BECK index
Movie Mirrors Index

More Movies from 1956

Movie Mirrors

by Sanderson Beck

Best Movies of 1956

Movie Mirrors Introduction

Abbreviations
 Title

Min.

c S M H P V En Ed
 Anything Goes 106   c  5  4  5  3    5  5
 Ambassador’s Daughter, The 103   c  5  5  5  5  4  5  4
 And God Created Woman (French) 88   c  5  5  4  4  5  5  4
 Bandido 92   c  5  6  4      5  4
 Beyond a Reasonable Doubt 80   b  7  5  5  5  4  5  5
 Bundle of Joy 99   c  5  5  4  4  5  5  4
 Crime in the Streets 91   b  6  5  5    4  5  5
 Death of a Scoundrel 119   b  4  5  5  5  5  5  5
 Diane 110   c  4  5  4  3  4  5  5
 Early Spring (Japanese) 144   b  7  6  5      5  5
 Eddy Duchin Story, The 123   c  5  4  4  4  4  5  5
 Elena and Her Men (French) 98   c  5  4    5  6  5  4
 Fastest Gun Alive, The 89   b  5  6  5  5  6  5  4
 Finger of Guilt (The Intimate Stranger) 95   b    5  5      5  5
 First Texan, The 82   c  4  5  4    3  5  5
 Foreign Intrigue 100   c  6  5  4      5  4
 Gaby 97   c  5  5  4      5  5
 Good-Bye, My Lady 95   b  5  5  5  5  4  5  5
 Great Locomotive Chase, The 85   c  4  6  5  6  5  5  5
 Helen of Troy 115   c  6  4  4    3  5  4
 Jubal 101   c  5  6  4  6  6  5  4
 Last Hunt, The 104   c  5  6  4  6  6  5  5
 Love Me Tender 90   b  6  5  4  5  4  5  4
 Man from Del Rio 83   b  4  4  4   4  5  4
 Man Who Knew Too Much, The 120   c  7  5  5  5  5  5  5
 Meet Me in Las Vegas 112   c  5  5  4  4  4  5  4
 Miracle in the Rain 108   b  5  5  6      5  5
 Mountain, The 105   c  5  5  5  5  4  5  5
 Opposite Sex, The 116   c  6  6  4  4  4  5  5
 Our Miss Brooks 85   b  5  5  4    5  5  4
 Proud and Profane, The 111   b  6  5  4      5  5
 Proud Ones, The 94   c  6  5  4      5  4
 Ransom! 102   b  5  5  5      5  5
 Reach for the Sky 105   b  7  5  5    5  5  5
 Rebel in Town 78   b  6  4  4      5  5
 Reprisal! 74   c  5  5        5  4
 Run for the Sun 99   c  4  6  4  6    5  4
 Seven Men From Now 78   c  6  6  4      5  4
 7th Cavalry 76   c  6  5  4  3  5  5 5
 Spanish Gardener, The 96   c  6 6  4    6  5  4
 Storm Center 86   b  5  3  4      5  5
 Swan, The 108   c  6  6  5  5  6  5  5
 There's Always Tomorrow 84   b  6  5  4      5  5
 These Wilder Years 91   b  5  5  4      5  5
 Toward the Unknown 115   c  5  5  4      5  5
 Tribute to a Bad Man 95   c  6  4  4  7  6  5  5
 23 Paces to Baker Street 103   c  6  6  5   5  5  4
 While the City Sleeps 100   b  6  6  4  4  6  5  5
You Can’t Run Away from It 95 c 4 4 4 5 4

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

Anything Goes

(1956 c 106’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Adapted from a play with seven songs by Cole Porter and three by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn, Broadway star Bill Benson (Bing Crosby) is teaming up with TV star Ted Adams (Donald O’Connor) in a musical play. Bill hires Patsy Blair (Mitzi Gaynor) to play the lead, but Ted gives French Gaby Duval (Jeanmaire) a contract too. On a boat trip Patsy falls in love with Ted while Gaby dotes on Bill.

            This musical entertains with fine songs, much dancing, some comedy, and a newly devised plot that puts business and romantic concerns at odds with each other.

The Ambassador’s Daughter

(1956 b 103') En: 5 Ed: 4

In Paris the American ambassador Fisk (Edward Arnold) has a daughter, Joan Fisk (Olivia de Havilland), who is engaged to Prince Nicholas (Francis Lederer), and they attend a charity fashion show with their friends, Senator Jonathan Cartwright (Adolphe Menjou), Mrs. Cartwright (Myrna Loy), and General Harvey (Minor Watson). American soldiers Sgt. Danny Sullivan (John Forsythe) and Cpl. Al O’Connor (Tommy Noonan) are looking to pick up women. Joan decides to find out if these men are overly seductive, and she falls in love with Danny.

