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★ 1950s

1950: see 1940s & 1960s & 20th Century

Adam Curtis TV - A Very British Scandal 2007 - Sara Sheridan - Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats TV - America in Pictures: The Story of Life Magazine TV - Back in Time for the Weekend TV - Tom Jones’ 1950s TV - Cold War Armageddon 1950 - My Generation 2017 & Michael Caine - Twiggy: The Face of the 60s TV - The 1951 Festival of Britain: A Brave New World TV - Tony Robinson TV -  

 

 

 

In the late 1950s as the British empire was falling apart, there was a growing sense that something was badly wrong under the surface.  There was a feeling of unease.  Despite all the reforms after the Second World War and the welfare state, the old forms of power had not gone away.  And neither had the violence and the corruption that had always been a part of that power.  Adam Curtis, Can’t Get You Out of My Head I: Bloodshed on Wolf Mountain, BBCiplayer 2021

 

 

The 1950s and a contented post-war Britain was in the grip of a brutal moral backlash.  It was against homosexuals when they were labelled pansies and queers.  Every year a thousand men were sent to jail for homosexual offences.  The maximum sentence for Buggery was Life imprisonment.  Then, a sensational trial involving a leading Fleet-Street journalist and Lord Montagu of Beaulieu electrified the nation.  Its outcome so shook the establishment that life and the law for homosexuals would never be the same again.  A Very British Sex Scandal, Channel 4 2007  

 

In the wake of a scandal Churchill’s government set about thinking the unthinkable  reforming the law on homosexuality and prostitution.  The forum would be celebrated as the Wolfenden Committee after its chairman John Wolfenden.  ibid.

 

No gay man dared to come out publicly in the 1950s.  But London held the promise of an exciting underground with its back-street pubs and illicit clubs in the West End.  ibid. 

 

As well as politicians many doctors thought that homosexuality was contagious.  The BMA saw it as an illness and it should be treated as a public health problem.  ibid.

 

In 1953 the government were making every attempt to stem the tide of filth.  ibid.

 

Making gay men name names leading to chain prosecutions was a favoured police tactic.  ibid.

 

The scene was set for the most sensational court case of its kind since Oscar Wilde.  Homosexuality was suddenly centre stage in British life: Winchester Assizes March 1954.  Wildeblood and Pitt-Rivers were charged with gross indecency, and most seriously buggery; Montagu with gross indecency and attempted buggery; all three conspiring to enable homosexual offences to take place ... An all-male jury would decide their fate ... Wildeblood’s daring declaration of his homosexuality had sealed the convictions.  But the severity of the sentences shocked an increasingly sympathetic public.  The trial created the first groundswell of press and public opinion that the law was too harsh.  ibid.

 

Peter Wildeblood was released from prison in March 1955.  He was now committed to campaigning for homosexual rights.  The Wolfenden Committee would give him the perfect opportunity to make his views known.  ibid.

 

Two years later the Committee published its long-awaited report.  It put forward Peter Wildeblood’s main recommendation that homosexual acts between consenting adults in private should be decriminalised.  It took another ten years for Parliament to make it law.  Peter Wildeblood, sacked by The Daily Mail, became a TV producer.  He continued to campaign for gay rights.  He died in 1999.  Lord Montagu returned to public life, married twice and had two children.  He has always denied the charges for which he was convicted.  ibid.

 

 

While Im frustrated at the amount Im expected to take on in the present, the 1950s woman was frustrated by being excluded  not being allowed to take things on at all.  Sara Sheridan

 

 

In the early 1950s the nation recognised in its midst a social movement called Beat Generation, and a novel titled On the Road became a best-seller.  (Literature & Beat Generation & 1950s)  Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats, guitarist, Sky Arts 2013

 

Pianist: How would you define the word beat ...?

 

Kerouac: Well, sympathetic.  ibid.

 

Jack Kerouac lived his life in constant restless activity.  He observed and then reported in lucid poetic stream of consciousness detail.  ibid.

 

Rejection haunted Jack wherever he went.  ibid.

 

  

America after the war had become a changed place: it was a superpower.  America in Pictures: The Story of Life Magazine, BBC 2013

 

The 1950s were the boom years for America.  ibid. 

 

 

A social, technological and spending revolution has transformed our free time for ever.  This time it’s back to the thrift and formality of the Fifties.  Back in Time for the Weekend, BBC 2016

 

There’s a formal dining room and basic kitchen.  ibid.

 

‘I’m missing genuine freedom.’  ibid.  daughter

 

Ballroom dancing was a hugely popular leisure activity in Fifties’ Britain.  ibid. 

 

 

We could have our own music and our own identity.  Tom Jones’ 1950s: The Decade That Made Me, BBC 2016   

 

‘The 50s were giddy and full optimism.’  ibid.  Joan Bakewell  

 

That blackness was definitely here in South Wales.  ibid.

 

 

The 1950s: a decade of paranoia.  The start of an unprecedented arms race between the superpowers.  As the stalemate between communism and democracy threatens to send the world into chaos, every closer to the edge World War III, the propaganda battle and deadly game of the Cold War continues.  Cold War Armageddon s1e2

 

 

Britain in the 1950s was stable, conventional, predictable and dull.  But that’s the way our parents wanted it.  My generation demanded a new beginning.  My Generation, 2017 ***** Michael Caine

 

 

The 1950s in Britain is a time of austerity.  The country is suffering from the after-effects of six years of war, and London is still scarred by the results of German bombing raids.  Basic consumer goods continue to be rationed, and a class-ridden society sees an aristocratic elite lording it over a deprived working class.  Twiggy: The Face of the 60s, Sky Arts 2020  

 

 

60 years ago an extraordinary national festival captured the imagination of the country.  In 1951 the Festival of Britain was a celebration designed to show how a country battered by war, debt and austerity could carve out a new future through science, design and innovation while still having fun.  The 1951 Festival of Britain: A Brave New World, BBC 2021

 

That evening, a new concert hall – the Royal Festival Hall – was opened by the king.  ibid.

 

The Skylon: a towering 300 foot tall structure of steel and aluminium.  ibid.   

 

 

1950s: it was a time of optimism as Brits picked themselves up from the Second World War.  We had a new young queen, and celebrated hopes of a brighter future with the Festival of Britain.  Tony Robinson’s History of Britain s2e3: 1950s, Channel 5 2021

 

The early 50s saw a massive recruitment drive for nurses; they came from across the world, from the West Indies to Ireland, part of an unprecedented period of immigration that bolstered both the NHS and the British economy.  ibid.