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        #206: Popular Culture in '50s

        作者:Steve Ember 發布日期:9-5-2013

        American teenagers taking dance classes in 1953
        American teenagers taking dance classes in 1953

        STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

        Imagine a time machine. You've just climbed into it for the purpose of visiting the United States - in the nineteen-fifties.

        What would you expect to find?

        In the nineteen fifties, America was a nation whose population was growing as never before. It was a nation where the popular culture of television was both reflecting and influencing its lifestyle.

        (MUSIC)

        But it was also a nation that believed it was on the edge of nuclear war.

        Americans were happy to put World War Two behind them. The war ended in nineteen forty-five. People were hopeful. They thought the world would be peaceful for a while.

        By nineteen fifty, however, political tensions were high again.

        The United States and the Soviet Union were allies in World War Two. But, after the war, they became enemies in what came to be known as the Cold War.

        Communists took control of one eastern European nation after another. The Soviet Union led by Josef Stalin strengthened its armed forces. However, the United States thought America alone possessed the most powerful weapon of all -- the atomic bomb.

        (MUSIC)

        But in nineteen forty-nine, a United States Air Force plane discovered strange conditions in the atmosphere. What was causing them?

        The answer came quickly: the Soviet Union had tested its own atomic bomb.

        The nuclear race was on. The two nations competed to build weapons of mass destruction.

        A "doomsday clock" on the cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists warned of a growing danger of nuclear destruction. Members of that group were afraid of what science had produced, and even more afraid of what it could produce.

        By nineteen forty-nine, the time on the doomsday clock was three minutes to midnight.

        (SOUND)

        In nineteen fifty, North Korea invaded South Korea. The Korean war increased efforts in the United States to develop a weapon even more deadly than the atomic bomb. That weapon was the hydrogen bomb.

        The Soviets were also working to develop their own hydrogen bomb.

        A family bomb shelter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1958
        A family bomb shelter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1958

        Some Americans built bomb shelters in their backyards, hoping to have a safe place for their families in case of a nuclear attack.

        Other Americans, however, were tired of being afraid. After years of sacrifice, they wanted to enjoy the good life in a growing economy.

        Nineteen fifty-two was a presidential election year. Americans elected Dwight Eisenhower, a military hero of World War Two.

        The years after the war produced the Baby Boom generation. In nineteen fifty there were twenty-four million young children in America. By nineteen sixty that number was thirty-five million.

        More families meant the need for more houses. And bigger families needed bigger houses. In nineteen fifty alone, almost one and a half million new homes were built in America.

        Most of these new houses were located in suburbs, the areas outside cities. People moved to the suburbs because they thought the schools there were better than city schools. They also liked having more space for their children to play in.

        (SOUND)

        More space meant children had room to lay out electric train sets. In a lot of American homes, playing with electric trains was an activity that brought the whole family together.

        Television ads for Lionel trains even featured baseball great Joe DiMaggio.

        TV ANNOUNCER: "Lionel Trains proudly present The Joe DiMaggio Show, starring the Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio himself"

        The late nineteen fifties brought the Barbie doll and a big circular tube of colorful plastic called the Hula Hoop. People had to learn to move their hips in a circular motion, like a hula dancer in Hawaii, to spin it around their body.

        Also popular was the poodle cut -- not for dogs, but for women who wanted to look stylish. They fixed their hair into lots of small curls, like the hair on a poodle.

        Actress Mary Martin had made the poodle cut famous in the musical "South Pacific." That play opened on Broadway in New York in nineteen forty-nine.

        Marilyn Monroe and baseball great Joe DiMaggio; they were married for 10 months in 1954 and then divorced
        Marilyn Monroe and baseball great Joe DiMaggio; they were married for 10 months in 1954 and then divorced

        (MUSIC: "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend")

        In Hollywood, one of the biggest movie stars of the nineteen fifties was Marilyn Monroe. She starred in films like "Gentleman Prefer Blondes" in nineteen fifty-three. Her platinum-blonde hair style also became popular among American women.

        JAMES DEAN in "Rebel Without A Cause": "I woke up this morning, you know, and the sun was shining. And it was nice, and all that type of stuff. And the first thing, I saw you, and I said, now, boy this is gonna be one terrific day..."

        Another famous actor was James Dean, best known for the nineteen fifty-five movie "Rebel Without a Cause." That same year he died in a car accident at the age of twenty-four.

        In literature, there were writers and poets who came to be known as the Beat generation. These included Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg. To them, much of life in nineteen-fifties America was empty and meaningless.

        The painter Jackson Pollock represented a spirit of rebellion in art. Pollock would drop paint onto a canvas. What did his works mean? People had to decide for themselves.

        Elvis Presley
        Elvis Presley

        (MUSIC: "Don't Be Cruel")

        In music, the rebel was Elvis Presley -- the king of rock and roll.

        Elvis Presley was a twenty-one-year-old truck driver when he sang on television for the first time.

