Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Ed Sullivan, Jack Parr and Edward R. Morrow became household figures and variety shows were number one on television. Get-rich-quick instincts were fed by quiz programs that grew bigger and bigger until the bubble burst with the revelation that some of the most popular shows were rigged.
The $64,000 Question
The $64,000 Question was one of these programs and it began as a summer replacement program in 1954. It was based on the 1940's quiz program, Take It, Or Leave It, with its $64 question. Revlon was the major sponsor and it was shown on CBS.
Contestants answered questions starting at the $64 level and increased their prize to $128. - $256 - $512 - $1,000 - $2,000 - $4,000 Once they reached their prize of $4,000,00 they were free to quit at anytime. After reaching the $8,000 question and missing, they would take home an additional consolation prize of a new Cadillac. Many of the early contestants were made into instant "superstars."
Regular contestants, appearing over a long period of time, made the $64,000 quiz show very popular. It also became the downfall for this program in 1958. Sponsors demanded that popular contestants be given the answers in advance enabling them to beat the unpopular contestants so they could be on the show for longer periods.
Word got out that cheating was going on, but none of the allegations were ever substantiated. Ratings declined and the show was canceled.
Because of this scandal, program production took control and completely eliminated sponsor-controlled programming.
The Korean War
The Korean War, also known as the "Forgotten War," began on June 24th, 1950 and cease fire wasn't until July 27th, 1953.
This war began when communist North Korea invaded capitalistic South Korea. The major support for North Korea was China, with support also given by the Soviets with advice, arms and military pilots.
South Korea was supported by the United Nations forces, which were made up mainly of the United States. Many other nations also contributed personnel.
Peak strength for the UNC was 932,964 on July 27, 1953 -- the day the Armistice Agreement was signed:
* Republic of Korea 590,911
* Colombia 1,068
* United States 302,483
* Belgium 900
* United Kingdom 14,198
* Canada 6,146
* South Africa 826
* The Netherlands 819
* Turkey 5,453
* Luxembourg 44
* Australia 2,282
* Philippines 1,496
* New Zealand 1,385
* Thailand 1,204
* Ethiopia 1,271
* Greece 1,263
* France 1,119
On June 25th, 1950, behind a barrage of artillery fire, the North Korean army crossed the 38th parallel into South Korea. The well-planned attack with about 135,000 troops, was quick and achieved surprise and quick successes. This was the beginning of the Korean War.
Within days, South Korean forces were outgunned, outnumbered and were often in full retreat or defected to the North. The North at this time, hoped for a quick surrender but this did not happen due to the intervention of foreign powers. They did not expect America to enter the war so quickly and their defenses were unprepared for American air attacks.
On the afternoon of June 25th, the Security Council of the United Nations met and called for the immediate end of the hostilities and withdrawal of the North Korean forces to the 38th parallel. North Korea had no intention of obeying this order. At the time, President Truman of the United States, ordered the United States Navy and Air Force to support South Korea.
The commitment of American troops was given by President Truman, as other UN members also offered forces. The Security Council recommended all troops be under a single commander and the commander named was General Douglas MacArthur of the United States. This United Nations Command was based in Tokyo.
These UN forces, recaptured Seoul and moved past the 38th parallel advancing towards the border of Manchuria. Then Communist China intervened and these forces launched a massive offensive which drove the UN and South Korean armies back across the 38th Parallel and well to the south.
The Royal Canadian Navy were the first Canadian troops to aid the UN forces. Three Canadian destroyers were dispatched on July 12, 1950. HMCS Cayuga, HMCS Athabaskan and HMCS Sioux, were dispatched to Korean waters to serve under United Nations Command. These ships played a very important part in the evacuation of American troops who were cut off in the Chinnampo area following a retreat to the south. The three Canadian destroyers, together with an Australian and an American destroyer, negotiated the difficult Taedong river to successfully cover this evacuation.
Also in July, a Royal Canadian Air Force squadron was assigned to air transport duties for the UN. Regularly scheduled flights were flown between McChord Air Force Base, Washington and Haneda Airfield in Tokyo.
On August 7, 1950, as the Korean crisis deepened, the Government authorized a specially trained and equipped Canadian Army Special Force. This Force was to carry out Canada's obligation under the United Nations Charter of the North Atlantic Pact.
Following the UN successes of September and October, the war in Korea appeared to be nearing its end. Instead of a full brigade, only the 2nd battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, proceeded to Korea.
By the time the troopship steamed into Yokohama on December 14th, 1950, the picture had completely changed once again. Communist China had intervened leaving an atmosphere of unexpected disaster.
The war went on. There were raids and counter-raids, mines and booby traps, bombing casualties and endless patrolling.
A truce in Korea finally came when the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed on July 27th, 1953. This truce was an uneasy truce, but showed the international forces had effectively stemmed the aggression in Korea. The UN emerged from the crises with an enhanced prestige.
