Rock 'n' Roll Movies, The Fifties
Rock 'n' Roll Movies, The Fifties
Rockin' the Blues (1955)
Mantan Moreland, F.E. Miller, Connie Carroll, the Wanderers, the Harptones, the Hurricanes, the Five Miller Sisters, Pearl Woods, Linda Hopkins, Hal Jackson. The Hurricanes are the highlight of this all-black rhythm and blues show.
Rock, Rock, Rock! (1956) Order now from Amazon!
Tuesday Weld, Teddy Randazzo, Jacqueline Kerr, Ivy Schulman, Alan Freed. Performers include Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, the Moonglows, Chuck Berry, the Flamingos, Johnny Burnette Trio, LaVern Baker, Cirino, the Bowties, the Three Chuckles. As in most of the early rockers, forget the plot and watch the performers. This is Weld's film debut and (Connie Francis dubbed her voice) Burnette's only film appearance.
Rock Around the Clock (1956)
Alan Dale, Lisa Gaye, Alex Tilton, Johnny Johnston, John Archer, Alan Freed. Performers include Bill Haley and His Comets, the Platters, Tony Martinez and His Band, Freddie Bell and His Bellboys, Little Richard. Rock band comes to New York City and rises to fame. Haley ("the hillbilly with a beat") sings the title tune and two others to steal the show. Produced by cut-rate movie man Sam Katzman who was also responsible for Don't Knock the Rock, Teenage Crime Wave and some of Elvis' later junky stuff among others. [Freed is the legendary Cleveland DJ who coined the phrase "rock and roll" in 1952. He was indicted on payola charges in 1960 and died of a heart attack in 1965 Title track was the first rock song featured in a movie when Blackboard Jungle premiered a year earlier. Another of his hits, Razzle Dazzle, was featured later that same year in Universal International's low budget teen flick, Running Wild.]
Don't Knock the Rock (1956)
Bill Haley and His Comets, Alan Freed, Little Richard, Alan Dale, The Treniers, Patricia Hardy, Dave Appell and His Applejacks. Rock star is scorned by the adults when he returns home but the local teenagers save the day. The Treniers are an underrated gem of a group as are the Comets. Good dance film with lots of rockin' tunes.
Love Me Tender (1956)
Richard Egan, Debra Pagent, Elvis Presley. Average Civil War story noted for the King's film debut, the only movie where he didn't have first billing. The title tune was actually based on the Civil War song, Aura Lee. [Elvis' acting talent never really came to fruition and part of the problem was the poor roles offered to him. However, several good scripts came his way but were turned down by himself or his manager Colonel Parker for different reasons. Some of them included leads roles in West Side Story, Thunder Road, Sweet Bird of Youth, Your Cheatin' Heart (the Hank Williams biography), A Star is Born and Midnight Cowboy.]
Shake, Rattle and Rock (1956)
Mike Connors, Lisa Gaye, Sterling Holloway, Fats Domino, Joe Turner, Tommy Charles, Margaret Dumont, Douglas Dumbrille, Raymond Hatton. Typical story of adults trying to stamp out rock music was an early AIP quickie. [AIP was the exploitation company famous for low budget teen, horror and science fiction films. They did most of the top-grossing beach pictures in the 60's too.]
Rock Pretty Baby (1956)
Sal Mineo, John Saxson, Luanna Patten, Edward C. Platt, Fay Wray, Rod McKuen, Shelly Fabares, George Winslow. Forgettable movie about a high school rock group that enters a music contest. Follwed by the sequel, Summer Love. [McKuen, who plays the singer/bass player, became a successful poet/songwriter in the mid-60's.]
Loving You (1957)
Elvis Presley, Lizabeth Scott, Wendell Corey, Dolores Hart, James Gleason. Truckdriver guy Deke Rivers makes it big as a rock singer. There's nothing like the King in his prime singing Teddy Bear, Loving You, Gotta Lotta Livin' To Do and Mean Woman Blues to understand the magic. [Title tune required 40 takes before Elvis was satisfied. Elvis' mother Gladys can be spotted in the audience during the Gotta Lotta Livin' to Do number.]
Jailhouse Rock (1957)
Elvis Presley, Judy Tyler, Vaughn Taylor, Dean Jones, Jennifer Holden, Mickey Shaughnessy. Elvis (Vince Everett) goes from ignorant jailbird to big-time rock star. An Elvis classic, he was very proud of the dance number, of which he choreographed, for the final staging of the title tune. Treat Me Nice and Baby I Don't Care are other highlights. "That ain't tactics baby, it's just the beast in me." [Tyler died tragically in a car wreck shortly after the film opened.]
Mr. Rock and Roll (1957)
Alan Freed, Little Richard, Clyde McPhatter, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Teddy Randazzo, Chuck Berry, Rocky Graziano, Lois O'Brien, Lionel Hampton, Ferlin Husky, the Moonglows, Brook Benton, LaVern Baker, Shaye Cogan. The story of DJ Alan Freed and the start of rock and roll is disappointing but worth seeing because it makes for a good period piece. "The big story of the musical sensation that's swept the world told by the king of rock 'n' roll himself!"
