Screening the Hollywood Rebels in 1950s Britain explores the relationship between classic American films about juvenile delinquency and British popular youth culture in the mid-twentieth century. The book examines the censorship, publicity and fandom surrounding such Hollywood films as The Wild One, Blackboard Jungle, Rebel Without a Cause, Rock Around the Clock and Jailhouse Rock alongside such British films as The Blue Lamp, Spare the Rod and Serious Charge. Intersecting with star studies and social and cultural history, this is the first book to re-vision the stardom surrounding three extraordinarily influential Hollywood stars: Marlon Brando, James Dean and Elvis Presley. By looking specifically at the meanings of these American stars to British fans, this analysis provides a logical and sustained narrative that explains how and why these Hollywood images fed into, and disrupted, British cultural life. Screening the Hollywood Rebels in 1950s Britain is based upon a wide range of sources including censorship records, both mainstream and trade newspapers and periodicals, archival accounts and memoirs, as well as the films themselves. The book is a timely intervention of film culture and focuses on key questions about screen violence and censorship, masculinity and transnational stardom, method acting and performance, Americanisation and popular post-war British culture. The book is essential reading for researchers, academics and students of film and social and cultural history, alongside general readers interested in the links between the media and popular youth culture in the 1950s.
‘A teenage revolution’: Bill Haley and
the rock ’n’ roll cinemariots
My own opinion is that if it hadn’t been for Blackboard Jungle all
this would never have happened.
Anthony Carthew, Daily Herald, 20 July 19561
Our boys and girls are a grand generation, but, as always, they need
discipline. There is nothing like the discipline of work and service to
knock the Rock ’n’ Roll out of these babies and to knock a bit of
sense into them.
‘Rock ’n’ roll babies’, Daily Mail, 5 September 19562
On 5 February 1957, hundreds of British fans waited for Bill Haley
Around the Clock,
ostensibly a musical biography of Haley’s rise to fame, which incited
the actual juvenile delinquency among Britain’s Teddy boys and
girls so feared by the BBFC. The so-called teenage ‘cinemariots’ of
1956 provide a fascinating outré example of the generational differences between filmgoers. Furthermore, a re-examination of Haley’s
Rock film usefully segues into the delinquent film roles of the rock
’n’ roll performer, Elvis Presley. Indeed, Presley ‘inherited’ the mantle
of the film rebel once a significant portion of British rock
Some youth groups professed a clear liking for the cinema,
such as the Teddy Boys who, Fyvel argued, considered the cinema to be a
secure and familiar social space, and somewhere for young men and women to
meet. 88 The so-called Rock
Around the Clock cinemariots of 1956, when violence broke out amongst
Teddy Boys at showings of the Bill Haley film, were in many ways a defining
moment. 89 From the mid-1950s
: this was an edifying ‘moral
tale’ that would encourage parents and children to share common
As sensational as it was, Dean’s screen rebellion did not elicit the
dangerous ‘organised hooliganism’ anticipated. Chapter 4 explores
the reception of Rock Around the Clock, a banal film with a rock
’n’ roll soundtrack that incited the cinemariots the British censors
had thus far averted.
1 Arthur Watkins to President Sidney Harris, 21 November 1955 (Rebel
Without a Cause, BBFC files).
2 Miss S. E. Manly, ‘Remembered’, Picturegoer, 31:1086, 25