         This mildly amusing comedy of manners portrays the Americans in Parisian culture. The basic male motivation comes from the soldiers who are sexually deprived while in the army trying to make up for it while on leave. Despite American democracy there is a clear class distinction between the GIs and the elite ambassador and senator and their families.

And God Created Woman

(French 1956 c 88’) En: 5 Ed: 4

Beautiful young Juliette (Brigitte Bardot) lives on a small island with a family of three brothers. She is attracted to Antoine Tardieu (Christian Marquand), but she overhears him talk about her as only a “one-night stand.” So she marries his brother Michel Tardieu (Jean-Louis Trintignant). The wealthy and older Eric Carradine (Curd Jurgens) is also attracted to her; but she prefers the younger men, and he restrains himself.

         This drama reflects the coming sexual revolution in which a woman can choose the man she wants and then make another choice. This picture was condemned by the Catholic Church's Legion of Decency, but it was enormously popular and made Bardot a universal symbol of sexual appeal.

Bandido

(1956 c 92’) En: 5 Ed: 4

Set in 1916 during the Mexican Revolution, gun-dealer Kennedy (Zachary Scott) accompanied by his wife Lisa (Ursula Thiess) is trying to sell weapons to the regulares forces fighting for the government. Wilson (Robert Mitchum) seems to be in it for himself, but he favors the revolutionaries led by Escobar (Gilbert Roland). Lisa is not getting along well with her husband and becomes interested in Wilson.

         This adventure portrays the carnage of a revolutionary war and the dangers of those who try to make a profit selling arms to either side. In this deadly game many pawns suffer along with the more powerful.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

(1956 b 80’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Newspaper editor Austin Spencer (Sidney Blackmer) wants to show that a jury will convict an innocent person on circumstantial evidence, and he persuades the young novelist Tom Garrett (Dana Andrews) to plant evidence against himself so that the ambitious district attorney Roy Thompson (Philip Bourneuf) will convince a jury to convict him of a murder. Austin Spencer’s daughter Susan is engaged to Tom, but he asks her to postpone their wedding while he writes his second novel about this. Austin is killed in an accident, and the photos showing how they contrived the evidence are destroyed.

         This unusual film noir has a surprising and shocking ending (not revealed here) as it explores the dangers of capital punishment when an ambitious prosecutor builds a strong case from circumstantial evidence that jurors may not resist with any reasonable doubt. Yet this drama produces a contrary effect that implies criticism against those who advocate against capital punishment, and because of this even the director Fritz Lang said he hated this movie. Yet in an era (2009) when innocent people in Texas are being put to death because courts and the governor refuse to re-open their cases, this contrived and shocking drama is extremely poignant. Perhaps that feeling will help people to realize that there is something seriously wrong about the state killing people to teach people that killing people is wrong.

Bundle of Joy

(1956 c 99’) En: 5 Ed: 4

Pretty young Polly Parish (Debbie Reynolds) picks up a baby on the steps and is taken for the mother. She is fired from a department store, fends off wolfish Freddie Miller (Tommy Noonan), and gets her job back from owner Dan Merlin (Eddie Fisher), who falls in love with her. His father, J. B. Merlin (Adolphe Menjou), thinks he is the grandfather and is happy.

         This musical remake of the 1939 hit comedy Bachelor Mother updates the story to the more affluent 1950s and adds songs that are not particularly memorable. Yet the comedy still works as the baby seems to have a mystical ability to bring people together through love.

Crime in the Streets

(1956 b 90’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Tough gang leader Frankie Dane (John Cassavetes) is obeyed in a revenge murder plot by Lou (Mark Rydell) and Angelo Gioia (Sal Mineo), who is also called “Baby.” Mrs. Dane (Virginia Gregg) works hard and has become afraid of 18-year-old Frankie while still loving her 10-year-old son Richie (Peter J. Votrian). Social worker Ben Wagner (James Whitmore) tries to help the troubled youth in the slum neighborhood.

            This realistic drama depicts the rebellious youth who feel lost in a poor neighborhood and try to find some meaning by banding together. The social worker is able to help the leader because of his own previous experience and insight into what caused the leader to become a bully.

Death of a Scoundrel

(1956 b 119’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Written and directed by Charles Martin, Clementi Sabourin (George Sanders) has survived a concentration camp and finds his girlfriend Zina (Lisa Ferraday) has married his brother Gerry (Tom Conway). Sabourin uses devilish methods to get to New York and make money. He sees Bridget Kelly (Yvonne de Carlo) pick up the wallet of an oil man (Victor Jory). Sabourin gets the wallet and uses that as a way to buy stock with help from Max (Gabriel Curtis). Sabourin persuades Mrs. Ryan (Zsa Zsa Gabor) to invest also. He likes her secretary Stephanie (Nancy Gates) and gets her a leading role in a Broadway play. Mrs. Ryan introduces him to society, and he goes after the pretty wife (Coleen Gray) of the rich Van Ranasslear (Curtis Cooksey). Having committed fraud, he is about to be caught and tries to get his mother (Celia Lovsky) to lie about his birth. Many people hate him, and he decides to give the money back; but it is too late for him.

