Friday, February 27, 2015

Blackboard Jungle

Blackboard Jungle (1955)

Bryan Keefer, Savanna Melton, & Holland Millure
            The movie Blackboard Jungle is a social commentary produced in 1955 that became a blockbuster hit of the year. This movie focused on the growing problem of teenage delinquency, especially in inner city schools. It concentrations on a new teacher in an all-boys school that has a terrible reputation for gang crime and misbehavior among the students. Blackboard Jungle tackles issues such as the delinquency problem as well as race, the generation gap post WW11, and more controversial issues such as miscarriage. The movie uses the context of the school to address all of these issues and directs their message to both adults (parents) and teenagers through different mediums, such as the music used and topics handled. Through the development of the plot and the interactions between the characters (teachers and students) the movie makes it clear that adults need to be committed to helping these teens to deal with all of these problems. The movie was received well by both adults and teens, but many feared that the problems talked about were more widespread than just in inner city school systems. Some cities found this movie to be too controversial, either refusing to show it or cut certain scenes that had the rock music played because they feared it would incite violence among teens after seeing the movie.
The main purpose of Blackboard Jungle is to inform and shock the public about the problems of juvenile delinquency and America’s failing public schools. Apart from the fact that the students are portrayed as criminals, they also appear disrespectful to adults and unmotivated in school. North Manual High School is an urban multiethnic vocational school, and the problems the school faced are mentioned and implied on many occasions. The film also reflects issues due to the generation gap. The teachers often discuss how they do not understand and cannot control the students, while the students constantly victimize the older generation. The film also puts on display the norm of rock ‘n’ roll, the music genre that was gaining significant popularity at the time, particularly among the younger generation. Teenagers danced in the aisles of the theaters as “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets played in the opening and closing credits, leading some theaters to mute the song. Blackboard Jungle is known for marking the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll in mainstream culture. One can definitely see the film as realist, as it depicts the actual problems many American schools were facing in the postwar era, but, on the other hand, it can be interpreted as a sensationalist exaggeration of the school problems and the overall danger of the newly emerging youth culture.
Unlike other movies we have reviewed Blackboard Jungle was a social commentary and so it directly addressed the issues it saw in society without the use of analogies like other films, such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers. One similarity, however, is the gender role conformity that’s seen through Mrs. Dadier, being a “perfect wife” like the mother in “Leave it to Beaver!,” as well as through Mrs. Hammond, who is condemned for her promiscuity like the gypsy in Oklahoma!. Other connections are with respect to the article, “Yakety Yak, Don’t Talk Back.” Problems brought up that are addressed in the movie include the generation gap, inner city communities, concerns with rock ‘n’ roll and for a correct way to discipline teenagers. The main article and the movie mostly focus on the influences of rock ‘n’ roll to have teenagers reject adult authority and the correct way to discipline. The movie “demonstrates” the fears addressed in the article that rock ‘n’ roll does cause teenagers to rebel against authority, including teachers, conform to peer-norms (of gang violence in this case), and become hypersexual while and after listening. The movie also addresses with the difficulties of disciplining and getting the correct response needed from the teenagers after the punishment has been given.

Bosley Crowther, “The Screen; ‘Blackboard Jungle’; Delinquency Shown in Powerful Film,” New York Times, March 21, 1955, accessed February 25, 2015,
“Blackboard Jungle,”
Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, s.v. “Blackboard Jungle,” accessed February 25, 2015,
Adam Golub, “They Turned a School into a Jungle! How the Blackboard Jungle Redefined the Education Crisis in Postwar America,” Film & History 39 (2009), accessed February 25, 2015,
Kevin E. McCarthy, “Juvenile Delinquency and Crime Theory in Blackboard Jungle,” The Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture 14 (2007), accessed February 25, 2015,

