Posts Tagged ‘Richard Brooks’

My Classic Movie Pick: Blackboard Jungle

As a former teacher, I am a complete and utter sucker/fan of movies that revolve around  a teacher trying to save the world by getting through to their unruly, bratty, world of crime-leaning students.  In 1954, writer Evan Hunter wrote a novel, The Blackboard Jungle, that got a lot of buzz from the reading public and it caught the attention of Hollywood.  Movie Studio MGM bought the rights of the novel and Richard Brooks, not only directed the film, The Blackboard Jungle, he also wrote the screenplay.   The movie did exceedingly well at the box office and it also was nominated in 4 categories at the 1956 Academy Awards: Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematography.

Blackboard Jungle

The movie opens with that famous song that was used 20 some years later as the opener for the ABC sitcom Happy Days, Rock Around the Clock, performed by Bill Haley and His Comets.   We then meet our protagonist, Richard Dadier(Glenn Ford), a WWII veteran who went to college on the GI Bill and earned a degree to teach English.  He arrives at his very first teaching job, at North Manual High, an all-boys high school in inner city New York.  Dadier soon learns that there are a lot of discipline problems at this school and that many of the students are juvenile delinquints.  Still, he is optimistic that with his hard work and encouragement, his students will learn and will go on to success in life.

His students, which most of the focus of the film is on one of his classes, were portrayed by some of the best up and coming actors of the 1950s and 1960s: Sidney Poitier as Gregory Miller, Vic Morrow as Artie West, Dan Terranova as Belazi, Rafael Campos as Pete Morales, Jamie Farr(cast credits list him as Jameel Farah) as Santini, and Paul Mazursky as Emmanuel Stoker.

The faculty and staff of North Manuel: Louis Calhern as Mr. Murdock, Margaret Hayes as Miss Hammond, John Hoyt as Principal Warnecke,Richard Kiley as Mr. Edwards, and  Emile Meyer as Mr. Halloran.

Rounding out Didier’s life is his sweet wife, Anne, played by Anne Francis, and a former professor he seeks out for advice, Prof. A.R.Kraal, played by Basil Ruysdael.

Dadier soon realizes his work will be tough when an object is thrown at the blackboard while he writing his last name on the board and explaining to his students how to pronounce his name.  When Miss Hammond, who is a very stylish new teacher, is cornered after school in the library and about to be assaulted by a student, Dadier luckily happens to be walking by and hears her cries for help.  Dadier rushes in and saves Miss Hammond and rightly gets some punches thrown at the student before he runs away.  Later, Dadier and Mr. Edwards, a new math teacher who loves jazz, visit a bar after work one day, have a few drinks, and then on their walk to their apartments, a gang of hoodlums who attend North Manuel recognize their teachers and brutally mug them.  When Dadier’s wife sees his beaten face at his arrival home, she insists that he give up this job and teach at a different school, one in a much better neighborhood or community.  A side plot is that Anne is expecting and she’s worried about this pregnancy as she miscarried their first baby.  It doesn’t help Anne’s stress levels when she begins to get horrible phone calls implying that her husband is cheating on her!

Anne receiving one of those disturbing phone calls

Anne receiving one of those disturbing phone calls

Object thrown at the blackboard

Object thrown at the blackboard

Dadier coming home after being mugged

Dadier coming home after being mugged

Dadier hangs in there, and he is able to appeal to Greg Miller, to show Miller that he has natural leadership qualities.  When Miller states that because he’s black and that there’s not a lot he can do as many doors will be shut to him due to his race, but Dadier doesn’t accept that reasoning and tells Miller that blacks can succeed in the modern world and that there are teachers who care.  He encourages Miller not to drop out, which he had been considering.

Artie West, as Dadier discovers, is one of the main bullies of the school, and a gang leader.  Shortly after West destroys math teacher Edwards jazz record collection in the classroom, Dadier decides enough is enough and there is a climactic confrontation in Dadier’s English class between him and West.

Dadier starting to have success with his class

Dadier starting to have success with his class

A young Jamie Farr

A young Jamie Farr

West about to break Mr. Edwards Jazz records

West about to break Mr. Edwards Jazz records

The climactic fight scene between Dadier and West

The climactic fight scene between Dadier and West

See this film for the performances: Glenn Ford, always a capable and sincere actor, shines here as the new teacher who wants to impact his students for good.  Vic Morrow is excellent as the evil Artie and Sidney Poitier believable as Greg Miller, learning that he can succeed and that he does have leadership skills.  Great supporting performances by Louis Calhern, Anne Francis, and Richard Kiley.