         This melodrama portrays the consequences of a Machiavellian con man who uses his persuasive skill to manipulate others so he can make money while trying to seduce pretty women. For a while he seems successful; but eventually it all comes apart because crooked ways eventually bring about their own downfall.

Diane

(1956 c 110’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Diane de Poitiers, the Countess de Breze (Lana Turner) offers her virtue to King Francis I (Pedro Armendariz) so that he will pardon her husband Louis (Torin Thatcher), and she is made the tutor of young Prince Henri (Roger Moore). He falls in love with her but marries Catherine de Medici (Marisa Pavan), who becomes jealous, especially after Henri II becomes king.

         This historical drama portrays the politics and customs of the era, and it is generally accurate with the major exception that Diane sacrificed her virtue to save her father, not her husband. She was twenty years older than Henri, but she did overshadow Catherine in the King’s affections until his death in a tournament when she was banished to her estate.

Early Spring

(Japanese 1956 b 144’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu, young office worker Shoji Sugiyama (Ryo Ikebe) is married to Masako Sugiyama (Chikage Awashima). Their life seems to be routine and without passion, but he has a brief love affair with Goldfish (Keiko Kishi) on an outing his wife declined to attend. Their older friend Onodera (Chishu Ryu) writes a letter to Masako. She discusses the affair with her husband, and they are reconciled to living away from the city for three years.

            This drama portrays the conformity and passionless lives in postwar Japan which is becoming prosperous gradually by working hard to achieve material success.

The Eddy Duchin Story

(1956 c 123’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Wealthy decorator Marjorie Oelrichs (Kim Novak) helps piano player Eddy Duchin (Tyrone Power) get his first job. He becomes successful, and Lou Sherwood (James Whitmore) becomes his agent. Eddy introduces Marjorie to his parents, and they decide to marry. She fears the wind and separation and dies after giving birth to their son Peter. Marjorie was raised by Sherm (Shepherd Strudwick) and Edie Wadsworth (Frieda Inescourt), and they raise Peter while Eddy tours playing piano and then joins the Navy during World War II. Eddy returns to New York and finds that Chiquita (Victoria Shaw) has been taking care of Peter too. He gets to know his son, learns he has a terminal illness, and marries Chiquita. Peter has learned to play piano well also, and he takes up where his father left off.

         This bittersweet biopic portrays a successful musician who had the good fortune to find two beautiful women to love and have a successful career but the misfortune to have a limited lifespan. The dramatic story is filled with pleasant piano music and poignantly reflects the mortality that we all face.

Elena and Her Men

(French 1956 c 98’) En: 5 Ed: 4

Directed by Jean Renoir, Polish princess Elena Sokorowska (Ingrid Bergman) leaves her man and needs money. So she decides to marry rich Martin-Machaud (Pierre Bertin). She goes to a Bastille Day review for General François Rollan (Jean Marais) and meets Count Henry de Chevincourt (Mel Ferrer). He courts her, and introduces her to the General who has become Minister of War. She has a Marguerite flower she uses as a talisman and is persuaded to influence the General, whom some want to become a dictator.

         This French farce presents a fantasy in Paris displaying men and women in love and dallying with politics. While set in the late 1880s after France’s defeats by Germany, the politics also reflects the current situation with General Charles de Gaulle.

The Fastest Gun Alive

(1956 b 89’) En: 5 Ed: 4

Outlaw Vinnie Harold (Broderick Crawford) calls out a gunslinger to prove he is the fastest gun, and in the duel he kills him. In another town storekeeper George Temple (Glenn Ford) is feeling lousy, and he argues with his wife Dora (Jeanne Crain) who says she does not want to run away anymore. George does not carry a gun; but when he gets drunk, he shows Harvey (Allen Joslyn) and others how fast and accurately he can shoot. Vinnie with his two partners robs a bank and kills a man. Then they are chased by a posse. Eventually Vinnie hears that George is the “fastest gun alive,” and he challenges him to a duel too.

         This western shows a man who is trying to hide his reputation so that he can avoid gun-slinging duels. According to his wife, George feels guilty because he has not avenged his father’s death; but this feeling leads to more dueling. Can he escape by pretending he was killed in a duel, or will some gunslinger find out about him again? This drama reflects an American culture of gun violence so extreme that a man is questioned and treated with contempt simply because he does not carry a gun.

Finger of Guilt (The Intimate Stranger)

(1956 b 95’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Directed by Joseph Losey, film editor Reggie Wilson (Richard Basehart) had to leave Hollywood because of women trouble and has become a producer in London and married the daughter Lesley (Faith Brook) of studio head Ben Case (Roger Livesey). Reggie is receiving letters from desperate Evelyn Stewart (Mary Murphy) who claims they were lovers. Reggie loves his wife and tries to solve the problem.

