‘Our Teddy boys are angels’
Blackboard Jungle fever in the classroom
in Screening the Hollywood rebels in 1950s Britain
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Chapter 2 explores the British reception of Blackboard Jungle. As the first Hollywood film to use a rock ’n’ roll soundtrack and comment on juvenile delinquency in secondary moderns (the equivalent of the American high school), the censors anticipated that impressionable Teddy boys would imitate the violence perpetrated by the screen delinquents against their teachers. Thus, the censors not only deleted scenes they considered excessively violent but also worked to lessen the glamour surrounding the delinquents by removing many of their American idioms. As the chapter shows, the film’s lasting legacy was its theme song, Rock Around the Clock, which began a rock ’n’ roll craze in Britain (and globally). In its exploration of the production and exhibition history of this Hollywood film, the chapter also finds parallels in the Max Bygraves film Spare the Rod (1961), billed as the ‘British Blackboard Jungle’, to demonstrate the extent to which the censor inhibited realistic adult British cinema. In addition, Glenn Ford’s and Vic Morrow’s British stardom is reconstructed to demonstrate the deliberate merging of their on- and off-screen personas to authenticate their film characters: dedicated teacher and teenage gang leader, respectively. Hence, Ford was promoted as educated and urbane, and happily married; and Morrow, in his screen debut, as a forthright Method trained actor from New York’s Lower East Side. Morrow’s credibility was largely undermined in the British press and by many cinemagoers for his emulation of the established and highly acclaimed Marlon Brando.

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