Editor’s Page
By Alejandro Grattan-Dominguez
THE FABULOUS FIFTIES

     Sandwiched between the cataclysmic, war-torn 1940s and the explosive 1960s, (which for the first time in U.S. history pitted one generation of Ameri-cans against another), the 1950s initially seemed a rather drowsy decade.
    But the passage of almost a half century has altered that perception, and part of this change can be attributed to books such as The Fifties, written by David Halberstam, one of the world’s preeminent authors, who earlier won the Pulitzer Prize for The Best and the Brightest.
    In retrospect, it seems incredible that the Fifties should have originally been given such short shrift, for much of what happened during that decade greatly determined what American society is (both good and bad) today. It was an era which featured powerful personages who will not soon be forgotten.
    —Dwight Eisenhower, the former Allied Supreme Commander during WWII, and later President of the United States, whose common decency and fair-mindedness set the bar higher for all future political leaders.
    —John Foster Dulles, Eisen-hower’s Secretary of State, whose arrogance caused ruptures in relations with Latin American countries which to this day have not entirely healed.
    —General Douglas MacArthur, perhaps the most brilliant military strategist in American history, first won and then lost the Korean War when his ego overwhelmed his good judgment.
    —President Harry S. Truman, who left office in 1952 with an approval rating of only 27%, but who is today regarded a near-great president.
    —Harley Earl, the GM marketing whiz who put tail fins on cars, and forever cemented America’s love affair with automobiles.
    —Martin Luther King radically changed the way America looked at itself, and in the process he gave the country its conscience.
    —Elvis Presley brought a brand-new beat to American music, and left an unforgettable legacy to the entertainment world.
    —Gregory Pincus, whose scientific team perfected the Pill, thereby forever transforming the sexual habits of a nation, and eventually that of the entire world.
    —Marlon Brando, the greatest actor of his generation (and perhaps any other, as well), who along with three other monumental talents in the ‘50s, director Elia Kazan, writer Tennessee Williams and actor James Dean, forever changed the face of film in the United States.
    —Senator Joseph McCarthy, who splintered an entire country with his self-promoting accusations about alleged pro-Communist “traitors” (even branding WWII hero and former Secretary of State George C. Marshall a “conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy”), died an alcoholic in a gutter of his own making.
    —Marilyn Monroe, whose rise and fall (self-imposed?) made her an icon whose luster burns brighter than ever, some 40 years after her death.
    —Mickey Mantle, dubbed “The Natural,” was the New York Yankee center-fielder whose assault on many of baseball’s most hallowed records was thwarted only by a series of debilitating injuries.
    —Lucille Ball and Milton Berle changed the night-time habits of an entire nation, and along with a dozen others, made television a vibrant new force in America.
    The First Presidential TV Debate, Kennedy vs. Nixon, the night image forever replaced the printed word as the natural language of politics.
    A pretty interesting cast of characters for a so-called “drowsy decade,” and only a small fraction of those in Halberstam’s book. If the Fifties was anywhere close to your decade, do yourself a favor and check out this memory-lane of a book.