1959 academy award foreign language film

A Magical Trip to Disneyland

The first theme park of its kind, Disneyland opened sixty years ago this month in Anaheim, California. The ambitious undertaking was a dream project for Walt Disney, a record-breaking Academy Award winner and animation pioneer, and ever since it has entertained millions of visitors and multiple generations of families from around the globe. Now let’s take a look back at the early days of Disneyland, which opened with great fanfare in 1955 complete with enthusiastic media coverage.

Disneyland preview ticket, parking pass and receipt from the Leo Rosenthal material at the Margaret Herrick Library.

Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper (seen below) wrote this letter to Lillian and Walt Disney about her first trip to Disneyland on June 15, 1959. From the Hedda Hopper papers at the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library.

A transcript of a Colleen Moore phone call praising Disneyland, from July 24, 1964. From the Hedda Hopper papers.

Walt Disney and actress Giulietta Masina (wife of Federico Fellini) with nominees for the 29th Academy Awards Foreign Language Film Award at Disneyland in 1957.

Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Kate Burton and Liza Todd visit Disneyland in 1965.

Mutiny on the Bounty star Tartia visits Disneyland in 1962.

Br'er Bear and Br'er Fox outside the Haunted Mansion.

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse at Disneyland in 1955.

The Oscar won by Jacques Tati, French actor-director, at the Academy Awards show in Hollywood April 6, 1959.

Actress Sophia Loren, actor Dean Martin and Tati; given the Oscar for his film “My Uncle, which was judged the best foreign language movie of the year. (AP Photo)

Photo Supplied by Globe Photos,inc.

Hollywood, Calif., April 6, 1959, Acacemy Award for My Uncle / Mon Oncle


I can’t afford to hate people. I don’t have that kind of time.

Easily the most shattering film from director Akira Kurosawa, Ikiru (1952, Japan… “To Live” in English) is one of the director’s few films set in a contemporary time. The film stars Kurosawa regular Takashi Shimura (who starred in more films for the director than any other actor… even Toshiro Mifune) as Kanji Watanabe, a middle-aged man who has done nothing as a bureaucrat for decades. One day, Watanabe learns he has terminal stomach cancer and he immediately tries to figure out what to do with himself with the little time he has remaining. Not telling his estranged son about his condition, he goes out nights but realizes such social frivolity is not something he can stand.

One day at the office, a group of mothers are petitioning the government to transform a cesspool into a playground. Despite what you have read here, this is anything but a sentimental movie. It is at many times unsympathetic and wallows in Watanabe’s despondency. Nevertheless, the audience finds itself rooting for Watanabe as he struggles to figure out what to do with himself and, later, how to navigate Tokyo’s bureaucratic offices to get the playground built.

You may have noticed my icon is a man on a swing in the snow. Yes, that is from Ikiru. And the song he sings in that scene and almost exactly halfway through the film… well, let’s just say it is essential viewing.

Ikiru was never nominated for anything like an Academy Award (they do have an excuse, the Academy hadn’t created the Foreign Language Film category yet)… but Ikiru did manage to win all three of its Mainichi Film Awards including Best Picture and also nabbed a BAFTA nomination for Takashi Shimura as Best Foreign Actor (Ikiru was released in Britain in 1959).