Bill Haley and the rock ’n’ roll cinema riots
Anna Ariadne Knight

Chapter 4 reconstructs the stardom of Bill Haley to explore the ‘rock ’n’ roll riots’ that accompanied the first screenings of Rock Around the Clock in British cinemas. The film was a low-budget feature that showcased many of the most popular rock ’n’ roll musicians and performers of the day. The British Board of Film Censors considered the film ‘harmless’ and classified it ‘U’ (Universal) for family audiences to enjoy. Nonetheless, screenings of Rock Around the Clock caused the dreaded ‘organised hooliganism’ that British censors had worked so hard to avoid. In time, the censors were accused of being ‘oblivious’ to the ‘intoxicating’ effects of the exciting ‘live’ performances of Haley and the Comets; the media sensationalised localised outbreaks that pitted Teddy boys and girls against cinema managers and police. The chapter argues that ‘riots’ were the logical outcome of the censors’ generational disconnection from British teenagers and their enthusiasm for rock ’n’ roll. The BBFC was widely criticised by the press and prominent members of the clergy for failing to anticipate and avert these public disturbances. Proving a phenomenal success at the box office, Rock Around the Clock introduced mainstream audiences to rock ’n’ roll. The chapter provides a timely exhibition history by recounting the interactive in-cinema behaviours of British teenagers, which anticipated the participatory screenings of cult movies. Furthermore, a homely appearance and scathing reviews did not hinder Haley’s rise to fame; he toured the UK with his Comets. In this way, his British stardom demonstrates the unflagging ‘power’ of the teenage consumer.

in Screening the Hollywood rebels in 1950s Britain
Elvis Presley as a rock ’n’ roll rebel
Anna Ariadne Knight

Reconstructing the discursive surround of his early film appearances, Chapter 5 demonstrates that Elvis Presley was promoted in Britain as ‘the rock and roll rebel of the screen’ and as Marlon Brando’s and James Dean’s logical successor. Focusing on the films, Jailhouse Rock and King Creole, the chapter illustrates that Presley was reformulated as the archetypal juvenile delinquent imbued with the popular currency of rock ’n’ roll music. Ensuing public censure of Presley’s music and sexualised performance style invigorated the discourses of Americanisation. In contrast to the amiable Bill Haley, who had recently made a nationwide tour of Britain, film (and music) critics disliked Presley and reported concern over his anticipated (and dreaded) live performances. The chapter demonstrates that Presley’s British fame was developed and sustained by the purchasing ‘power’ of his young fans in spite of (and because of) the widespread criticism and apathy of an older generation. As such, the chapter considers Presley’s stardom as the glorification of a humble American working-class ‘Teddy boy’ adulated by ordinary teenage consumers. In addition, the chapter argues that the blueprint of his fame (and his enormously successful branding) was used by entrepreneurial producer-managers to nurture and develop a new stable of British talent. Adam Faith and Billy Fury, among others, became popular for their proletarian qualities. Regional or cockney accents no longer hindered careers in the performing arts but, rather, recommended emerging stars to those teenage consumers with surplus income, eager to worship home-grown heroes.

in Screening the Hollywood rebels in 1950s Britain
Marlon Brando and The Wild One ban in the UK
Anna Ariadne Knight

Chapter 1 contextualises Marlon Brando’s early stardom in Britain to re-evaluate why the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) chose to impose a fourteen-year ban on The Wild One. Conversely, it chronicles how some local authorities and private clubs overturned the ban and screened the film. Brando’s early persona as a wayward but talented stage-trained actor, who became a Hollywood ‘anti-star’, meant that he occupied a unique position in cinema. This partly explains why the BBFC was overly concerned with releasing a film that allied an established and forceful method actor with reckless juvenile delinquency. The censor board publicly defended its decision to ban the film (deny it a certificate) through recourse to the excessive screen violence. Confidential records demonstrate that British film censors actually considered Brando’s screen delinquent to be too ‘attractive and imitable’ and worried that the film was a blueprint for yet more ‘organised hooliganism’ by British Teddy boys. Through an analysis of Marlon Brando’s early popularity, sustained by his persuasive interpretation of method acting techniques, his kudos with film critics and his appeal to British film fans, the chapter demonstrates that Brando’s stardom was the major factor behind the controversial decision to ban the film. Paying close attention to the aspects of mise en scène which heighten Brando’s sexuality and sympathetic qualities, the chapter demonstrates how his screen delinquent emerged as an admirable anti-hero – a far more complex and enduring character than anticipated, which surpassed even Hollywood’s expectations.

in Screening the Hollywood rebels in 1950s Britain
Elliot Vernon

This chapter explores the role of London’s presbyterians in the formation of the parliamentarian ‘political presbyterian’ alliance. It analyses the presbyterian clergy’s dispute with Parliament in 1645 over the authority and jurisdiction of the projected settlement of the church. This dispute triggered the London clergy to mobilise a campaign for presbyterianism and, in so doing, mobilised a body of pro-presbyterian, ‘Covenant-engaged’ London citizens to seize key city institutions. The purpose of this was to pressurise Parliament into establishing presbyterian church polity. This campaign would ultimately end in disappointment and compromise. However, the London presbyterians’ sophisticated campaigning network and control of important city institutions would prove critical for the rest of the period.

in London presbyterians and the British revolutions, 1638–64
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Elliot Vernon

