Richard Carlson), and Walter Gordon (Robert Karnes) to go into space in three rockets.

         This science fiction drama is realistically presented based on what was known at the time and depicts the difficult task of scientists preparing astronauts for a very dangerous mission. This story clearly reflects the current interest in rockets and the possibility of sending humans into space, which did occur in the next decade.

River of No Return

(1954 c 91') En: 5 Ed: 4

During a western gold rush ex-convict Matt (Robert Mitchum) has sent for his son Mark (Tommy Rettig), who has been befriended by saloon-singer Kay (Marilyn Monroe). She has married the gambler Harry (Rory Calhoun), who has won a gold claim. After farmer Matt rescues Kay and Harry from a raft, Harry betrays Matt by leaving him without his horse or rifle. There follows an adventurous river-rafting trip until they meet again.

         This western melodrama depicts how persons at odds learn to care for each other in their desperate situation. The woman tries to reconcile with the selfish and violent man she had chosen while the other man seeks revenge. The contrived result is intended to show that when guns are in play, a gun may be needed to protect the innocent while punishing the violent.

Senso

(Italian 1954 c 117') En: 5 Ed: 5

Directed by Luchino Visconti, in 1866 Venice is occupied by the Austrian army, and the Italians are struggling for their independence. Married Countess Livia Serpieri (Alida Valli) tries to save her patriotic cousin Robeto Ussoni (Massimo Girotti) from a duel and falls in love with Austrian officer Franz Mahler (Farley Granger). In her passion she protects him, follows him, and even betrays the Italian cause for him.

         This romantic melodrama explores how the passionate love of a woman can be exploited by a womanizing man, causing both to lose their moral scruples and betray each other.

Sign of the Pagan

(1954 c 92') En: 5 Ed: 5

Captain of the guard Marcian (Jeff Chandler) is captured by the powerful Attila (Jack Palance) the Hun, but he escapes to carry his message to Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II (George Dolenz) and meets his beautiful sister Pulcheria (Ludmilla Tcherina). General Paulinus (Jeff Morrow) and Marcian persuade Pulcheria to replace Theodosius and become empress. She asks Marcian to be emperor, and he leads the army. Marcian goes to defend Rome, which is abandoned by its Emperor Valentinian III. Attila kills his daughter Kubra (Rita Gam) because she became a Christian; but he turns back from Rome. While fighting Marcian, Attila is killed by one of his wives.

         This drama changed the historical facts. Marcian was captured by the Vandal’s King Gaiseric, not Attila. Pulcheria was the older sister of Theodosius II, who was emperor for 42 years before he died in 450. Pulcheria was a life-long virgin and was later named a saint. When Marcian was chosen to succeed Theodosius, Pulcheria married him without consummating it. Attila invaded the Western Roman empire but never marched on Rome. He was going to attack the Eastern Empire because Marcian had stopped paying him tribute; but Attila died in 453 before he could, not in battle.

Silver Lode

(1954 c 78') En: 5 Ed: 4

Dan Ballard (John Payne) and Rose Evans (Lizabeth Scott) are about to be wed when Fred McCarty (Dan Duryea) and four gunmen arrive with a marshal’s warrant accusing Dan of murdering McCarty’s brother. People in town love and respect Dan, and Sheriff Wooley (Emile Meyer) says he will go with them to protect Dan. The people turn against Dan who stalls and tries to get evidence to prove he is innocent and that McCarty is a liar. The saloon girl Dolly (Dolores Moran) tries to help Dan.

         This western drama is intended to be an allegory of the McCarthy hearings that used government power to accuse people based on past associations. However, the situations are only roughly similar, and so it comes across as another western in which the saloon girl turns out to be helpful.

Sitting Bull

(1954 c 105') En: 5 Ed: 5

Major Bob Parrish (Dale Robertson) stands up for the human rights of the Sioux and is demoted several times. He is in engaged to Kathy Howell (Mary Murphy), but she is frustrated by his downward career and changes to reporter Charles Wentworth (William Hopper). Parrish and the black Sam (Joel Fluellen) try to arrange a peace conference with Chief Sitting Bull (J. Carrol Naish) and President U. S. Grant (John Hamilton); but Col. Custer (Douglas Kennedy) and Crazy Horse (Iron Eyes Cody) instigate war, and the latter defeats the former at the Little Big Horn. Parrish helps Sitting Bull and the Sioux escape retribution by moving north.

         In this fictionalized version surrounding a famous battle in 1876 Parrish, Sitting Bull, and Sam represent peacemakers who lessen the violence that is caused by the bellicose Custer and Crazy Horse and ultimately the greed of the gold-seekers and the imperialistic expansion of the United States.

