The 50s were an eventful decade in American cultural history. There were many interesting cultural activities in America during that time. The following are some highlights about this wonderful decade.
African-American artists like Romare Bearden and Henry Clay Anderson presented a different view of American life. Abstract expressionism was the first American art movement to gain worldwide influence. Its proponents included Barnett Newman, Franz Kline, and Clyfford Still. Figurative art returned.
Published works included The Wall by John Hershey, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D.Salinger, and The Naked Lunch by Williams Burroughs. The Beatniks and the beat generation reached their peak at this time.
The sale of television sets increased dramatically. Watching television became a national pastime. It became more popular than the radio. Advertising increased manifold. Broadcasts that were earlier in black and white later moved on to color. TV influenced people on a massive scale. The popular television shows for kids were Mickey Mouse Club, Walt Disney, Lassie, and Howdy Doody Time. Popular comedy shows were The Families of the Fifties, I Love Lucy, and The Honeymooners. The popular drama shows were Private Everywhere, Superman, The Twilight Zone, and The Dragnet. American Bandstand hosted by Dick Clark was one of the popular shows for teenagers. Sitcoms were introduced. News broadcasting changed from newsreaders simply reading the news to videos of actual events. Live broadcasting became more common. There were Quiz shows like What's My Line and The Price is Right. There were prominent newscasters like CBS's Walter Cronkite and NBC's David Brinkley and Chet Huntley. For the first time, the Miss America Pageant was televised.
The first 3-D movie Bwana Devil, starring Robert Stack was released. The famous movie stars of the 50s were Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, and Bing Crosby. The movie A Streetcar Named Desire became extremely popular and was well-received. The Walt Disney Studios had a widespread success with animated films like Sleeping Beauty, Lady and the Tramp, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella. All About Eve was released. James Dean, the movie star of Rebel without a Cause, was killed while driving his car at high speed. Classics like Ben-Hur, Cleopatra, Hercules, and The Ten Commandments were released. Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho was released, which became very popular. Many movies were released with the Cold war as a backdrop or based on science fiction.
Rock 'n' Roll was introduced. It was regarded as a threat to the character of America's youth. Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed coined the term Rock 'n' Roll. Western and Country music were also popular. Popular artists and groups were Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and the Comets, Doris Day, and Dean Martin. Some of the popular songs were Heartbreak Hotel, I Saw Mommy Kissin' Santa Claus, Mr Sandman, It's All in the Game, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, Doggie in the Window, and My Happiness. Elvis Presley was the musical superstar of the 50's. It is claimed that Elvis brought the races together with his popularizing of 'black' music. With the introduction of new gadgets such as portable tape recorders, music could be heard in any location. Three rock and roll stars, 'Big Bopper' Richardson, Ritchie Valens, and Buddy Holly, died in a plane crash. Crooners like Perry Como and Dinah Shore were popular. This music is played to this day.
Drama and Theater
Some popular plays were Come Back Little Sheeba, The King and I, Waiting for Godot, The Crucible, and The Bad Seed. The Cat on a hot Tin Roof won the Pulitzer Prize.
The Diary of Anne Frank was one of the most emotionally-charged plays of the 50s. Alvin Ailey created the American Dance Theater.
The fashion was conservative in the fifties. Ponytails were popular among girls and crew cuts among guys. Bermuda shorts became popular. The Marlon Brando movie The Wild One made T-shirts and black leather motorcycle jackets popular. Women's skirts and hair became shorter. Marilyn Monroe made tight, V-neck sweaters popular. Pantyhose was introduced in the American market.
The 50s saw an emergence of several new trends. It was indeed a novel and exciting time for the American culture. Some of its facets still exist in modern society.