        Some parents and religious leaders thought he was a bad influence. They thought the way he moved his body to the music was too suggestive. But young people screamed for more. They listened to Elvis' music on records, on the radio and on the television program "American Bandstand."

        (MUSIC)

        "American Bandstand" became the most popular dance party in America. Every week, young people danced to the latest songs in front of the TV cameras.

        (MUSIC)

        But it wasn't all rock and roll. Whether on Bandstand-type television programs or at local "record hops," or at home, young Americans - and their parents - danced cheek to cheek to romantic ballads as well.

        Television in the nineteen-fifties included dramas acted live on TV.

        And there were quiz shows, and game shows, and comedy programs.

        (MUSIC)

        If Elvis was the king of rock and roll, Lucille Ball was the queen of comedy. During the nineteen fifties, millions of Americans watched "I Love Lucy." Lucille Ball starred with her husband Desi Arnaz. They played Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. Ricky is a Cuban bandleader in New York. Lucy is a housewife who wishes she could be famous like her husband.

        LUCY: "What will I have to do?"

        RICKY: "You gonna have to get me back on the television show."

        LUCY: "How?"

        RICKY: "I don't know how. But, if you don't, I'll ... "

        LUCY: "I will, Ricky. I'll get you back on the show. Don't even think of what you'll do if I don't [imitating Ricky's Cuban accent]."

        Lucille Ball and "I Love Lucy" were both big influences on generations of entertainers and TV comedy producers.

        Variety shows offered a mix of entertainment. Americans watched shows hosted by comics like Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason and Sid Caesar.

        Ed Sullivan was not a comedian, but for years his show brought new acts into American homes every Sunday night.

        Television shows were all in black-and-white. But one night in nineteen fifty-three, Americans got their own time-machine glimpse into the future of TV. It happened with an announcement during Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows."

        NBC TV NEWSMAN: "This is Richard Harkness in Washington. This week will long be remembered in the annals of television, for on Thursday, December seventeenth, the Federal Communications Commission approved Compatible Color Television."

        That meant that owners of TV sets could still watch programs broadcast in color -- in black and white -- instead of having to buy a new set. Color TV's popularity grew quickly, and the prices of color TVs came down, meaning more color TVs in American homes, and more and more programs produced in color.

        TV ANNOUNCER: "The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC."

        During the nineteen fifties, most of the people who appeared on television were white. If black actors appeared, they were usually in jobs working for white people.

        But in real life, a civil rights movement was beginning to gather strength. Legal battles were fought to end racial separation, especially in public schools.

        In nineteen fifty-four, the United States Supreme Court made a historic ruling. The case was known as Brown v. Board of Education. The court ruled that the requirement in some states for racially separate schools was unconstitutional. The court rejected the idea that schools for black students could be "separate but equal" to those attended by white students.

        By the nineteen sixties, the civil rights movement would shake American society.

        Dwight Eisenhower was president for most of the nineteen fifties. He faced the problems of communism, nuclear threats and racial tensions. "Ike" had a calm way of speaking to the public. Many Americans saw him as a fatherly president. They thought that even in a dark and dangerous world, everything would be all right.

        Were they correct? We'll try to answer that in future programs.

        You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at www.squishedblueberries.com. And you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.

        ___

        Contributing: Jerilyn Watson

        This was program #206. For earlier programs, type "Making of a Nation" in quotation marks in the search box at the top of the page.

        二十世紀五十年代的美國,人口數量飛速增長,電視的出現反映并影響著人們的生活方式。但是與此同時,美國人也擔心,自己正生活在核戰爭的邊緣。

        美國人很高興看到1945年二戰的結束,大家滿懷希望,以為世界和平已經來臨。然而,1950年,政治局勢再次出現緊張。二戰期間,美國和蘇聯是盟友,但是戰后卻逐漸成為敵人,出現了后來的冷戰。

        蘇聯接二連三地控制了東歐國家,并在斯大林的領導下,加強了自己的武裝力量。然而,美國以為,自己是世界上唯一掌握最強大的武器原子彈的國家。

        *蘇聯原子彈*

        1949年,美國空軍飛機在大氣中發現了奇怪的現象,他們很快找到了答案,原來是蘇聯試驗了自己的原子彈。核競賽由此展開,雙方爭著研制大規模殺傷性武器。

        原子科學家公報封面上的"世界末日時鐘",警告人們核毀滅的風險正越來越大。該團體的成員對科學的產物原子彈感到恐懼,對今后還會研制出什么武器更加擔心。到1949年的時候,世界末日時鐘距離午夜只有三分鐘了。

        *韓戰打響*

        1950年,朝鮮入侵韓國,韓戰打響后,美國也加緊研制比原子彈殺傷力更大的武器 氫彈。蘇聯也在研制氫彈。一些美國人在后院建起防空洞,為可能發生的核攻擊做準備。另外一些美國人則不愿提心吊膽地生活,經過多年犧牲后,他們想在經濟蓬勃增長的時候過幾天好日子。

        1952年是美國大選年,二戰英雄艾森豪威爾將軍成為美國下一任總統。二戰過后美國生育率大增,出現了所謂的嬰兒潮。1950年,美國只有2400萬個孩子,到1960年時,孩子的人數已經猛增到3500萬。