This chapter provides a summary of the book’s main findings. Offering a narrative and analysis of the London presbyterian movement from the inside, the book has sought to complicate the common characterisation of London’s religious presbyterians as an arch-conservative or even ‘counter-revolutionary’ force which held back the parliamentarian revolution. The London presbyterians stood in the tradition of a mixed constitution based on ‘co-ordinate’ powers in Parliament and an ecclesiastical settlement. They remained committed to this as events took an unsustainably extreme  turn in the late 1640s and early 1650s. While the movement was a historical failure, that does not mean that it did not leave a legacy. In religion, the most obvious example is the worldwide use of the Westminster assembly’s confession of faith and its other confessional standards. In politics, we can point to the English culture of protestant dissent. Furthermore, the movement reveals important aspects of the nature of the British revolutions in particular and the religious culture of the early modern (and indeed modern) Anglophone world in general.

in London presbyterians and the British revolutions, 1638–64
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The rise of the Angry Young Men
Anna Ariadne Knight

The book’s in-depth analysis of six case studies, comparisons to other British and Hollywood films on similar themes, demonstrates the currency of juvenile delinquency during a period of intense media interest in the teenager. In its wider application, the book offers a British history of several iconic Hollywood stars: Marlon Brando, James Dean and Elvis Presley. By exploring their influences and impact on British fans and their disruption to British culture, the book historicises the discourses of Americanisation and teenage consumerism. The conclusion explores some of the legacies of the Hollywood rebel trope, and argues for the ways in which elements and motifs were assimilated into New Wave cinema with representations of Angry Young Men, as a popular and emergent British masculinity (Albert Finney in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, for example). The chapter also extends previous arguments that Elvis Presley’s success as a rock ’n’ roll rebel offered a ‘blueprint’ of fame, forming the basis of many imitative careers, including those of Tommy Steele and Cliff Richard, each hailed as ‘the British Elvis Presley’. The epilogue argues for the cross-cultural exchange that followed Presley’s career and star meanings in Britain (his impoverished childhood, his spectacular success, the degenerative effects of rock ’n’ roll) and the Beatlemania that pervaded American popular culture in 1961. Spearheading the British invasion, the Beatles, with their proletarian origins and rebellious iconography (their irreverent interview style and ‘mop tops’, for example) confronted American conservativism and generated discourses of cultural protectionism.

in Screening the Hollywood rebels in 1950s Britain
Elliot Vernon

This chapter traces London presbyterian activity from the execution of Christopher Love to the end of the Protectorate. It explores how the presbyterians focused their energies on defending Reformed orthodoxy, often in alliance with ‘magisterial’ congregationalists at the centre of the Cromwellian state. By 1654 the London presbyterian ministers were cautiously supporting attempts led by the leading congregationalist John Owen to establish a confessional foundation for the otherwise loose structure of the Cromwellian ecclesiastical administration. This ambition was ultimately frustrated by the chronic instability of Cromwellian politics, although the co-operation with the Protectorate ultimately led to the return to politics of London’s presbyterians from the mid-1650s. The chapter also looks at the presbyterians’ attempt to defend their position in disputation and their attempt to restore controls on printing.

in London presbyterians and the British revolutions, 1638–64
Elliot Vernon

This chapter looks at the London presbyterians’ political thought, exploring ideas of limited monarchy, the ‘co-ordinate’ mixed constitution, Old Testament notions of national covenanting and sixteenth-century presbyterian two-kingdoms theory. The chapter then proceeds to analyse how the London presbyterian clergy built their key institutional power bases in the city, including London’s Sion College, the Westminster assembly and the mobilisation of godly elements of the parliamentarian citizenry in London. It concludes by looking at how the London presbyterian clergy began to develop the polemical tools to mobilise for the establishment of presbyterian government against rival claims to the polity of the church.

in London presbyterians and the British revolutions, 1638–64
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The Cavalier Parliament, the Great Ejection of 1662 and the first years of dissent
Elliot Vernon

This chapter looks at the end of the presbyterian movement and the transition to nonconformity and dissent. It analyses the presbyterian campaign to elect suitable candidates to the Cavalier Parliament. It then moves on to Gilbert Sheldon’s campaign to dismantle presbyterian vestiges of power in London. The chapter concludes by looking at the aftermath of the Great Ejection – examining the numbers of ministers who chose ejection rather than conformity and their reactions to being expelled from the Church of England.

in London presbyterians and the British revolutions, 1638–64
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Labour, capital and corporate power
Laura Clancy

This chapter outlines the conceptual framework of this book, which describes the monarchy as a corporation: the Firm. Drawing together a large and varied amount of material, it maps out the mechanics, technologies and industries involved in the reproduction of the Firm. It describes the actors involved in reproducing the Firm, and outlines the infrastructure of staff and key individuals to expose the labour undertaken ‘backstage’ in order to represent the ‘frontstage’ of monarchy. It also describes a web of capital relations: the exploitation of low-paid workers through ideologies of class subservience; the ‘revolving door’ between the Royal Household and corporations, the military, broadcasters and the civil service; the murky rules of royal financing; the secrecy of royal wealth; the networks of contacts; the relationships to post/colonialism; the exploitation of political relationships for profit; and the abuse of political privileges.

Alongside exposing these corporate relations, this chapter outlines my distinction between the institution of monarchy and our emotional investments in the royal family and its ‘individual’ members. I use ideas of ‘the Family Firm’ to consider how the contemporary monarchy’s performance of Victorian-inspired, middle-class, ‘family values’ is a strategic project to distance the Firm from capitalist vulgarity. If this book argues that the very invisibility of the Firm’s social and economic power is its power, this chapter aims to make these relations visible. In sum, it pulls back the stage curtain of monarchy to understand what the Firm is today.

in Running the Family Firm