Student Prince

(1954 c 107’) En: 5 Ed: 4

Based on a play by Wilhelm Meyer-Förster with music by Sigmund Romberg, to win over a princess in marriage King Ferdinand of Karlsberg (Louis Calhern) orders Prince Karl Franz (Edmund Purdom) to become “warm and charming.” Professor Juttner (Edmund Gwenn) and his body-servant Lutz (John Williams) take the prince to study at Heidelberg University where he stays in the inn of Joseph Ruder (S. Z. Sakall), falls in love with the bar-maid Kathie Ruder (Ann Blythe), and joins a non-aristocratic fraternity.
      This musical features the singing voice of Mario Lanza and entertains with the romance and fellowship the prince finds when he puts aside his royalty.

Suddenly

(1954 b 75') En: 5 Ed: 4

A hitman (Frank Sinatra) leads a gang paid to assassinate the US President, and they take over the home of Pop Benson (James Gleason), his widowed daughter-in-law Ellen (Nancy Gates), and her son Pidge (Kim Charney). They wound the Sheriff (Sterling Hayden) and prepare for the assassination.

         This tense drama explores the danger of assassination by a murderer who was trained to kill in the war, and it reflects the increasing security used to protect the leader of the American empire in a violent nation that has suffered several Presidential assassinations.

Susan Slept Here

(1954 c 98') En: 5 Ed: 4

Based on a play by Steve Fisher and Alex Gottlieb, middle-aged screenwriter Mark (Dick Powell) is given the homeless 17-year-old Susan (Debbie Reynolds) to help his writing and keep her out of juvenile detention. After one night of card-playing, they get married in Las Vegas and dance all night. He goes away for two months while she is advised by his secretary Maude (Glenda Farrell) and his friend Virgil (Alvy Moore). Mark’s rich former fiancée Isabella (Anne Francis) tries to win him back. Susan rejects an annullment, and Mark suspects Virgil got her pregnant.

         This romantic comedy plays on the age difference, contrasting his clever words with her wild actions. Because of current moral standards, a quick marriage skips past a romantic or sensual courtship. Ironically the honeymoon is spent apart, keeping the audience in romantic suspense to see how they will get together.

Taza, Son of Cochise

(1954 c 79') En: 5 Ed: 5

After the death of Cochise, in 1875 Taza (Rock Hudson) is in love with Oona (Barbara Rush) and tries to follow his father’s peaceful ways; but his brother Naiche (Rex Reason) and Oona’s father Grey Eagle (Morris Ankrum) favor Geronimo (Ian MacDonald) and provoke war. Taza in a cavalry uniform tries to enforce law on the San Carlos reservation, and he fights to try to bring about a peaceful settlement.

         This historical drama may not be exactly accurate, but it shows a Chiricahua Apache leader who opposed the warlike ways of Geronimo and tried to bring law and order to his people and peaceful accommodation with the white Americans in very difficult circumstances.

Tennessee Champ

(1954 c 73') En: 5 Ed: 4

Gambling boxing promoter Willy Wurble (Keenan Wynn) saves religious Daniel (Dewey Martin) from drowning and makes him into a boxer. Sarah Wurble (Shelley Winters) keeps her husband honest and looks out for Daniel, who becomes a successful boxer and refuses to fight when Willy fixes it.

         This dramatic comedy displays entertaining personalities and contrasts the wily Wurble with the innocent faith of Daniel as Sarah cares for both of them. Despite the brutal sport, no one gets hurt too badly.

They Rode West

(1954 c 84') En: 5 Ed: 5

A new Army doctor, Allen Seward (Robert Francis), arrives with pretty Laurie MacKaye (Donna Reed) to join a fort near a Kiowa reservation. Captain Blake (Philip Carey) has had bad experiences with doctors, and he is suspicious of Seward, who tries to help Kiowas also. Because of malaria Seward recommends they move away from the reservation. When they unite with the Comanches, a war with the fort causes the wounded cavalry to call Seward a “woodhawk” (traitor). After the soldiers also suffer malaria, his persistent efforts to help the Kiowa through Manyi-ten (May Wynn) and Laurie cause the Kiowa chief and Col. Ethan Waters (Onslow Stevens) to make peace and avoid the massacre of the cavalry.

         This unusual western portrays a humanitarian doctor caring for all human beings regardless of ethnic and cultural enmities and prejudices. Despite setbacks his courage and determination are able to develop mutual trust and bring about reconciliation.

Three Coins In the Fountain

(1954 c 102') En: 5 Ed: 5

Adapted from John Secondari’s novel, three American women in Rome hope to marry and fall in love. Secretary Anita (Jean Peters) has been prevented from dating translator Georgio (Rossano Brazzi) because of company rules; breaking them, they realize they love each other. Newcomer Maria tries to catch the prince Dino (Louis Jourdan) by pretending to agree with him. Frances (Dorothy McGuire) has been secretary for novelist Shadwell (Clifton Webb) for fifteen years, and they realize they cannot live without each other.

         This romantic comedy reflects the American sexual mores of the era in which women believe they need to be virtuous and hope to catch a husband to be respectable. Italian society is represented by a mother-loving playboy prince and a large family struggling in poverty.

Three Hours to Kill

(1954 c 77') En: 5 Ed: 5

Jim Guthrie (Dana Andrews) returns to a town where three years before a mob hanged him for a murder, but he escaped. Now he has to prove to the sheriff (Stephen Elliott) and Laurie (Donna Reed) who actually committed that murder.

