9 of the best British period dramas set in the 1950s

We continue our look back at the best British period dramas set in each decade of the 20th Century.

Here our guest writer Elizabeth Niedbala has some recommendations of movies and TV series set in the 1950s.

 

Grantchester (1953-57)

ITV’s crime drama originally starred James Norton (War and Peace) as the Anglican vicar Sydney Chambers who solves mysteries on the side.

Sydney himself is a troubled soul, whose drinking and romantic desires are at odds with his position. Geordie, the police inspector played by Robson Green, helps keep him grounded to reality. As Chambers constantly deals with the darker side of humanity, he loses faith in the Church as a whole.

The fourth season saw Outlander actor Tom Brittney join the cast as clergyman Will Davenport.

Grantchester is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

The Crown – Seasons 1-2 (1954-1959)

While the show begins before her accession to the throne, Netflix’s The Crown looks at Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) at the start of her reign.

In the first season, as she and Philip (Matt Smith) grapple with their changing marriage, Cabinet tries to figure out how to oust Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) from power.

A political show, The Crown sees the Queen deal with the Suez Canal crisis, a changing public, and holding onto traditions in the face of change.

The Crown is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Miss Marple (1954-57)

The BBC adapted all twelve novels by Agatha Christie between 1984 and 1992.

Starring Joan Hickson as the titular character, Marple investigates and solves crimes where ever she goes, aided by Inspector Slack and Detective Lake.

Miss Marple is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Nowhere Boy (1955-60)

All legends have to start somewhere: Nowhere Boy tells the story of John Lennon (Aaron Johnson) before and during the formation of The Beatles.

Exploring the relationship John has with his aunt (Kristin Scott Thomas) and his mom (Anne Marie Duff), the movie builds a portrait of a young man before he became an icon.

Nowhere Boy is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

My Week with Marilyn (1956)

Another movie about two of the biggest actors of the 1950s – Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) and Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) – this 2011 movie is an exposé on how icons are not made of glitter and gold.

In London to shoot The Prince and the Showgirl, Marilyn is looked after by Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) a wannabe-filmmaker. As their relationship develops, Monroe becomes harder to work with on set.

The cast also included Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh, Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike, and Emma Watson as Redmayne’s love interest.

My Week with Marilyn is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

The Hour (1956-57)

Personal story lines are set against the backdrop of international drama, such as the Suez Crisis and racial unrest in London’s Soho.

While trying to get the story for the titular news show, Ben Whishaw (Shyfall), Romola Garai (Atonement) and Dominic West (Colette) deal with murder, adultery and communists.

Premiering on BBC Two in 2009, The Hour had mixed reviews from critics and was cited for historical inaccuracies, but acquired a loyal fan base.

The Hour is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Call the Midwife – Seasons 1-3 (1957-59)

Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, this long-running BBC series is a favourite of ours and has become a period drama heavyweight since it began in 2012.

Set in London’s East End, the local order provides help for new mums during the post-war baby boom. The first three seasons are set in the 1950s and follow Jenny as she adjusts to life as a midwife.

The heartwarming but honest show focuses on female relationships and also spotlights birth defects, abuse, still born births, and many other realities of having a family.

Call the Midwife is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Ordeal by Innocence (1950s)

The BBC’s darkly stylized adaptation of another Agatha Christie mystery aired in 2018, starring Bill Nighy (Love Actually), Anna Chancellor (Four Weddings), Mathew Coode (Downton Abbey) and Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark).

When the matriarch of the Argyll family is killed, the entire family become suspects as years of abuse and neglect bubble to the surface.

As the truth and long dead secrets start to come out, the siblings must find a way to move past and confront the trauma.

Ordeal by Innocence is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

 

Father Brown (1950-1957)

The BBC’s lighthearted daytime drama series follows Harry Potter star Mark Williams as Father Brown, a Catholic priest who solves mysteries.

There is a revolving door of Inspectors who usually solve the cases wrong, and a cast of colourful characters to populate Kembleworth.

Due to the popularity of clergymen solving crimes, perhaps one day there will be a crossover episode with Grantchester!

Father Brown is available on DVD on Amazon.