The American film business was nervous - but, "movies were bigger than ever", according to the press release.

The American film business was nervous - but, "movies were bigger than ever", according to the press release.
Hollywood was nervous – but, “movies were bigger than ever”, according to the press release.

American Forum – American Film: 1956 – August 26, 1956 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection. –

Despite a lot of truly great, landmark and memorable films made in the 1950s, the film business was in dire straits. Television had crept into the American living room in a way unprecedented from any other technological advance in history. People were glued to their TV sets and movie theaters were closing in droves.

What the American film business did to counter it was offer the spectacle, the bigger-than-life viewing experience. Movies were in Cinemascope, Vistavision and a plethora of other cinematic discoveries. Stereo sound, early experiments in 3-D, a short-lived phenomenon known as Smell-o-vision – anything to grab an audience and keep them coming back.

But you can have all the spectacle in the world and it makes no difference if the movie is terrible. Despite the mantra that “Movies Are Bigger Than Ever”, the real question was “are movies better than ever?” And that’s what this discussion is primarily about between film Academy-award winning film maker George Stevens, producer Jerry Wald, former head of production at Paramount Don Hoffman and film critic Leo Rosten.

What was the state of American film in 1956? That’s what was being asked. And this half-hour discussion program offers a number of interesting and illuminating theories on what the state of Hollywood was, some 66 years ago.

Here is that episode of American Forum: Movies 1956 as originally broadcast on August 26, 1956.

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