Blackboard Jungle: The Film That Ushered Rock N Roll Into The Mainstream

By | March 26, 2020

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Source: IMDB

In 1955, Blackboard Jungle put rock 'n roll (of Bill Haley and the Comets) on the screen -- a concept that was revolutionary at the time. When MGM released Blackboard Jungle, reviewers thought it was just another “teenage crimewave” movie, a genre in which tough high school students learned lessons at the hands of their elders, but it was much more important than any b-movie. By using the burgeoning sounds of rock and roll from Bill Haley and the Comets, Blackboard Jungle connected with young people and sparked a movement. With the release of Blackboard Jungle in 1955, the sound became codified and teenagers recognized that a new sound was pounding through their speakers. 

Blackboard Jungle reflected teenage life like no movie before

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source: MGM

Blackboard Jungle follows similar threads as other teen focused movies at the time. Glenn Ford plays a war veteran turned school teacher who has to whip the rowdy students of a New York City high school into shape. Like its predecessors in the genre, the film features all manner of rebellious teens but Blackboard Jungle sets itself apart by addressing the racial injustice of the time. It’s not just the rocking soundtrack that connected with audiences, it was the way that the film acknowledged the real life struggles of young people in the 1950s. Peter Ford, son and biographer of Glenn Ford explained the film’s reach to the Calgary Herald:

There was a lot of turmoil going on, and it brought teenage angst-filled young people to the fore… it was quite edgy. It celebrated and brought to the attention of the world that there were teenagers and there was this culture of youth that up to that time had not been considered.