The Girl Can't Help It (1957)
Tom Ewell, Jayne Mansfield, Edmond O'Brien, Julie London, John Emery. The story of a media guy trying to promote gangster's girlfriend as a singing star is enhanced by the beautiful and funny Mansfield. Performers include Fats Domino, The Platters, Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps, Eddie Cochrane, Nino Tempo, the Treniers and Little Richard who sings the title tune. Musical highlights include Cochrane's Twenty Flight Rock, Vincent's Be Bop A Lula and the Treniers' Rockin' Is Our Business. It sure is.
Untamed Youth (1957)
Mamie Van Doren, Lori Nelson, John Russell, Don Burnett, Eddie Cochran, Lurene Tuttle, Yvonne Lime. One of those legendary films that's garnered a cult following over the years. This one starred the young Van Doren, a Monroe-Mansfield wannabe and "the girl built like a platinum powerhouse." The Madonna of her day really rocks out here in two gyrating dance numbers "that are guaranteed to keep any red-blooded American boy awake." Early rocker Cochrane adds additional energy. The Hollywood Rock and Rollers also perform.
Rock Baby, Rock It (1957)
Johnny Carroll and His Hot Rocks, Don Coats and the Bon-Aires, Kay Wheeler, Rosco Gordon and the Red Tops, the Five Stars, the Belew Twins, Preacher Smith and the Deacons, the Cell Block Seven. Low budgeter shot in Dallas featuring several regional rock acts. Better than average for the genre.
Rock all Night (1957)
Dick Miller, Russell Johnson, Abby Dalton, Jonathon Haze, the Platters, Robin Morse, the Blockbusters. Another AIP/Roger Corman quickie about a pair of hoodlums holding some bar patrons hostage. [The script (written in one day!) was originally intended for obscure hipster songwriter Lord Buckley but he was not available at the time. Buckley was said to have influenced Bob Dylan and Tom Waits among others.]
The Big Beat (1957)
William Campbell, Gogi Grant, William Reynolds, Andra Martin, Jeffrey Stone, Rose Marie, Hans Conreid. Forgettable story of corruption in the music business with an odd mix of rock and jazz artists. Performaces by the Del Vikings, Fats Domino, the Diamonds, the Four Aces, Count Basie, Harry James and the Mills Brothers are also blah save for Little Darlin (Diamonds) and I'm Walkin' (Domino).
Kay Medford, Robert Pastine, Paul Carr, Freda Holloway, Slim Whitman, Jodie Sands, Frankie Avalon, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Lewis Lymon and the Teen Chords, Buddy Knox, Count Basie, the Four Coins, Joe Williams. Two rock and roll singers fall in love and are exploited by their agents. Connie Francis dubbed Holloway's singing. Also known as Disc Jockey Jambouree.
Calypso Heat Wave (1957)
Johnny Desmond, Merry Anders, Paul Langton, Michael Granger, Meg Myles, Joel Grey, The Treniers, The Tarriers, The Hi-Lo's, Maya Angelou, Darla Hood. Calypso was a short-lived trend that Hollywood tried to exploit with a few forgettable movies this year. (Calypso Joe was another.) This one features a once-in-a-lifetime cast including song and dance man Grey, Angelou-- later a famous poet, Hood of Little Rascals fame and the fabulous Treniers. Alan Arkin was a member of the Tarriers at the time.
Bop Girl Goes Calypso (1957)
Judy Tyler, Bobby Troup, Margo Wood, Lucien Littlefield, Mary Kaye Trio, Nino Tempo. Boring story of rock singer forced to perform calypso. Tyler's pre-Jailhouse Rock role.
Rock Around the World (1957)
Tommy Steele, Patrick Westwood, Dennis Price, Tom Littlewood. The story of British singer Tommy Steele's rise to fame is for skiffle fans only.
King Creole (1958)
Elvis Presley, Carolyn Jones, Dolores Hart, Dean Jagger, Walter Matthau, Vic Morrow, Paul Stewart. Danny Fisher, a young nightclub singer in New Orleans unwillingly becomes involved with criminals. Adapted from the Harold Robbins novel, A Stone for Danny Fisher. One of Elvis' best acting efforts with lots of good songs and loaded with future TV stars. Michael Curtiz' outstanding direction helps. [The part of Danny Fisher was originally intended for James Dean.]
Go, Johnny, Go! (1958)
Jimmy Clanton, Alan Freed, Sandy Stewart, Chuck Berry, Jo-Ann Campbell, Herb Vigran, the Cadillacs, Ritchie Valens, Eddie Cochran, Harvey Fuqua, the Flamingos, Jackie Wilson. Clanton gets kicked out of a choir and becomes a singing star. Berry has a considerable acting role (and does a very good job) but movie is basically worth viewing only for the artists. [Clanton had a hit record at the time called Just a Dream and recorded six more songs that hit the charts culminating with Venus in Blue Jeans in 1962. He later starred in Teenage Millionaire.]