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

All That Heaven Allows

All That Heaven Allows

Jai-W Hayes-Jackson and Ryan Rabea

          The movie was directed by Douglas Sirk, written by Harry and Edna Lee, and produced by Universal Pictures. We could not find a budget for the film, but it did relatively well in the box office grossing 3.1 million dollars. It starred two huge actors in Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman as the main roles, with Jacqueline deWitt as the antagonist, Agnes Moorhead as the best friend, and Gloria Talbott and William Reynolds as Cary Scott’s children. The New York Times wrote “The script was obviously written to bring Wyman and Hudson, who made a popular twosome in The Magnificent Obsession, together again. Solid and emotional drama gave way to outright emotional bulldozing and a paving of easy clich├ęs. Today it is received very well even being added to the National Film Registry in 1995. It is also quite surprising that the only controversy in this film was between the director and Universal on the ending. Hudson was a gay man and Sirk was a German born who made Marxist films, in a time when both of those would be heavily looked down upon.
          We discussed how Sirk was very paradigm breaking with this film, and against the norms of the day. He was against the oppression of the woman, and that was on display throughout the whole movie. He used the main character of Cary Scott to show that women have their own identity outside of a man, and they should be allowed to explore that through their own choices. He broke down normal gender roles. Rock Hudson’s character is very expressive of his feelings throughout the movie, he is the much less well-off of the duo, and he is willing to give up children to pursue love of an older woman. Cary Scott is rich, and very strong and independent in the film, opposite the norm for women. The film was non-consumerist in some of its messages. Consumerism was taking hold in the 50’s and 60’s. Many people valued themselves by their perfect suburban houses and new appliances. Cary Scott was willing to give up on her perfect house and move to the country side with a poorer man who couldn’t give her all that. She was even against buying herself a television. Also the movie was non-conformist and escapist. Sirk wanted a sad ending with Hudson dying to show the audience that if you conform to what society wants you will be miserable, but he was still able to put that message on display with how devastated Cary was after she called off the engagement with Ron.
          All That Heaven Allows challenges both gender roles of women and the consumerism around investing in a house. The protagonist, Cary Scott is viewed as a conventional women until she becomes engaged to a man who is less well off than she is. Enlightened that her reputation would be ruined, she still defies normalcy and continues with the relationship. It was atypical of women to care more about themselves than there reputation which Cary Scott seems to pioneer away from. We also see the effects of consumerism in the movie with the house representing the ideal American home. The same house from Leave it to Beaver, we see that there was a stigma that revolved around what an American family should strive to embody, especially through consumerism products such as televisions and cars. All That Heaven Allows is also brings up the question of why a relationship that was abnormal, was otherwise disapproved of. After discussing possibilities, it was majorly agreed on that gender roles was very strict and rigid and that anything outside of these norms was mostly frowned upon. With that being said, Cary Scott’s relationship was no different.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Leave It to Beaver