Reported by the United Nations, "in a green field at Tanggok, located near the port of Pusan, stand myriad reminders of the Korean War. Simple white crosses, standing near the sign of the "Crescent and the Star" and the "Star of David" are bleak, symbolic representatives of the 33,629 Americans, numberless Koreans, 717 Turkish soldiers, and 1,109 soldiers of the United Kingdom who gave their lives during the struggle. Also sharing this place of honor are the symbols for the dead of the 12 other nations whose fighting men died to keep Korea free."
The '50s Move On
The loud and raucous sound of rock 'n' roll filled the land to such extent that many established songwriters, finding the kind of tunes they usually composed could no longer get a hearing, went into temporary retirement. Elvis Presley, grinding his hips and flailing a guitar, emerged as the new popular singing star while Frank Sinatra, who had been the Presley of the '40s until his singing carer went into a decline, made a startling comeback as a movie actor in From Here to Eternity, a comeback which also returned him to favour as a singer. Folk music, which preciously had only a small number of devotees, reached a mass audience through the performances of the Weavers, Harry Belefonte and the Kingston Trio. Jazz, too, became fashionable, spurred by jazz festivals at Newport, Rhode Island, and Monterey, California. In serious music Van Cliburn won acclaim in the Soviet Union and Maria Callas stormed in and out of the Metropolitan Opera.
James Dean had one of the shortest careers in Hollywood. He made three films in just over a year, "Rebel Without A Cause," "East of Eden" and "Giant." He was killed in a highway accident on September 30th, 1955. He was also nominated for two academy awards for his performances in "East of Eden," and "Giant."
Joe Hyams, in the James Dean biography "Little Boy Lost," sums up his career:
"..There is no simple explanation for why he has come to mean so much to so many people today. Perhaps it is because, in his acting, he had the intuitive talent for expressing the hopes and fears that are a part of all young people... In some movie magic way, he managed to dramatize brilliantly the questions every young person in every generation must resolve."
Children and adults swung their hips in reckless circles to support hula hoops. Bulky-knit sweaters were worn by both sexes, while the use of colour and individuality - even eccentricity - became more pronounced in men's clothing.
On March 30, 1954, Canada's first subway train started operations in Toronto, Ontario and in the same year ground was broken for almighty power project on the St. Lawrence Seaway development.
Sounds of the 50s
Mister Sandman bounced into popularity on the strength of a recording that was made by The Chordettes in 1954. The Chordettes were four girls who first gained attention as a female barbershop quartet. They became regular members of Arthur Godfrey's radio and television show.
Wonderland by Night introduced the distinctive styling of the German arranger and conductor, Bert Kaempfert, on this side of the Atlantic. Because a clean, ringing trumpet solo, played over a gently coaxing beat, was featured on the Kaempfert recording and others that followed it to the United States, many listeners assumed that Kaempfert was the trumpeter. Kaaempfert is a versatile musician - he plays piano, clarinet, saxophone and accordion - but trumpet is one instrument he does not play. Charlie Tabbor was the trumpeter on the first Kaempfert hit.
It's Not for Me to Say in 1957 that Johnny Mathis was going to be one of the most popular singers of his generation. Coming along at a time when rock 'n roll had blocked out practically all other kinds of music, Mathis' recording of this gentle ballad had such appeal that more than a million copies were sold. He introduced the song in a motion picture, Lizzie, in which he appeared briefly in a nightclub scene. The sales of his record of the song were actually greater than the box-office returns from the movie.
Jamaica Farewell is one of the West Indian songs with which Harry Belafonte had tremendous success in the 1950's. Many of these songs were either work songs or lighthearted calypsos but "Jamaica Farewell" had an appealing tenderness that set it apart from the others. It was adapted from a traditional West Indies folk song by Irving Burgie, whose professional and calypsonic name was Lord Burgess.
I Almost Lost My Mind has gone through a quick series of successes that cover the range of popular music in the 1950s. It was written in 1950 by Ivory Joe Hunter, a pianist, bandleader and blues singer, whose rhythm-and-blues version of the tune became a hit. Within a couple of years, several singers in the country-and-western field gave it new popularity. Then in 1956, it became a hit for the third time in less than a decade when Pat Boone recorded it as a straightforward ballad.
Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White was composed in 1950 as a love theme for a French film, Underwater. Although it was popular in France, where it was played as a ballad, it did not catch on even with English lyrics, until 1955 when Perez Prado turned it into a cha-cha and inserted the series of long, squeezed trumpet notes that never failed to hold a listener's attention.
February 3rd, 1959 was the "Day That The Music Died." Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper, along with their pilot, Roger Peterson, died when their chartered airplane crashed only minutes after taking off at Mason City Airport, Clear Lake Iowa.
Three of most promising entertainers were gone forever, but their music lives on.
"American Pie" was a song written by Don Mclean in tribute for these singers. It is still being played today.