This unusual mystery suggests a psychological problem, portrays the film business, and has a complicated plot.

The First Texan

(1956 c 82’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Having resigned as governor of Tennessee, Sam Houston (Joel McCrea) arrives in San Antonio. He meets Jim Bowie (Jeff Morrow), William Barrett Travis (William Hopper), and Stephen Austin (Dayton Lewis). Their meeting is broken up by soldiers, and lawyer Houston defends them in court. He rents an office from Henry Delaney (Wallace Ford) and falls in love with his daughter Katherine (Felicia Farr). Davy Crockett (James Griffith), Bowie, and Travis are killed at the Alamo. The Texans elect Houston commander of the independence fighters, and he manages to help them achieve a military victory over President General Santa Ana (David Silva).

         This simplified history portrays a wise and bold Houston who led the Texas revolutionaries to a victory that enabled them to form a republic independent of Mexico. Houston did divorce his wife in Tennessee and later remarried, but the romance in this film is fictionalized.

Foreign Intrigue

(1956 c 100’) En: 5 Ed: 4

Dave Bishop (Robert Mitchum) is working for a wealthy man who dies of a heart attack. He tells the wife Domenique Danemore (Genevieve Page) and learns the situation is very mysterious because Danemore often traveled to Vienna. Bishop investigates and eventually finds out his employer was a blackmailer, and Bishop falls in love with Brita (Ingrid Thulin).

         This thrilling mystery drama is intriguing and reflects a society in which some who have become rich may have secrets to hide in order to protect their reputations.

Gaby

(1956 c 97’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Adapted from Robert Sherwood’s play, in London in 1944 the American soldier Greg Wendell (John Kerr) meets the French dancer Gaby (Leslie Caron) on the street and sees her in the ballet. He persuades her to go out with him, and that night they agree to marry. He does not have permission, and she refuses to stay with him the next night. He goes to France on D-Day, and she learns that he was killed. In guilt for not letting him stay with her, she gives herself to other soldiers she fears may die soon. When he comes back wounded, she is too ashamed to marry him and tries to leave. He gets her to tell him why. She runs off, and he follows her to tell her he loves her.

         This romantic drama depicts the powerful and carefree emotions and passions that are aroused in war time when death is so present and real. Unlike the tragic ending in the 1940 movie Waterloo Bridge, this adaptation reflects a more optimistic time after the war has been won.

Good-Bye, My Lady

(1956 b 95’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on the novel by James H. Street, Young Claude (Brandon De Wilde) is being raised by his uncle Jesse Jackson (Walter Brennan) in a poor cabin in the South. Claude finds a basenji dog and trains him. Storekeeper Mr. Cash (Phil Harris) informs Jesse of an ad for the lost dog, and their friend Gates (Sidney Poitier) sends a telegram for them to the owner. Walden Grover (William Hopper) arrives and offers Claude a reward for the valuable dog.

            This sentimental drama depicts the country life of the poor who live close to nature. The uncle has taken in his nephew and raises him with honest values.

The Great Locomotive Chase

(1956 c 85’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on a true story, James J. Andrews (Fess Parker) has been spying for the Union Army, and in 1862 he leads a group of soldiers led by Corporal William Pittenger (John Lupton) dressed as a civilians, and they go into Georgia and steal a Confederate train to disrupt a main railway line. Confederate train conductor William A. Fuller (Jeffrey Hunter) leads the effort to catch them.

This Disney production follows the history closely and depicts heroics on both sides, but neglects to portray how some of the Unionists managed to escape after the prison break, which might make another interesting movie.

Helen of Troy

(1956 c 115’) En: 5 Ed: 4

Based on Homer’s epic poem, The Iliad, Trojan king Priam (Cedric Hardwicke) sends Paris (Jacques Sernas) to visit Sparta for peace, but prophetic Cassandra (Janette Scott) warns against war and is considered insane. Paris is shipwrecked, falls in love with Helen (Rossana Podesta) , and escapes with her to Troy. Her husband Menelaus (Niall MacGinnis) and the Greeks want revenge. Agamemnon (Robert Douglas) takes command while wily Ulysses (Torin Thatcher) seeks control as an advisor. The Greeks mobilize a massive army on a thousand ships. The war drags on for ten years, and the two greatest warriors Hector (Harry Andrews) and Achilles (Stanley Baker) are killed. Finally the Greeks capture and plunder Troy.

         This ancient war drama emphasizes the adulterous romance of Paris and Helen that provokes the legendary conflict. When Helen goes back to the Greeks, their true motive of plundering Troy is exposed. Homer’s great poem reflects the warlike character of the Greeks who founded the powerful traditions of western civilization that are still corrupted by greed and the massive violence of war used to procure material abundance.