Leave It to Beaver (1957-1963)
Ellen Foley, Catherine Walsh, & Kevin Boylan

Leave it to Beaver was an American sitcom produced by Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher that premiered in October 1957 (incidentally the same day Sputnik launched). The show was broadcast by ABC and subsequently by CBS as 30 minute, black and white episodes. The show was well reverted by a wide audience, though not as popular as its contemporaries. This came as no surprise, as the shallow, rosy characters provided no controversy. Leave It to Beaver was selected to be one of Time's magazines "best 100 shows of all time," and had a brief revival with the same cast in 1983. The cast featured Barbra billingsly as June, Hugh Beaumont as Ward, Tony Dow as Wally, and Jerry Mathers as Beaver. Each episode featured some version of "bad behavior" by the children and displayed parenting techniques to deal with this unique to each situation in the episode.
The main themes of this long-running TV sitcom fit perfectly into the 1950s mold of the ideal American life. Traditional gender roles in a nuclear family is a major part of the characters’ identities. June Cleaver is the perfect housewife: she dresses nicely while cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the house while Ward goes to work and the kids head to school each day. She loves her husband and sons, and concerns herself with their looks and cleanliness, often leaving the important teaching moments to Ward. He is the main disciplinarian in the house, as any 1950s father would be expected to be. His main role is as a father, not a working man, and little is given away about his work life. This nuclear family life is also very secure and safe, clearly displaying the mentality that there is security and happiness in domesticity. Political and international issues that plagued the world at the time are never mentioned; the show is an escape from the more dangerous realities of the world outside of domestic tranquility. Morality is another important theme in the sitcom, and there is a constant string of lessons being taught to viewers as Ward teaches Beaver. This emphasis on raising children right once again shows the focus on family life and the importance of passing on lessons of morality to the next generation. 
            We can connect Leave it to Beaver to our class reading “Homeward Bound”. The show represents the typical suburban life in the 1950’s. On the show we can see the typical suburban home with all the new appliances around the house. The family structure was strong between the parents and the children.The parents, June and Ward, have a very stable marriage. Ward goes to work while June takes care of the house work and the children. When Ward comes home from work June has dinner ready for the family. June is always dressed up nice with pearls and an apron. After dinner it is typical for Ward to read the newspaper. The show also always has a message for the children to learn when they do something wrong. The message is always taught by the father. This show connected to the audience so well because it showed everyday problems that young children might face. That is why the father was always telling the children the right thing to do.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Oklahoma! (1955)
The film Oklahoma! was released in 1955, but was based off the Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name, written by Lynn Riggs and Oscar Hammerstein. Oklahoma! was directed by Fred Zimmerman, produced by Arthur Hornblow Jr., and written by Sonya Levien and William Ludwig. James Dean and Paul Newman actually tried out for the role of Curly but the part went to Gordon MacRae instead. In addition, Joanne Woodward was offered the role of Laurey, but it went to Shirley Jones who had performed in a stage production of Oklahoma!. The film was also the first feature film to be shot in the Todd-AO 70mm widescreen process as opposed to the usual 35mm format. The budget was around $6.8 million, made $7.1 million and was reviewed fairly well resulting in a “New York Times Critics Pick.” The film was also nominated for 4 Academy Awards and won the awards for Best Music Scoring of a Musical Picture and Best Sound Recording. Lastly, Oklahoma! achieved the honor of being selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.  
The plot centers on a cowboy named Curly and his courtship of Laurey, a farm gal. Curly wants to take Laurey to the box social but she already agreed to go with the menacing farm hand, Jud. There’s also a comical subplot of Ado Annie and her love triangle between a foreign peddler, Ali Hakim and Will parker who has arrived back from Kansas City to marry her. On the way to the box social, Laurey decides to leave Jud behind and go find Curly at the social. There at the social, Curly must win a bidding war against Jud for Laurey where he gives up all he owns to outbid Jud. Later on, Curly marries Laurey, but Jud shows up and attempts to kill them by setting the haystack they are on top of on fire. Curly jumps down to fight Jud, but Jud falls on his knife and dies. The next day, Curly is quickly acquitted of any wrongdoing in the death of Jud, and he and Laurey ride off to the train.
           The first main theme of Oklahoma! is the importance of traditional American family values.  This theme is explored through the characters of Laurie and Curly.  They spend the whole movie coming together, and in the end they become engaged, and Curly says that he is going to give up being a cowboy to settle down and start a family with Laurie.  Marriage is a major goal for all of the characters and this reflects the idea that young people should be settling down and getting married at a young age. The second message in the film is a mistrust of outsiders.  The character Jud Fry lives on the fringes of society, he does not own his own land, he’s a farmhand, and he does not have any family.   From the beginning of the film the main characters show a dislike for Jud, and in the end their dislike for him is vindicated when he tries to kill Curly and Laurie.  Another less sinister character that shows that outsiders should be mistrusted is Ali Hakim.  He is a gypsy peddler who takes advantage of women.  He uses women with  no intention of marrying them, which is the opposite of what a good American boy would do.
The film Oklahoma! marks a departure from the previous films viewed in class such as The Manchurian Candidate as it relates less to McCarthyism and Communism and more to the sentiments and values of 1950s Cold War America. The film relates to our class discussion, especially the novel, Homeward Bound in regards to themes such as traditional gender roles, emphasis on marriage and subsequent security established at a young age, and the value of female sexuality as seen in Ado Annie’s storyline. In the discussion of how Oklahoma!’s popularity reflects on 1950’s values, members such of the class such as Savannah, Amir, and Damon brought up good points. They said that the movie shows an emphasis on turning to a traditional home, “going back to the roots”, and a simple home life with less vulnerability. Also, they mentioned the movie reflects on the 1950s consumerism and focus on the family.

By: John Parker, Grace Gealy, Marissa Ferrighetto
Homeward Bound
Class notes and discussion

