After a three-year absence from the movies, Rosalind Russell gets to reprise onscreen her legit turn in “Auntie Mame,” but Mitzi Gaynor nabs the femme lead in “South Pacific” away from Mary Martin, who created the Nellie Forbush character. The two stage-to-screen reduxes are the top-grossing movies of 1958.
Steve McQueen makes his bigscreen debut in “The Blob,” but it is his 1958 gig on TV’s “Wanted: Dead or Alive” that sends teens to see the sci-fi movie. Burt Bacharach writes the theme song “Beware the Blob.”
Despite such A-list marquee names as Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, James Stewart and Kim Novak, two great helmers tank at the box office in 1958. Orson Welles turns in his fifth and last Hollywood pic, “Touch of Evil,” and Alfred Hitchcock gets obsessional with his most personal film to date, “Vertigo.”
In 1958, Charles Van Doren amazes TV auds with his encyclopedic knowledge, on the quiz show “Twenty-One.” The Columbia U. professor soon appears on the covers of Time and Life, but fellow contestant Herbie Stempel charges that the show is a fraud. A national scandal ensues.
He’s in the Army now: On March 24, 1958, the Army inducts Elvis Presley as Private #53310761 and sends him off to Friedberg, Germany, with the 3rd Armored Division for 18 months’ duty. Even though the Army stint puts a crimp in the rocker’s career, his “King Creole” soundtrack hits the No. 2 spot and the album’s single “Hard-Headed Woman” goes to No. 1.
“West Side Story” introduces a new Broadway talent, lyricist Stephen Sondheim, who works alongside Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Laurents. Despite the show’s groundbreaking status, the 1958 Tony goes to Meredith Willson’s cornball “The Music Man.”
Lew Wasserman’s Music Corp. of America becomes the biggest force in Hollywood when the tenpercentery purchases Universal Pictures in 1958. Four years later, Wasserman segues to U when MCA is forced to divest itself of its talent agency to avoid anti-trust prosecution.
1958’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” is just one of over a dozen screen adaptations of Tennessee Williams’ plays. They beget Oscars noms, if not the prize itself, for actors Ed Begley, Marlon Brando, Grayson Hall, Katharine Hepburn, Kim Hunter, Burl Ives, Shirley Knight, Vivien Leigh, Anna Magnani, Karl Malden, Una Merkel, Paul Newman, Geraldine Page, Marisa Pavan and Elizabeth Taylor.
Walt Disney’s top animators, known as the “nine old men,” make a big comeback with the 1955 hit “Lady and the Tramp.” Psyched, they work overtime through 1958 to bring “Sleeping Beauty” to the screen the following year.