Jubal

(1956 c 101’) En: 5 Ed: 4

Based on a novel by Paul I. Wellman, cattle rancher Shep Horgan (Ernest Borgnine) hires Jubal Troop (Glenn Ford), who is immediately hated by hostile Pinky (Rod Steiger). Shep’s wife Mae (Valerie French) ends her affair with Pinky and tries to seduce Jubal. Shep likes Jubal and makes him foreman. Jubal allows a religious wagon train to rest on the ranch land over Pinky’s objection. Pinky tries to make Mae jealous of Naomi (Felicia Farr) of the wagon train and Shep jealous of Jubal, leading to misunderstandings and violence.

         This western set in Wyoming shows how a hostile cowboy can cause a mess of trouble and how a woman on a ranch can become desperately lonely after marrying a man she does not love. The integrity of Jubal and the kindness of the religious leader offer a contrast to the hatred of the hostile of the cowboy.

The Last Hunt

(1956 c 104’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Adapted from Milton Lott’s novel, set in 1883 after millions of buffaloes had been killed, Charlie Gilson (Robert Taylor) persuades the veteran buffalo hunter Sandy MacKenzie (Stewart Granger) to be his partner, and they hire experienced Woodfoot (Lloyd Nolan) and the young Indian Jimmy (Russ Tamblen) as skinners. Charlie loves killing and hates Indians, and he and Sandy get into a conflict over an Indian girl (Debra Paget).

         This realistic western drama depicts the actual killing of buffalo and the violent attitude of a cowboy involved in their slaughter to make money off their hides, exposing how so many buffalo were wiped out so quickly, leaving the Indians without the food they needed.

Love Me Tender

(1956 b 90’) En: 5 Ed: 4

At the end of the Civil War the Confederate officer Vance Reno (Richard Egan) and his two brothers Brett (William Campbell) and Ray (James Drury) and others rob the Union payroll delivered by a train. Learning the war is over, they divide the money and go home. Vance’s younger brother Clint has married Vance’s fiancé Cathy (Debra Paget), and Vance hides his love for her from Clint. Union soldiers come looking for the money, and some of the men want to keep it, causing a tragic conflict.

         This western drama entertains with four songs sung by Elvis and a plot that shows how the war can continue on when hostility and rapacity still exist.

Man from Del Rio

(1956 b 83’) En: 5 Ed: 4

In the western town of Mesa the young Mexican-American David Robles (Anthony Quinn) gets revenge by killing Dan Ritchie and is welcomed by retired gunfighter Ed Bannister (Peter Whitney), who wants to dominate the town. Robles is treated for his wound by Doc Adams (Douglas Fowley) and Estella (Katy Jurado), who do not like gunslingers. After Ed’s gunslinger friends bully Sheriff Jack Tillman and try to molest Estella, Robles intervenes and kills three of them. Tillman resigns, and a town meeting votes to hire Robles for $100 a month. Breezy (Whit Bissell) is the town drunk, and Robles comes into conflict with Ed.

         This under-rated western depicts how gun-fighting can spoil a town and shows how self-destructive that activity can be.

The Man Who Knew Too Much

(1956 c 120’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Dr. Ben McKenna (James Stewart) and his wife Jo (Doris Day) are visiting Marrakesh, where they meet Louis Bernard (Daniel Gelin), who is murdered and while dying warns Ben of an assassination in London. The McKenna’s son is abducted to keep him from talking, and they try to get him back.

         This thriller portrays an American couple caught up in a political intrigue they know nothing about, reflecting the typical American isolation and ignorance of what is going on in the rest of the world. Yet the Americans show initiative and manage to solve their problem by their own efforts.

Meet Me in Las Vegas

(1956 c 112’) En: 5 Ed: 4

In Las Vegas a gambling rancher (Dan Dailey) discovers that a ballerina (Cyd Charisse) is his lucky charm, and they win much money. They fall in love and visit his mother (Agnes Moorehead) on the ranch. When her manager (Paul Henreid) shows up, they wonder if they can make a marriage work.

         This star-studded musical comedy displays the Las Vegas entertainment scene with songs, pretty women, and dancing.

Miracle in the Rain

(1956 b 108’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Ben Hecht adapted his own novel about Ruth Wood (Jane Wyman) who falls in love with the soldier Art Hugenon (Van Johnson) in New York City during World War II. Ruth’s mother Agnes (Josephine Hutchinson) does not trust men because her husband Harry Wood (William Gargan) left her years ago. Grace (Eileen Heckart) is Ruth’s friend.

         This romantic drama ends with a fantasy that aims to relieve the tragedy caused by the war.

The Mountain

(1956 c 116’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on Clare Booth’s play and 1939 movie, The Women, Kay Hilliard (June Allyson) learns that her husband Steve Hilliard (Leslie Nielsen) is having an affair with Crystal (Joan Collins), but Kay gets consolation from her friends Amanda (Ann Sheridan), Gloria (Ann Miller), Countess D’Brion (Agnes Moorehead) and Edith (Joan Blondell). After Kay gets a divorce from Steve, she finds out from their daughter that Steve’s wife Crystal is having an affair with the cowboy singer Buck Winston (Jeff Richards) and with help from a gossip columnist leaks this to Buck’s girlfriend Sylvia Fowler (Dolores Gray).