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Day the Earth Stood Still

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

“The Day the Earth Stood Still” was released in 1951, and was one of the first films in the long line of 1950s American science fiction films.  It was based off the book “Farewell to the Master,” written by Harry Bates.  Fox Productions purchased the film rights for only $1000, the film was budgeted $960,000, and by the end of its first release, the movie racked up a worldwide gross of $1.8 million.  The movie was nominated for two Golden Globes, and won the award for “Best Film Promoting International Understanding.” 
At the start of the film, a flying saucer is tracked flying around the Earth until it lands in Washington D.C.  An alien, Klaatu, and a very powerful robot, Gort, occupy the ship.  Klaatu informs the people of Earth that he has an important message that he wishes to tell the representatives of all nations simultaneously.  After being informed that this request is impossible to meet, Klaatu decides on an alternative plan.  He seeks the smartest man in Washington D.C., Professor Barnhart, and delivers the message to him with the hopes that he will organize a meeting with the scientists of the world.  Ultimately, Klaatu is able to relay his message that if the people of Earth threaten to extend their violence into space, robots like Gort will destroy the Earth. 
There were a few minor filming issues associated with this movie.  The producer was initially nervous because the Korean conflict had just broken out, and feared that Fox would nix the story’s message of peace in a time of war; however, this did not happen.  Additionally, when they submitted the first copy of the screenplay for approval, it was denied due to the resurrection of Klaatu because “only God can do that.”  Eventually, a compromise was reached where Klaatu is brought back to life, but only temporarily.  The final issue that arose during filming, was that Sam Jaffe, the actor portraying Professor Barnhardt, appeared in the infamous Red Channels Pamphlet that listed performers with supposed Communist connections.  Because of this, Jaffe was almost dismissed but the producer of the film, David Blaustein, insisted that the actor be allowed to finish filming.  After the movie, Jaffe did not appear again in films for several years.

There were two main interpretations of The Day the Earth Stood Still. The first attributes Klaatu to the likeness of the US. Klaatu is a citizen of a technologically advanced society visiting a less-advanced world to tell them that if they continue building atomic weapons, his planet will have to annihilate them to secure their own safety. Many saw this is the message the United States was sending other nations during the Cold War. We can have nuclear weapons, but you can’t, and if you try to get them, we’ll use ours on you. The second way to interpret the film is a religious allegory. Humanity is largely portrayed as the villain throughout the film, especially when it wounds a messenger who is trying to show it the error of its ways. The aliens persistently try to offer humanity a chance to be saved even though humanity continues to threaten and chase them. This opens up the plot for religious allegory: humanity is being saved despite its guilt. There are many parallels between Klaatu and Jesus: both were distrusted by those in power (Jesus by the Pharisees and Klaatu by the US government), both were hunted by the establishment and subsequently killed (Jesus is crucified, Klaatu is shot), both are resurrected and then continue to give important teachings/warnings afterward, and both leave the earth by rising up into the heavens.  

There was a general loss of faith and a distrust of religion after WWII for a few different reasons: there was so much death and destruction and God never intervened (so was he actually real) and it was now widely known that humans are capable of created an atomic weapon that can wipe out a large area within seconds. This newfound power gave humans a godlike quality that was unattained until this moment in history.  Along with the godlike quality that emerged from atomic weapons was the growing interest in science and logic. The film portrays this through Klaatu who is more advanced in both science and technology. Klaatu also has to count on the scientific leaders of the world rather than the political to deliver his message because the political leaders are too emotional to put aside differences for logic.
Klaatu instills fear in the humans of the film because they do not understand who/what he is. It relates to McCarthyism during the time the film was made when mass paranoia and hysteria were both very present among the American population. There is a fear of the unknown both in the film and in the society of the audience because many were unsure of who was a Communist and whether or not anyone could be trusted.

The Day the Earth Stood Still focuses on the effect that the use of nuclear weapons could possibly have and the threat if poses to the entire world. After WWII, it is well known by all countries that the use of nuclear weapons could eventually mean the end of the world, but because the United States had already developed and used them to end a war, other countries now sought to develop and control a stock of their own. Klaatu’s threat in the film to destroy the Earth because the use of nuclear weapons threatened other worlds and had to be stopped, reflects cold war tactics between the US and the Soviet Union, where mutually assured destruction was being employed to deter the use of these weapons. This film contrasts with the film Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, in that while both movies are about aliens visiting earth, Bodysnatchers is about the people of earth all conforming to the same behavior (Communism) and the fear of the people from this happening (McCarthyism), rather than forces of power bringing about our own destruction. This film also contrasts with the 2008 remake of the same name in that the remake threatens the destruction of only the human race as a result of their destructive tendencies, to save the other creatures of earth.
We posed the question “in our current era, how does the presence of nuclear weapons affect our approach to diplomacy and war in general?” The responses that we got were along the same lines as how I felt. The class generally felt that although the Cold War is over, the threat of mutually assured destruction and the overall affect of the use of nuclear weapons weighs heavily on the way we approach diplomacy and war with other countries.

By:  Clarissa Graziani, Noah Rabin, Taylor Thomas, and Kelly Wingen