The Blackboard Jungle will air on Turner Classic Movies on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14th, at 2:45 am est/1:45 am cst, so set that dvr!  The film is available to buy or instantly rent through Amazon.    Over on Youtube, someone has put the main scenes of Blackboard Jungle together in a montage set to the film’s iconic opening song, Rock Around the Clock. Here’s that cool montage.  Also on Youtube, is this  charming interview with actor Jamie Farr, more famously known as Cpl. Klinger on the hit tv series Mash, about being in the movie Blackboard Jungle.

My Classic Movie Pick: The Catered Affair

If you are planning a wedding this year, you might want to watch this movie or you might want to watch it after the big event has happened.  If you are married, this movie will remind you of the planning that went into your own trip down the matrimonial aisle.  It is a movie with charm, grit, and truth permeating through out it.  The Catered Affair was originally a teleplay, written by Paddy Chayefsky, and also known as Wedding Party.  In 1956, it was turned into a movie by MGM with screenplay by Gore Vidal and directed by Richard Brooks.  The talented cast featured Bette Davis, Ernest Borgnine, Debbie Reynolds, Barry Fitzgerald, and Rod Taylor.  This was Taylor’s first film after being signed by MGM and if you listen closely, his Australian accent escapes now and then, which I found fun to hear.  The Catered Affair

The movie opens with Tom Hurley( Ernest Borgnine) driving his taxi cab back to the garage after a night shift of work.  He is approached by his good friend and fellow cabbie, Sam(Jay Adler), that another cabbie is going to retire and he wants to sell Sam and Tom his cab along with the desired NYC Taxi Medallion, for the price of $8000.  Tom and Sam, it is revealed, have been saving their money for years to make such a deal and both have $4000 in the bank.  It is agreed that on Sunday, they’ll meet with the seller and make the deal.  Tom heads for home and prepares to go to bed as his wife and two kids are getting ready for their day.

Tom and Sam discuss buying the cab and gaining the medallion.

Tom and Sam discuss buying the cab and gaining the medallion.

Aggie(Bette Davis) is a hard-working housewife.  Jane(Debbie Reynolds) is the Hurley’s daughter, I would guess she’s in her early 20s, and Eddie(Ray Stricklyn) is their 18 year old son.  As the family goes through their morning routines and Tom grabs a plate of eggs before heading off to bed, Jane announces that she and her boyfriend of 3 years, Ralph Halloran(Rod Taylor), have decided to get married.  Ralph is a school teacher and he has a winter break coming up.  The young couple have decided that they’ll have a simple wedding, just  the parents and siblings present, and they’ve already talked to the Hurley’s family priest who has agreed to start posting the banns.  Ralph also has a friend selling a car to someone in California, but the friend can’t drive the car out there because his wife is expecting a baby soon, so Ralph and Jane will drive the car to California, and that will be their honeymoon.

At first, Aggie and Tom take the news well.  Tom  congratulates Jane on her sensible thinking.  He shares what another family spent on a daughter’s wedding and how outrageous it is  to spend that much money on a wedding!  With his proclamation made, Tom goes off to bed.  Aggie realizes that if only immediate family are to be at the wedding, than she’ll have to break the news to her brother Jack(Barry Fitzgerald), that he won’t be able to attend the ceremony despite him living with the Hurley’s.  Uncle Jack doesn’t take the news well, and this starts the wheels in motion for Aggie to become obsessed with giving Jane a big wedding and reception.

Aggie wanting Jane to have a huge wedding and reception,

Aggie wanting Jane to have a huge wedding and reception,

 Jane announcing her marriage and wanting a small wedding.

Jane announcing her marriage and wanting a small wedding.

We see Aggie convincing Jane to have a big wedding day for future memories to have to hold on to.  We see Aggie going through the $4000 that Tom has saved as if money just grows on trees.  No amount of concern from Tom or Jane is slowing Aggie down from her quest to give her daughter a big wedding and reception.  Will this happening happen?  Will Jane and Ralph just elope?  Will Tom stop Aggie from spending all of his savings which he intended for a new taxi and medallion and business with Sam?  You, the potential viewer, will have to seek this movie out to find the answers!

Arguing about reception costs.

Arguing about reception costs.

Jane and Ralph

Jane and Ralph

The Catered Affair is available on Amazon and may appear again soon on Turner Classic Movies.  A tense movie at times, it is also heart-warming with fun moments too.  The Catered Affair poster 2

Finding that perfect wedding dress!

Finding that perfect wedding dress!

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