         This musical version simplifies the comedy of the original, but the home-wrecker Crystal is still left on her own. The story reflects the friendships that women can make that may last despite the fluctuations of romance and marriage with men.

The Opposite Sex

(1956 c 116’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on Clare Booth’s play and 1939 movie, The Women, Kay Hilliard (June Allyson) learns that her husband Steve Hilliard (Leslie Nielsen) is having an affair with Crystal (Joan Collins), but Kay gets consolation from her friends Amanda (Ann Sheridan), Gloria (Ann Miller), Countess D’Brion (Agnes Moorehead) and Edith (Joan Blondell). After Kay gets a divorce from Steve, she finds out from their daughter that Steve’s wife Crystal is having an affair with the cowboy singer Buck Winston (Jeff Richards) and with help from a gossip columnist leaks this to Buck’s girlfriend Sylvia Fowler (Dolores Gray).

         This musical version simplifies the comedy of the original, but the home-wrecker Crystal is still left on her own. The story reflects the friendships that women can make that may last despite the fluctuations of romance and marriage with men.

Our Miss Brooks

(1956 b 85’) En: 5 Ed: 4

Based on the television series, English teacher Connie Brooks (Eve Arden) hopes to wed biology teacher Phil Boynton (Robert Rockwell), but publisher Lawrence Nolan (Don Porter) asks her to tutor his son Gary (Nick Adams). Miss Brooks rents a room from busybody Mrs. Davis (Jane Morgan), who provides extra communication.

         This comedy reflects the overwhelming desire of a young woman in this era to find a husband.

The Proud and Profane

(1956 b 111’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on Lucy Herndon Crockett’s novel, in New Caledonia the beautiful widow Lee Ashley (Deborah Kerr) serves in the Red Cross under Kate Connors (Thelma Ritter) during the Pacific War. Lee falls in love with the rough and persistent Lt. Col. Colin Black (William Holden) and learns surprising things about him and her own relationship with her late husband.

         This melodrama depicts two very attractive people who find they cannot resist each other but have lessons to learn about intimate relationship. Their romantic love is contrasted to the friendship and maternal love exemplified by the amiable Red Cross supervisor.

The Proud Ones

(1956 c 94’) En: 5 Ed: 4

Marshall Cass Silver (Robert Ryan) is engaged to Sally (Virginia Mayo) and is trying to keep law and order in a western town that is booming with cowboys from its first cattle drive. Saloon owner John Barrett (Robert Middleton) resents Silver interfering with his crooked gambling business and tries to get him killed. Young Thad Anderson (Jeffrey Hunter) confronts Silver for having killed his father. Silver tries to convince him and others that he only kills men who are trying to kill him. Elderly Jake (Walter Brennan) works for Silver and is concerned about him.

         This western has much gun-fighting violence as cowboys attempt to get their way with a quick draw and a jail break. As a result many are killed; but the theme is that the law-breakers suffer the consequences while the sheriff and his deputy aim to preserve law and order.

Ransom!

(1956 b 102’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on a TV play by Cyril Hume and Richard Maibaum, wealthy businessman Dave Stannard (Glenn Ford) and his wife Edith (Donna Reed) have their eight-year-old son Andy (Bobby Clark) kidnapped for a ransom of $500,000. Police Chief Backett (Robert Keith) and reporter Charlie Telfer (Leslie Nielsen) persuade Dave that paying the ransom does not improve the chance of getting his son back alive; but his brother Al Stannard (Ainslie Pryor) and Edith are for paying the ransom. The servant Jesse (Juano Hernandez) provides spiritual comfort.

         This drama examines the crime of kidnapping as a way of extorting money and suggests that if people refuse to pay ransoms but use money to apprehend the criminals, then there will not be a motive for committing the crime.

Reach for the Sky

(1956 b 105’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on a true story, Air Force pilot Douglas Bader (Kenneth More) crashes and has both legs amputated by a surgeon (Alexander Knox). He recovers, learns how to use artificial legs, woos and marries pretty Thelma (Muriel Pavlow), and plays golf. He gets to fly again in World War II and becomes a leading pilot.

            This biopic portrays a man who in his eagerness to show off had a tragic accident, but by his courage and determination to fly became an outstanding pilot and leader in the war against the Nazis.

Rebel in Town

(1956 b 78’) En: 5 Ed: 5

After the Civil War the young son Peter (Bobby Clark) of Union veteran John Willoughby (John Payne) likes to play at killing Confederates. While John is away, is killed by the Confederate veteran Wesley Mason (John Smith), who later tries to kill his brother Gray Mason (Ben Cooper) for leaving the family. John tells his wife Nora (Ruth Roman) he is going after the murderer; but he finds Gray Mason and brings him home. Nora tries to prevent further violence from revenge, but John and men in the town want to lynch Gray Mason.

