Celebrating the History of Motion Pictures from 1890 to 1960

1952 Timelines: 1950 to 1960

Howard Hughes announces the temporary closure of RKO Studios to facilitate the dismissal of close to 100 employees suspected of having Communist sympathies.


The actor, John Wayne, calls the movie “High Noon”, “The most un–American thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life.” Wayne, Charlton Heston, Marlon Brando and Gregory Peck all turned down the leading role in the film.


After admitting that he had been a member of the Communist Party from 1934 to 1936, Elia Kazan denounces 15 of his former colleagues to the House Un–American Activities Committee (HUAC).


The new projection system known as Cinerama is introduced in specially constructed theaters. After using a special camera that shoots three separate rolls of film simultaneously, allowing it to encompass a 146° view that approximates the view of human vision, the system then uses three separate projectors to project the films onto a wide curved screen. The screen envelopes the audience on three sides and provides a unique viewing experience that seems to draw the spectator into the movie. (A fourth roll of film provides seven–track stereophonic sound.)


Using Edwin Land’s Polaroid process, first patented in 1928, the ‘Natural Vision’ Corporation applies polarization to the motion picture “Bwana Devil”. By wearing special polarized glasses, depth is added to the motion picture and viewers can see the movie in three dimensions instead of two. The effect is startling, and 3–D films become wildly popular for a year or two until the novelty wears off.


U.S. movie attendance drops to 51 million per week, from a 1948 high of 90 million. Warner Bros. and 20th Century–Fox announce that they will cease making “B” movies.


The actor James Stewart is among the first to share in his film’s profits when he signs to be in “Bend of the River”.


Significant Films:

United Artists releases “Bwana Devil” starring Robert Stack and Barbara Britton. This was the first film to use the ‘Natural Vision’ Corporation’s 3–D process.

Stanley Kramer releases “High Noon”. Directed by Fred Zinnemann, and starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, the movie is nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning four. Liberals claim the film is a metaphor for the American public’s failure to unite against McCarthyism.

Republic releases John Ford’s “The Quiet Man” starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. The film wins two Academy Awards, including John Ford’s fourth Oscar for “Best Director”.

MGM releases Arthur Freed’s “Singing in the Rain” starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. Pauline Kael, writing for the New Yorker magazine in 1975, will declare this to be “probably the most enjoyable of all American movie musicals.” Although nominated for two Academy Awards, it doesn’t win either.

Paramount releases Cecil B. de Mille’s film “The Greatest Show on Earth” starring Charlton Heston, James Stewart, and Betty Hutton. The movie is nominated for five Academy Awards, winning two including the Oscar for “Best Motion Picture”.

4 thoughts on “1952<span class="timeline-express-tax-container timeline"> <span class="pre-text">Timelines: </span>1950 to 1960 </span>”

  1. This website is always a treat for film buffs.

    One minor note: James Stewart getting a share of the profits for “Bend of the River” actually followed his deal for “Winchester “73”. Neither film made him among the first to make such an arrangement in Hollywood. For instance, Fred Astaire got a percentage from his films with Ginger Rogers when he chafed at being teamed with her over and over. Ginger was paid her salary.

    • You’re absolutely correct about Winchester ’73 (1950). Stewart’s fixed fee was more than Universal could pay, so a 45% share of the film’s net profits was agreed to. Stewart was reportedly paid $600,000 from this 1950 film’s profits.

      Interestingly, according to Film Facts by Partick Robertson, the first American to receive a percentage deal was James O’Neill for the 1913 version of The Count of Monte Cristo. He was said to have received $3,813.32.

  2. The figure of 52 million attendance for the year 1952 is much too low. That figure would more accurately reflect attendance in the mid-1960s, when two of the biggest box office successes of all time were released: “The Sound of Music” and “Dr. Zhivago”. Motion picture attendance reached a nadir of ca. 17,500,000/week in 1967, a 50% drop from the prior year. I’ll have to retrieve my reference work to get the accurate figure for 1965 and the years prior, but 52 mil. in ’52 is just too small. That would a 42% drop in…3 years. Attendance went south, but not that precipitously.

    • I’m glad you enjoy the site.

      I was able to find what reference I used for the 1952 attendance. It was Film Facts by Patrick Robertson. There is a chart in the Audience and Exhibitors section that lists USA and UK attendance for each year from 1922 to 2000.

      The attendance peaked at 90 million in 1945, remained there until 1948, and declined each year until 1953, when it is listed as 46 million. His source is not listed but I’d love to know what you find as well.


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