We continue our survey of the twenty greatest movies of the 1950s.
For a complete listing of the greatest movies of the 20, 30s and 40s, click here.
4. Ace in the Hole, 1951
A hand-embroidered motto, “Tell the Truth” sits as a dusty epitaph on the newsroom wall of an inconsequential Albuquerque newspaper where Kirk Douglas, a cynical New York reporter, hustles a job.
Sent out to cover a local rattle snake hunt, Douglas stumbles on a man trapped inside a cave, and turns it into a “human interest” story that explodes on the national scene and becomes — entertainment.
A less than glamorous job, most successful screenwriters are solitary individuals who work quietly and diligently at their craft.
But screenwriter Peter Viertel (1920 – 2007) lived the jet-set life that is the glittering exception. Born in Dresden to an artistic and assimilated Jewish family, mother Salka was a screenwriter who was Greta Garbo’s best friend. His father, Berthold Viertel, was also a prominent writer and intellectual. The family moved to Hollywood in 1928. Peter’s childhood was the stuff of dreams: weekends were spent in the company of Garbo, Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.
Young Peter was Hollywood royalty.
From where do we draw wisdom?
First and foremost, Seraphic Secret relies on the Torah—written and oral—on the lessons of 3,000 years of Jewish history, and on the common sense advice of my wife Karen.
And then there are the movies, a moral landscape of immeasurable power where searing images and razor-sharp dialogue deliver lessons in human character that, for better or for worse, shape modern man’s consciousness.
I know it seems ludicrous, if not downright blasphemous, noting Torah and movies as primary influences, but the mind of yours truly, a screenwriter and movie-lover, is a stage of raging intellectual conflicts.
Here are five slices of dialogue by some of of Hollywood’s finest screenwriters that brilliantly and economically unmask a raw and vulnerable humanity.
11. Double Indemnity, 1944. Once again, a Barbara Stanwyck performance that is nothing less than perfection. This time Stanwyck plays bad blond Phyllis Dietrichson, a hard-boiled tramp—her gold anklet speaks volumes—who wants her husband dead. Fred MacMurray is the cynical insurance salesman who steps libido-first into Dietrichson’s web of deceit. This is the movie that sets the standard for Film Noir, that most influential genre.