         This western drama illustrates the dangers of a gun culture. Guns are lethal weapons and are dangerous toys. Those carrying guns in holsters may fire them too quickly, and men in the wild west may be too eager to punish a person who seems guilty without waiting for a trial.

Reprisal!

(1956 c 74’) En: 5 Ed: 4

Based on Arthur Gordon’s novel, Frank Madden (Guy Madison) tries to own land near a town that discriminates against Indians, and he is hated by three Shipley brothers for taking the side of Indians. Madden’s Indian grandfather Matara (Ralph Moody) secretly comes to work for him, and Frank is loved by Catherine Cantrell (Felicia Farr) and Taini (Kathryn Grant).

         This violent western challenges the prejudices that create hostility and conflict between those of European and native American ancestry.

Run for the Sun

(1956 c 99’) En: 5 Ed: 4

Journalist Katie Connors (Jane Greer) tracks down the novelist Mike Latimer (Richard Widmark) to find out why he stopped writing. He offers to fly her back to Mexico City, but they get lost and crash land. Rescued by Browne (Trevor Howard) and the Nazi soldier Van Anders (Peter van Eyck), Latimer learns their secrets, and they try to keep them from leaving.

         This adventure story depicts two strangers getting to know each other and falling in love during the extreme adversity they experience together.

Seven Men From Now

(1956 c 78’) En: 5 Ed: 4

In the southwest former sheriff Ben Stride (Randolph Scott) helps John Greer (Walter Reed) and Annie Greer (Gail Russell), who are going by wagon to California. Bill Masters (Lee Marvin) and Clete (Donald Barry) join up with Scott, who is going after the men who killed his wife in a robbery. Masters resents Stride for having locked him up, and he wants the money.

         This western depicts tough and independent men trying to get their way in a hostile environment. Two men desire another man’s wife, but they have very different ways of behaving.

7th Cavalry

(1956 c 76’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Captain Benson (Randolph Scott) and his fiancée Martha Kellogg (Barbara Hale) return to Fort Lincoln to find only Sgt. Bates (Jay C. Flippen) and a few rascals. The widow of the man who replaced him accuses Benson of cowardice as he learns of the massacre of General Custer and his men. Col. Kellogg (Russell Hicks) questions Benson and others. To redeem himself Benson volunteers to lead the burial detail ordered by the US President that leads to a surprising conclusion.

         This fictionalized western set after the historical battle of the Little Big Horn depicts various conflicts in the American military and the spiritual beliefs of Sitting Bull and the Sioux.

The Spanish Gardener

(1956 c 96’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on A. J. Cronin’s novel, Harrington Brande (Michael Hordern) is in the British foreign service and is assigned to Spain. He is separated from his wife and lives with his young son Nicholas (Jon Whiteley), whom he is tutoring. Nicholas does not attend school and has no friends his own age, but he enjoys being with the gardener Jose (Dirk Bogarde). His father becomes jealous that his son likes Jose, and the servant Garcia (Cyril Cusack) also resents Jose and causes a misunderstanding that further alienates Nicholas from his father.

         This drama ironically portrays a father who is controlling and lacking in the human understanding that a diplomat needs most, thus symbolizing the evils of imperialist foreign policy so often demonstrated by the British.

Storm Center

(1956 b 86’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Librarian Alicia Hull (Bette Davis) is looking forward to the library’s new children’s wing when the City Council led by rising politician Paul Duncan (Brian Keith) votes to remove The Communist Dream from the public library. Alicia disagrees with the book and their decision, but her friend, Judge Robert Ellerbe (Paul Kelly), has also gone along with the decision. However, the events affect the psyche of the boy Freddie Slater (Kevin Coughlan) whose parents George Slater (Joe Mantell) and Laura Slater (Sally Brophy) are in conflict. The next librarian Martha Lockridge (Kim Hunter) supports Alicia too.

         Though melodramatic, this story portrays the anti-Communist hysteria of the 1950s and the liberal response to its idiocy. The danger of trying to suppress some unpopular ideas represents a threat to all ideas that should be available to citizens because often the best thoughts a society may need may be unpopular at the time.

The Swan

(1956 c 108’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Adapted from Ferenc Molnar’s play, in 1910 crown prince Albert (Alec Guinness) comes to visit his cousin Princess Alexandra (Grace Kelly), who falls in love with the family tutor, Dr. Nicholas Agi (Louis Jourdan). Her mother, Princess Beatrix (Jessie Royce Landis) and her uncle, Father Karl (Brian Aherne), advise Alexandra. Albert’s mother, Queen Maria Dominika (Agnes Moorehead), also comes for a surprise visit.

         This romantic drama of another era is poignant because Grace Kelly has decided to marry a real prince, and this was her last film. Somehow the image of a swan fits her chaste beauty and fairy-tale life. Yet the conclusion of the story is unusual and somewhat mystifying.

