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Motion Picture News and Highlights from 1959

Domestic production in 1959 was at an all-time low of 229 features, of which 81 earned at least $1 million. Approximately 82.3 million people per week went to theaters over the summer, up dramatically from the 45 million per week over the same period in 1958.

The Oscar for Best Actress of 1959 went to Simone Signoret for her portrayal in Room at the Top, released on January 22. The scene below shows Signoret with noted English actor Laurence Harvey.
Room at the Top

Shelly Winters (right) won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress of 1959 for her portrayal of a Jewish housewife with a warm heart and sharp tongue in The Diary of Anne Frank, released on April 17. Millie Perkins played the title role.
Diary of Anne Frank

"A motion picture with scent!" was the tagline for Behind the Great Wall, a film presented in AromaRama by Walter Reade, Jr., and released on December 2.
Behind the GreatWall

Stanley Kramer's On the Beach, based on the best-selling novel by Nevil Shute, received great international acclaim. The novel and film depicted the world "a few years from now," after nuclear warfare had wiped out the northern hemisphere and clouds of irradiated dust were closing in on Australia, where the last survivors clung to life. The film's all-star cast included Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, and Gregory Peck. Kramer arranged simultaneous premieres of his film in 18 major cities throughout the world, including Moscow, on December 17.
On the Beach

Released by M-G-M on December 26, Ben-Hur topped the list of the longest movies of 1959, with a running time of 3 hours 39 minutes. It went on to take 11 Academy Awards in 1960, including: Best Film, Best Actor (Charlton Heston), and Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Griffith).
Left: The chariot race scene from
Ben-Hur in which Ben-Hur (Heston) defeats Messala (Stephen Boyd).
Right: Seated, Sheik Iderim (Griffith) challenges Mesala.
Ben Hur chariot scene Ben Hur

Top-Grossing U.S. Films of 1958
according to Variety

Auntie Mame ($9 million)
Shaggy Dog ($8 million)
Some Like It Hot ($7.2 million)
Pillow Talk ($7 million)
Imitation of Life ($6.4 million)
The Nun's Story ($6.3 million)
Anatomy of a Murder ($5.5 million)
North by Northwest ($5.5 million)
Sleeping Beauty ($5.3 million)
Rio Bravo ($5.2 million)


The Roof, by Vittorio De Sica, told of a married couple faced with the improbable task of leading a decent life amid the squalor and rank injustices of postwar Rome, Italy. The film was released on May 12.
The Roof

Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries, released on June 22, starred Victor Sjöstrom as an aging doctor whose subconscious mind reveals some disturbing, and edifying, insights into his past life.
Wild Strawberries

The Oscar for Best Foreign Film of 1959 went to the French Black Orpheus, a modern adaptation of the Orpheus ans Eurydice legend released on December 21. Marcel Damus directed, Marpessa Dawn and Brena Mello starred.
Black Orpheus

In the Year 1959
Simone Signoret
Fred Astaire

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This page was last updated on 11/08/2017.