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Looking Back

May 1956

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

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


It's Friday, May 11, 1956. At the Redford, doors open at 5:45 p.m. for a double feature of Our Miss Brooks (with Eve Arden) and Hell on Frisco Bay (Alan Ladd and Edward G. Robinson). Our Miss Brooks starts at 6 and 9:10 p.m. and is described in ads as "the funniest manhunt since the first Eve put the bite on Adam's Apple." Hell on Frisco Bay is "the blistering story of a fall guy who was cheated by his wife," and shows at 7:25 and 10:40 p.m.

The most popular movies at the Redford in May 1956 were the dramas The Rose Tattoo and The Man with the Golden Arm. Italian actress Anna Magnani won a lead actress Oscar for Rose Tattoo, which led Redford double bills that included Alfred Hitchcock's black comedy The Trouble with Harry and the war drama Hell's Horizon. Frank Sinatra received his only Best Actor Academy Award nomination for The Man with the Golden Arm, which appeared on Redford twin bills with the western At Gunpoint (Fred MacMurray) and the Blake Edwards musical comedy Bring Your Smile Along.

The science fiction craze of the 1950s hit the Michigan Theater with "2 Science Shockers That Will Have You Gasping For Breath!": World Without End and The Atomic Man. But that's not all! Three weeks later, "The Top Shock Show Of All Time" arrived at the Michigan with Day the World Ended and The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues. On a quieter note, the Michigan hosted a 15th anniversary reissue of Citizen Kane.

John Wayne visited Detroit on Friday, May 18 to promote his new movie The Searchers, which opened that day exclusively at the Palms Theater (Woodward and Elizabeth). Wayne told Detroit Free Press Movie Critic Helen Bower, "The more people can know you, the better it is for your pictures." Daily showings of The Searchers ran from 11:12 a.m. until about 6 a.m. the next morning.

Also on the bill with The Searchers at the Palms was The Scarlet Hour (Carol Ohmart, Tom Tryon, Nat "King" Cole). These movies succeeded a twin bill of Humphrey Bogart's last movie, The Harder They Fall, also with Rod Steiger and Jan Sterling; and Ghost Town (Kent Taylor, Marian Carr).

"If the new C.V. Whitney Pictures, Inc. keeps up the standard set in this remarkable Western starring John Wayne, the old established major studios and the other new independents will have Competition with a capital C," wrote Detroit Free Press Movie Critic Helen Bower on May 19, 1956.

"One of the best westerns of this or any other year is 'The Searchers,' first fruit of a new production company created by C.V. Whitney in Hollywood," wrote reviewer Al Weitschat in the May 20, 1956 edition of The Detroit News.

Other downtown Detroit movies when The Searchers opened were Tribute to a Bad Man (James Cagney); The Wedding in Monaco (marriage of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier III of Monaco) at the Adams; Good-bye, My Lady (Brandon De Wilde, Walter Brennan) and Walk the Dark Street (Chuck Connors) at the Broadway-Capitol; and The Revolt of Mamie Stover (Jane Russell, Richard Egan) and Slightly Scarlet (John Payne, Arlene Dahl, Rhonda Fleming) at the Fox.

Also showing were Alexander the Great (Richard Burton, Fredric March, Claire Bloom) at the Madison; Meet Me in Las Vegas (Dan Dailey, Cyd Charisse) and Please Murder Me! (Angela Lansbury, Raymond Burr) at the Michigan; Cinerama Holiday in its 66th week at the Music Hall; and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! in its third month at the United Artists.

The Redford was screening a strong double bill of Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry and the Oscar-winning The Rose Tattoo (Anna Magnani, Burt Lancaster). The Senate was showing The Man with the Golden Arm (Frank Sinatra) and Bring Your Smile Along (Frankie Laine).

Art house films included Day of Triumph (Lee J. Cobb, Robert Wilson, Joanne Dru) at the Coronet and Surf; and Gaby (Leslie Caron, John Kerr) at the Krim. The World and Studio movie theaters hosted the first Detroit showing of the 1954 French film The Game of Love ("Strictly For Adults," said the ads).

The Searchers played at the Palms until June 4, before being replaced by Safari (Victor Mature, Janet Leigh) and Secret of Treasure Mountain (Valerie French, Raymond Burr).

The Searchers began its neighborhood run on August 15, when it opened at the Redford and other area theaters and drive-ins. It played at the Redford until August 21, on double bills with Good-bye, My Lady (Brandon de Wilde, Walter Brennan) and The Bold and the Brave (Wendell Corey, Mickey Rooney).

Ann Arbor audiences were treated to the opening of The Searchers at the State on June 1, 1956, after a run of East of Eden (Julie Harris, James Dean, Raymond Massey) and Battle Cry (Van Heflin, Aldo Ray).

Also playing in Ann Arbor on June 1 were a 15th anniversary showing of Citizen Kane (Orson Welles) at the Michigan; Ransom! (Glenn Ford, Donna Reed) and Forever, Darling (Lucille Ball, Desi Arnez) at the Wuerth; and Doctor at Sea (Dirk Bogarde, Brigitte Bardot) and The Naked Sea at the Orpheum.

The Ypsi-Ann Drive-In was showing The McConnell Story (Alan Ladd, June Allyson) and Black Horse Canyon (Joel McCrea, Marie Blanchard) while the Scio Drive-In was screening The Night of the Hunter (Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters) and The Black Dakotas (Gary Merrill, Wanda Hendrix, John Bromfield).

The Searchers played at the State until June 7, followed by the science fiction classic Forbidden Planet (Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Robby the Robot).


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Launched November 25, 2005.

Last updated July 2, 2018.

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