There's Always Tomorrow

(1956 b 84’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on Ursula Parrott’s novel, Clifford Groves (Fred MacMurray) is left alone by his wife Marion (Joan Bennett) on her birthday and by his son Vinnie (William Reynolds) and his daughter Frankie (Judy Nugent) when an old girlfriend, Norma Miller Vale (Barbara Stanwyck) comes to see him. He goes out with her, sees her a few times, and feels he is falling in love with her, making his son suspicious.

         This domestic drama portrays a happily married man who for a time flirts with having an affair, but she and everyone else in his family realizes he is better off as he is, causing him to consider whether the family life he is leading is what he really wants.

These Wilder Years

(1956 b 91’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Wealthy business executive Steven Bradford (James Cagney) tries to find his illegitimate son who was adopted twenty years ago by going to the adoption agency run by Ann Dempster (Barbara Stanwyck), where he meets pregnant Suzie (Betty Lou Keim). To try to get information he hires his lawyer, James Rayburn (Walter Pidgeon) and the local lawyer, Spotsford (Edward Andrews), but he loses in court.

         This drama explores the ethics of privacy in adoption and specifically looks at whether a parent who gave up a child has the right later to find the person who was adopted by others.

Toward the Unknown

(1956 c 115’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, test pilot Major Lincoln Bond (William Holden) was a prisoner during the Korean War and broke down and confessed some information. He persuades General Bill Banner (Lloyd Nolan) to give him a chance anyway as a test pilot, and they compete for the romantic attentions of secretary Connie Mitchell (Virginia Leith). Bond gets along with Col. Mickey McKee (Charles McGraw) and Lt. Col. Joe Craven (James Garner) and his wife Polly Craven (Karen Steele), but he clashes with Major Bromo Lee (Murray Hamilton).

            This drama depicts the pilots at Edwards Air Force Base who risk their lives testing the newest planes and rockets during the accelerating arms race. Bond’s overcoming his prison trauma makes the story more interesting as he has to prove himself to the general who needs to decide when he should stop flying tests.

Tribute to a Bad Man

(1956 c 95’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Young Steve Miller (Don Dubbins) gets a job as a wrangler on the horse ranch of Jeremy Rodock (James Cagney), who has horses in an entire valley and enforces his own law against neighbors who steal his horses. Greek immigrant Jocasta (Irene Pappas) lives with Rodock and advises Steve to find a better life.

         This western portrays men working on a horse ranch in Wyoming where there is only one woman. The one who has more than he needs and does not share with others finds that some rebel against him to try to get theirs but in wrong ways. Yet in getting revenge the greedy owner also becomes cruel and unjust.

23 Paces to Baker Street

(1956 c 103’) En: 5 Ed: 4

Adapted from a novel by Philip MacDonald, the blind playwright, Phillip Hannon (Van Johnson), is in London and hears part of a conversation he suspects will lead to a crime. He tells the police about it, but they can do little. Yet with help from his secretary Bob Matthews (Cecil Parker), and his ex-fiancée, Jean Lennox (Vera Miles), he manages to find the culprit and prevent the crime.

         This mystery drama depicts how a blind person can use other senses to understand his world. He has adjusted after becoming blind but still needs to overcome his bitterness about the failings of the human race.

While the City Sleeps

(1956 b 100’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on Charles Einstein’s novel and directed by Fritz Lang, a news mogul dies and is succeeded by his spoiled son, Walter Kyne (Vincent Edwards), who puts the newspaper editor John Day Griffith (Thomas Mitchell), the wire service head Mark Loving (George Sanders), and the photo editor Harry Kritzer (Edward Craig) in competition for a new position of executive director. The top reporter, Ed Mobley (Dana Andrews), is not ambitious and is engaged to Loving’s secretary, Nancy Liggett (Sally Forrest). Walter’s wife Dorothy Kyne (Rhonda Fleming) is having an affair, and the columnist Mildred Donner (Ida Lupino) is on the prowl. All this is happening while they are covering the story of a serial killer (John Barrymore Jr.) of beautiful women.

         This drama satirizes the fierce competition for top positions in the news business that exploits lurid stories of murder to sell newspapers while the person running the entire enterprise may be a dolt who got his position by nepotism.

You Can’t Run Away from It

(1956 c 95’) En: 5 Ed: 4

In this musical version of It Happened One Night the heiress Ellie Andrews (June Allyson) is running away from her father (Charles Bickford) and gets to know the reporter Peter Warne (Jack Lemmon).

         This musical comedy suffers primarily because it is naturally compared to the award-winning original screwball comedy. Yet the story still entertains and shows how being together without anything else to do is what helps people fall in love with each other.

Copyright © 2010 by Sanderson Beck

Best Movies of 1956

1913-1926 1927-1929
1930
1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949
1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959

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

Movie Mirrors Index

BECK index