        家庭的增加需要更多住房,人口更多的家庭需要住更大的房子,光是1950年一年,美國新建住房就多達近150萬棟。大多數新建住房都在城市邊緣的近郊地帶,大家覺得那里的學校質量比城里的好,所以都愿意搬到那里去,更何況郊區地方大,能讓孩子有更大的活動空間。

        空間大了,就意味著孩子們可以在屋里架起電動火車模型,當時的美國,很多家庭會一家人聚在一起玩電動火車。紐約揚基棒球隊球星狄馬吉奧也為萊昂內爾火車做廣告。

        *文學藝術風貌*

        芭比娃娃和呼啦圈也是20世紀50年代后期出現的,當時女人還流行燙小卷兒,著名女演員馬莉.馬丁在1949年紐約百老匯上演的音樂劇《南太平洋》里就留這種發型。

        20世紀50年代美國好萊塢最璀璨的電影明星之一是瑪麗蓮.夢露。她1953年主演了影片《紳士愛美人》,她在電影里留的金發發型也受到女性觀眾的爭相效仿。

        50年代最著名的男演員之一是詹姆斯.迪恩,他的代表作是1955年《無因的反抗》。這部電影上映的同一年,迪恩在一起車禍中不幸喪生,當時只有24歲。

        50年代的文學屆出現了所謂的"垮掉的一代",對這些作家和詩人來說,50年代的美國生活充滿了空虛和無聊,他們中間的代表人物包括作家杰克.凱魯亞克,詩人格雷戈里.柯索和艾倫.金斯堡。

        杰克遜.波洛克是當時美國著名的抽象表現主義畫家,他的作品表現了一種反抗的精神。50年代音樂界的代表人物當然要數美國的搖滾之王貓王普雷斯利了。

        普雷斯利首次在電視上演唱,還只是個21歲的卡車司機。一些家長和宗教領袖覺得他對年輕人是壞影響,認為他的舞蹈動作過于大膽,但是貓王深受年輕人追捧。

        普雷斯利的歌迷們不僅聽收音機,聽唱片,還收看他參加電視上的美國樂隊大舞臺的節目。"美國樂隊大舞臺"是當時美國最受歡迎的舞會派對。一幫年輕人每星期在攝像機前隨著流行音樂翩翩起舞。

        當時流行的不光是搖滾樂。不論是在"美國樂隊大舞臺"這類電視節目上,在本地舞廳里,還是在家中,年輕人和他們的父母也會隨著浪漫的民謠而相擁慢舞。

        我們在上一部分的建國史話中講到美國20世紀50年代的文學藝術風貌。50年代的電視上出現了電視劇,智力競猜節目,游戲節目和喜劇。如果說普雷斯利是搖滾之王的話,那露西.鮑爾就是喜劇王后了。

        20世紀50年代,露西.鮑爾出演的《我愛露西》深受觀眾喜愛,露西飾演一個家庭主婦,她的丈夫里卡多是紐約一個古巴樂隊的老板,露西夢想著跟丈夫一樣出名。

        露西.鮑爾和她主演的《我愛露西》對后來的演員和電視喜劇制片人產生了巨大影響。綜藝節目也深受歡迎,50年代著名的搞笑主持人包括米爾頓.伯利,杰基.格里森和錫德.凱薩。埃德.沙利文不是喜劇演員,但是多年里,他主持的節目每星期天都會把好看的表演送到家家戶戶的電視屏幕上。

        當時,電視節目都是黑白的。1953年的一個晚上,錫德.凱薩節目里一段新聞說:"這個星期將被載入電視歷史的史冊,因為12月17號星期四,美國聯邦通訊委員會批準了兼容的彩色電視。"

        這就意味著,現有電視機也可以收看新制作的彩色節目,但出來的圖像是黑白的。彩電上市后深受消費者歡迎,價格很快就降了下來,美國購買彩電的家庭越來越多,彩色的電視節目也越來越司空見慣。

        20世紀50年代,電視上主要是白人,如果出現黑人演員,也基本上是替白人干活的。但在現實生活中,一場民權運動正在醞釀之中,為結束種族分離,特別是公立學校里的法律領域內的斗爭正在進行。

        *高院否定"隔離但平等"原則*

        1954年,美國聯邦最高法院做出了歷史性的裁決,這就是著名的布朗訴教育委員會案。最高法院裁決,某些州有關種族隔離學校的規定違反了憲法,否定了以前所謂"隔離但平等"的原則。20世紀60年代,美國社會將會受到民權運動的震撼。

        美國50年代主要時間都是在艾森豪威爾總統的領導之下。他面臨的問題包括共產主義的威脅,核戰爭的威脅,以及種族關系的緊張。艾森豪威爾很擅于平心靜氣地講話,讓很多人覺得他有慈父風范。他們覺得,有他在,就算周圍是一個黑暗危險的世界,一切問題也都會迎刃而解。

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