Picks and Pans Review: The Fifties
Not the bobby-socks-and-barbecue fest of Grease or The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, the '50s, according to Halberstam, was one of the most tumultuous, dynamic and far-reaching decades of the century. In an eminently readable style, the Pultizer-prizewinning journalist and best-selling author of The Best and the Brightest and The Powers That Be tunnels below familiar surfaces (the game-show scandals, the Korean War, school integration, the U2 spy plane affair, Nixon, Brando) to reveal the self-confidence and paranoia, liberality and conformity, that defined the decade.
While Halberstam focuses on American ingenuity and ambition—compellingly profiling men such as Kemmons Wilson, founder of Holiday Inn; Ed Cole, the maverick CM engineer who helped make V8 engines the industry standard; and Rosser Reeves, father of the brisk hard-sell TV commercial—he also explores the undercurrents of racial conflict, McCarthyism, covert CIA operations and the rising manipulative power of television. A rare kind of history book—a page-turner with a message—The Fifties shows how these forces exploded in the '60s in a hail of dashed expectations, racial resentments and youthful rebellion. To see why the '60s ignited, read The Fifties. (Villard, $27.50)