High School Confidential! (1958)
Russ Tamblyn, Jan Sterling, John Drew Barrymore, Mamie Van Doren, Diane Jergens, Ray Anthony, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jackie Coogan, Charles Chaplin Jr., Lyle Talbot, William Wellman Jr., Michael Landon. One of the best of the "so-bad-it's-good" movie fare. This one's about a student who exposes a marijuana drug ring with lots of promiscuity, delinquent activity and jive talk as fillers. The once-in-a-lifetime cast reads like a who's who of B-movies with Van Doren the undisputed Queen B and loving it. Coogan (sweet old Uncle Fester) is the big drug pusher. Don't miss Lewis singing the title tune on the back of a flatbed truck. Also known as The Young Hellions. Produced by exploitation expert Albert Zugsmith (The Beat Generation, Girls Town, College Confidential, Platinum High School and Sex Kittens go to College).
Sing, Boy, Sing (1958)
Tommy Sands, Lili Gentle, Edmond O'Brien, John McIntyre, Nick Adams. Rock drama designed as a vehicle for pop star Sands playing a character not unlike Elvis Presley. Pretty good performance by Sands and Adams. [Elvis and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker were reportedly not very happy with this film. Sands, who has just scored big with his hit songs, Teen-Age Crush and Goin' Steady, later married Nancy Sinatra. He concentrated on his acting career after that and made movies into the late 60's.]
Hot Rod Gang (1958)
John Ashley, Gene Vincent, Jody Fair, Steve Drexel. Silly American International quickie about a hot-rodder who wants Vincent's band to earn money to race his car. Vincent's four good numbers with his Blue Caps band save the picture. Eddie Cochran also makes a cameo appearance. Followed by the unintentionally hilarious sequel, Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow.
Summer Love (1958)
John Saxon, Molly Bee, Rod McKuen, Judi Meredith, Jill St. John, George Winslow, Fay Wray, Edward Platt, Shelly Fabares, Troy Donohue. Family-oriented sequel to Rock, Pretty Baby.
Let's Rock! (1958)
Julius LaRosa, Phyllis Newman, Conrad Janis, Della Reese, Joy Harmon, the Royal Teens, Paul Anka, Danny and the Juniors, Roy Hamilton, Wink Martindale, the Tyrones. LaRosa plays a mainstream crooner refusing to sing rock and roll. Trash it save for the Juniors rocking the house with At the Hop and the Royal Teens playing their hit song, Short Shorts. Also known as Keep It Cool.
Dragstrip Riot (1958)
Yvonne Lime, Gary Clarke, Fay Wray, Connie Stevens, Bob Turnbull. Low-budget AIP quickie about motorcycles, hot rods and rock and rollers. Lime was a teen exploitation star in the late 50's and Wray is the girl King Kong fell fore in 1933. The very young Stevens sings a few songs.
Carnival Rock (1958)
Susan Cabot, Brian Hutton, David J. Stewart, Dick Miller, Ed Nelson. Low-budget Roger Corman quickie about nightclubs, gangsters and teen romance. Performers include the Platters, and several rockabilly acts like Bob Luman and his Shadows and David Houston and the Blockbusters. "Hold on to your seat. It's got a heat beat." No thank you. The Platters made one last movie appearance in 1959's Girls Town before calling it quits in the movies.
The Gene Krupa Story (1959)
Sal Mineo, Susan Kohner, James Darren, Susan Oliver, Yvonne Craig, Lawrence Dobkin, Red Nichols, Buddy Lester. Story of the great jazz drummer played to the hilt by Mineo. Cast is loaded with young veterans of teenage-type musicals but this one is technically not rock and roll.
Hound-Dog Man (1959)
Fabian, Carol Lynley, Stuart Whitman, Arthur O'Connell, Dodie Stevens, Betty Field, Royal Dano, Margo Moore, Claude Akins, Edgar Buchanan, Jane Darwell. Film debut for rock star Fabian (capitalizing on current hit song of the same name) who plays a drifter romancing a country girl. Better than expected with many veteran faces dotting the cast. [The 13-year-old Stevens was hot of her hit single, Pink Shoe Laces.]
Juke Box Rhythm (1959)
Jo Morrow, Jack Jones, Brian Donlevy, George Jessel, Hans Conried, Karin Booth, Marjorie Reynolds, Fritz Feld, Johnny Otis, the Treniers, the Earl Grant Trio. Terrible movie worth seeing for the performances of Otis (Willie and the Hand Jive) and, of course, the Treniers (Get Out of the Car).
Girls Town (1959)
Mamie Van Doren, Mel Torme, Paul Anka, Ray Anthony, Maggie Hayes, Cathy Crosby, Gigi Perreau, Gloria Talbot, Jim Mitchum, Elinor Donahue, Sheilah Graham, Harold Lloyd Jr., Charles Chaplin Jr. Mamie struts her stuff in a correctional institute run by nuns. This has turned into a camp classic with many famous movie star siblings in supporting roles. Anka sings three songs including his big hit, Lonely Boy. Van Doren and the Platters each do a number as well. Originally known as The Innocent and the Damned.
Idle on Parade (1959)
Anthony Newley, Anne Aubrey, William Bendix, Sidney James, Lionel Jefferies, David Lodge. Ridiculous attempts to make Newley into a rock star. The songs are bad too.