         This western drama depicts the danger of a crowd jumping to a wrong conclusion and acting on it without the safeguards of a judicial trial. Yet the usual western climax of a shoot-out is used as the usual plot device, which is actually a poor way to try to determine who is right and who is wrong.

Too Bad She’s Bad

((Italian 1954 b 95') En: 5 Ed: 5

Taxi driver Paolo (Marcello Mastroianni) drives beautiful Lina Stroppiani (Sophia Loren) and two men to the beach, where they try to steal his car. He later sees Lina again and meets her father (Vittorio De Sica) and her familiy of thieves.

         This comedy reflects the rampant poverty in postwar Italy that causes many to turn to stealing for survival. They are dishonest but not violent, and the cab driver hopes he can reform the woman he loves.

Top Banana

(1954 c 84') En: 5 Ed: 5

In this filming of the play by Hy Kraft with songs by Johnny Mercer, Jerry Biffle (Phil Silvers) struggles to remain a “top banana” in television and theater by putting on a show with humorous one-liners and pretty girls. For publicity he suggests that his singer (Danny Scholl) elope, and his soap sponsor wants a show in which he does that for a couple each week.

         This time capsule of entertainment shows how burlesque influenced comedy and entertainment; but unfortunately much of the usual humor is lost in cleaning up the acts. The movie reflects the radical changes that are occurring in theater, film, and radio because of the new popularity of television.

Twenty-Four Eyes

(Japanese 1954 b 156’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on the novel by Sakae Tsuboi and directed by Keisuke Kinoshita, at an island school young Hisako Oisho (Hideko Takamine) teaches five boys and seven girls for six years and is warned not to talk like a red or to oppose war. She quits teaching to have three children. She continues to take an interest in her former pupils and is sad that so many men are killed in the war. After Japan has lost the war, she goes back to teaching and is given a party by her former pupils.

            This sentimental drama portrays a good teacher who cares deeply about her students and tries to advise them. Beginning in 1928 and ending in 1946, rural Japanese culture is depicted during its imperial phase that made boys want to be soldiers and which ended with their devastating defeat that brought peace.

Vera Cruz

(1954 c 94') En: 5 Ed: 4

In 1866 gunslinger Joe Erin (Burt Lancaster) and former Confederate Ben Trane (Gary Cooper) clash but become friends as they and other American mercenaries join the Mexican government forces led by Marquis Henri de Labordere (Cesar Romero) fighting for Emperor Maximilian (George Macready) against the Juaristas. They escort Countess Marie Duvarre (Denise Darcel), and pickpocket Nina (Sara Montiel) joins them. Finally after various double-crosses, Joe and Ben fight over what to do with the gold they stole.

         This western set during a Mexican revolution entertains with action and personality conflicts while violent Americans show contempt for Mexicans, reflecting how arrogant Americans have dominated their Mexican neighbors in history. Because Cooper was the bigger star he insisted that the script show his character as morally superior to the anti-hero played by Lancaster.

Witness to Murder

(1954 b 82') En: 5 Ed: 5

Cheryl Draper (Barbara Stanwyck) sees from her window a man strangling a woman to death, and she calls the police. Albert Richter (George Sanders) removes the body and acts innocently when the police detectives Larry Matthews (Gary Merrill) and Eddie Vincent (Jesse White) question him and look around. Finding no evidence, they disbelieve Cheryl, though Larry likes her and spends time with her. The police believe she dreamed it and increasingly treat her as a mental case while the Nazi Richter provides them with evidence to support their erroneous theory.

         This film noir is like a nightmare as Cheryl and the audience feel frustrated that she is not believed and that the detectives feel smug in their denials. This tense drama reflects a single career woman’s frustration when confronted with male arrogance that tries to persuade her that there is something wrong with her instead of going after the murderer. Some of this is hard to believe while increasing the dramatic tension. Yet in some cases reality as well as nightmares can be stranger than fiction.

Woman’s World

(1954 c 94’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Directed by Jean Negulesco, Ernest Gifford (Clifton Webb) owns an automotive company and is going to choose a new general manager from three outstanding district executives, and he intends to consider their wives also. Sid Burns (Fred MacMurray) and his wife Elizabeth (Lauren Bacall) are from Philadelphia and are on verge of a divorce because he works so much he has an ulcer. Bill Baxter (Cornel Wilde) and his wife Katie (June Allyson) are happily married with three children in Kansas City, and she is hoping he won’t get the job. Jerry Talbot (Van Heflin) and his wife Carol (Arlene Dahl) are from Dallas, and she is trying to seduce Gifford into picking her.

This drama explores the marital relationships tested by such an ambitious competition and the effect the job could have on their lives.

Copyright © 2009 by Sanderson Beck

Best Movies of 1954

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Sanderson Beck’s List of the Greatest Movies of All Time
Sanderson Beck’s List of the Greatest Movies in Alphabetical Order

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