Blackboard Jungle (1955) Richard Brook

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The pounding beat of Billy Haley’s Rock Around the Clock as the screen darkens got teens of the day up and dancing in the aisles. Theater owners in various cities throughout the country were nervous. Some theaters shut off the sound system during those opening credits fearing teens would quickly get out of control.  Censors, parents groups, religious groups and law enforcement all had their say in speaking out against the film. One censor in Memphis, called the film, “the vilest picture I have ever seen in twenty six years as a censor.” Rock Around the Clock was original released in mid-1954 by Haley as a B-side to the song Thirteen Women (And the Only Man in Town). It was not until director Richard Brooks wanted the song for the film’s opening and closing credits that it rocked to the top of the charts selling more than two million copies. Rock Around the Clock was not the first rock and roll record, nor was it the first hit. It was the first to hit number one on the record charts. Its social impact was massive, helping pave the way for another southern boy, a sexy, better looking boy than the chubby, curly twirled haired Haley, to explode on to the national scene. Despite the film’s opening and closing credits filled with the early rock classic most of the soundtrack is jazz. Continue reading

Seminole (1953) Budd Boetticher

Seminole titleThe Seminole Indian tribe were the original Floridians. They most likely have been there since long before Jesus Christ walked on this earth. The tribe controlled Florida long after the first European settlers arrived in the New World. By the 1700’s both British and Spanish settlers began to move into what would become known as the Sunshine State. Pretty soon the natives were being tortured and murdered. The Seminoles were losing their lives and their land. In 1821, The U.S. acquired Florida from the Spanish.  In an 1823 treaty the U.S. gave the Seminoles about 100,000 acres of land in the Everglades. Continue reading

Bette Davis Needs Shelter From the Storm

storm-center-1Censorship is alive and well in Florida. Last month, a Pasco county middle school banned the popular Stephen Chobosky novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower; forbidding it to be part of the curriculum. According to an article in the Tampa Bay Times, the novel is filled with detailed descriptions of rape, sex and masturbation. One school official said that while the book’s message is good for troubled students, for others it could be exposing them to too much disturbing information for the first time. The article appeared about two weeks ago. I have not read any updates since. There was talk of banning the book in every middle school and possibly every high school in the county. Apparently, some other districts throughout the country have also banned the book. Continue reading

Half a Hero (1953) Don Weis

   Hero1   America in the early 1950’s was on a high. The war was over, the boys were home, a baby boom was in full swing and the economy was growing. Many folks were beginning to leave the city and head out to the white picket fence world of the suburbs. In the suburbs, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, people were living what many thought was the American Dream.  Continue reading

Moulin Rouge (1952) John Huston

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   John Huston’s 1952 film about the life of the great French artist, Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa, more commonly known as Henri Toulouse-Lautrec was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress (Colette Marchand). It won two Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction. Surprisingly, cinematographer Oswald Morris, received no recognition since one of the film’s highlights is its brilliant use of color.  Today, when you talk to someone about a film called Moulin Rouge, they assume you’re referring to the 2001 Baz Luhrmann musical. Huston’s film, while maybe not forgotten,  is generally not discussed much. It’s a shame because there is much to admire. Continue reading

Forty Guns (1957) Sam Fuller

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   Sam Fuller’s background as a newspaper reporter is always evident in his films visual style. They always jump off the screen like the morning headlines. Fuller’s 1957 western begins exactly in that same fashion sucking you in right from its opening shot. A buckboard with three men, Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan) and his two brothers, suddenly hear the sound of a thundering herd of horses. Before they know it they are surrounded by the film title’s forty guns, led by Barbara Stanwyck’s Jessica Drummond, all dressed in blackm riding a white stallion. One of Fuller’s visually unique shots puts the camera’s POV under the buckboard as the horses thundering hooves pound on by. Continue reading

The Narrow Margin (1952) Richard Fleischer

The Narrow Margin - TitleEarly in his feature film directing career Richard Fleischer made a series of exciting low budget film noirs, among them, The Clay Pigeon, Follow Me, Quietly, Armored Car Robbery and his masterpiece, The Narrow Margin. Photographed in deep rich black shadowy light, most of the film taking place on a cross country train. The confined space results in a claustrophobic tense ride filled with twists and turns that do not let up for a second. Continue reading