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Looking Back

February 1956

Step back in time to see what area movie theaters were presenting in February 1956. Film titles are linked to the Internet Movie Database.

For more information about these theaters, see Cinema Treasures or Water Winter Wonderland.


The Movie Guide of the Detroit News suggested to husbands, "Make Your Wife Happy, Take Her to a Movie." At the Redford, patrons enjoyed double bills of movies first released in late 1955, including Rebel Without a Cause (James Dean), Artists and Models (Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis), and The Tender Trap (Frank Sinatra and Debbie Reynolds).

Visitors to the Michigan in Ann Arbor were treated to Walt Disney's live action The Littlest Outlaw (along with a 19-minute cartoon, Johnny Appleseed). The science fiction classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers also opened, with Shack Out on 101 as a second feature.

The movie version of the famous stage musical Oklahoma! with Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones opened in Detroit at the United Artists Theatre on February 21, 1956. It had earlier opened in New York City on October 13, 1955 and in Los Angeles on November 18, 1955.

The United Artists Theatre had been closed since December 4, 1955 to prepare for the new Todd-AO widescreen process that was used for the first time with Oklahoma!.

"The surrey with the fringe on the top is at last clip-clopping across the huge United Artists Theater seamless screen in the Todd-AO production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'Oklahoma!' in Eastman Color," wrote Detroit Free Press Movie Critic Helen Bower on February 22, 1956. "From the first sight of Gordon MacRae on horseback under a blue sky, riding through a field of corn higher than his head, you know that something new has been added to movie-viewing."

"The corn was taller than an elephant's eye, and it actually reached the sky in the movie version of 'Oklahoma!' unveiled before a premiere audience of 1,500 last night at the United Artists Theater," wrote Detroit News movie reviewer Al Weitschat on February 21, 1956. "The picture was filmed in the latest of the wide-screen processes called Todd-AO (Todd-American Optical)."

Other downtown Detroit movies when Oklahoma! opened were Guys and Dolls (Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, Vivian Blaine) at the Adams; The Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore, Jay Silverheels) and The Fighting Chance (Rod Cameron, Ben Cooper) at the Broadway-Capitol; The Deep Blue Sea (Vivien Leigh, Kenneth More) and Silent Fear at the Fox; and The Benny Goodman Story (Steve Allen, Donna Reed) at the Madison.

Also showing downtown were Helen of Troy (Jack Sernas, Rossana Podesta) at the Michigan; Cinerama Holiday in its second year at the Music Hall; The Man with the Golden Arm (Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Parker, Kim Novak) at the Palms; and Walt Disney's The Littlest Outlaw at the Telenews.

The Redford was screening a double bill of Rebel Without a Cause (James Dean, Natalie Wood) and Three Stripes in the Sun (Aldo Ray). The Senate was showing a pair of classic John Ford movies—The Grapes of Wrath (1940, Henry Fonda) and Tobacco Road (1941, Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews).

Art house films included The Red Inn (Fernandel) and Innocents in Paris (Alastair Sim, Margaret Rutherford, Claire Bloom) at the Coronet; I Am a Camera (Julie Harris, Shelley Winters, Laurence Harvey) at the Krim; Mademoiselle Gobete (Silvana Pampanini) at the Studio; and The Bed (Vittorio De Sica, Dawn Addams, Richard Todd, Martine Carol) and Jean Cocteau's Intimate Relations at the Surf.

Oklahoma! played at the United Artists until December 20, 1956, before being replaced on December 27 with the second Todd-AO movie, Around the World in 80 Days.

Oklahoma! screened at the Redford from June 2 to June 8, 1957 on double bills with The Wings of Eagles (John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara) and The Tattered Dress (Jeff Chandler, Jeanne Crain).

Ann Arbor audiences were treated to the opening of Oklahoma! at the State on February 2, 1957 after a run of The Girl Can't Help It (Tom Ewell, Jayne Mansfield, Edmond O'Brien).

Also playing in Ann Arbor on February 2 were Walt Disney's Westward Ho the Wagons! (Fess Parker, Kathleen Crowley) and A Trip to Disneyland USA at the Michigan; Santiago (Alan Ladd, Rossana Podesta) and Walt Disney's Song of the South at the Wuerth; and Dance Little Lady (Mai Zetterling) at the Orpheum.

Oklahoma! played at the State until February 9, before being replaced by The Barretts of Wimpole Street (Jennifer Jones, John Gielgud).


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Website copyright © 2018 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.

Launched November 25, 2005.

Last updated June 3, 2018.

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