TEENAGE TASTES DOMINATE THE MOVIES SO COMPLETELY NOW that it’s hard to believe it was ever different. But in the much-maligned 1950s, adult concerns were the main attraction—and were often explored with a daring that belies the era’s reputation for bland conformity. Here are scenes from that alternative movie universe:

Twelve O’Clock High—Bomber squadron commander Gary Merrill went soft after losing too many boys; Gregory Peck comes in determined not to repeat his mistake, in the best movie ever made about the personal cost of being the Organization Man in charge.

The Bullfighter and the Lady
—Where today’s heroes are all macho posturing, postwar audiences were willing to question what made a man a man. In this Hemingwayesque drama, rich dilettante Robert Stack becomes a bullfighter, then gets a sobering lesson in true courage—from the women who watch their men do this crazy thing.

All That Heaven Allows
—Society widow Jane Wyman and hired hand Rock Hudson answer the Technicolor question, Is There Life After 40? Glossy, throbbingly emotional soap opera barely conceals a subversive call to June Cleavers to drop out of suburbia and turn on to love.


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