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Lost in the Fifties

Lost in the Fifties

Recovering Phantom Hollywood

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Wheeler Winston Dixon


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
232 pages, 6 x 9


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About the Book

Lost in the Fifties: Recovering Phantom Hollywood reveals two 1950s: an era glorified in Hollywood movies and a darker reality reflected in the esoteric films of the decade. Renowned film scholar Wheeler Winston Dixon turns to the margins—the television shows and films of a hidden Hollywood—to offer an authentic view of the 1950s that counters the Tinsel-town version. Dixon examines the lost films and directors of the decade. Contrasting traditional themes of love, marriage, and family, Dixon’s 1950s film world unveils once-taboo issues of rape, prostitution, and gangs. Television shows such as Captain Midnight and Ramar of the Jungle are juxtaposed with the cheerful world of I Love Lucy and Howdy Doody. Highlighting directors including Herbert L. Strock, Leslie Martinson, Arnold Laven, and Charles Haas, Dixon provides new insights on the television series Racket Squad, Topper, and The Rifleman and the teen films I Was a Teenage Werewolf and High School Confidential.

Geared for scholars and students of film and pop culture, Lost in the Fifties includes twenty-five photos—many previously unpublished—and draws on rare interviews with key directors, actors, and producers. The volume provides the first detailed profile of the most prolific producer in Hollywood history, Sam Katzman, and his pop culture classics Rock Around the Clock and Earth vs. The Flying Saucers. Dixon profiles, for the first time, B-movie phenomenon Fred F. Sears, who directed more than fifty touchstone films of a generation, including the noir thriller Chicago Syndicate, the criminal career story Cell 2455 Death Row, and the 3-D color western The Nebraskan. Also profiled is Ida Lupino, the only woman to direct in Hollywood in the 1950s, who tackled issues of bigamy, teenage pregnancy, and sports corruption in The Bigamist, The Hitch-Hiker, Outrage, Never Fear, Not Wanted, and Hard, Fast and Beautiful, when no major studio would touch such controversial topics. Dixon also looks at the era’s social guidance films, which instructed adolescents in acceptable behavior, proper etiquette, and healthy hygiene.


The James Ryan Endowed Professor of Film Studies, Wheeler Winston Dixon is a filmmaker and professor of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. The author and editor of twenty-two books, Dixon is also the coeditor-in-chief of the Quarterly Review of Film and Video. He was honored in 2003 with a retrospective of his films at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where his films were acquired for the permanent collection of the museum.


 “Wheeler Winston Dixon’s …writing is distinguished by its rhetorical sweep and vigor, its wide-ranging synthetic power, and its unusual depth and reach. … Lost in the Fifties radically changes and expands our understanding of the decade: both by restoring many forgotten works and artifacts of the period to visibility, and by using those newly illuminated works to rethink the significance of the decade in both cinematic and broader cultural history.”—Steven Shaviro, author of Connected, or What It Means to Live in the Network Society

“A stunning addition to the literature about cinema and culture, Lost in the Fifties goes to the backyard fence of our official memory and imagination of the 1950s and peers over to see the neighbors we have left behind. Dixon resurrects the works of key filmmakers, producers, and directors who were essentially lost to contemporary reflection and have, sadly, remained lost to most of us since. Touching, dazzling, delectable.”—Murray Pomerance, author of Johnny Depp Starts Here