Time Warp to the Fifties

I don’t think I’ve mentioned the fact that I’ve been invited to guest lecture in a graduate seminar at the University of Maryland. The topic: 1950s juvenille delinquency films, specifically Blackboard Jungle and Rebel Without a Cause, two very different but very powerful films that now represent some of the earliest ripples of a burgeoning youth culture. And once again, GreenCine is right on top of my research question of the day. First, there’s a Carina Chocano article about director Mary Harron’s Bettie Page biopic, The Notorious Bettie Page (IMDB), which I’m now very curious to see (director Harron, screenwriter Guinevere Turner, and producer Christine Vachon constitute a virtual indie all-star team).

Page, as Chocano notes, “gained notoriety when her bondage and fetish modeling for photographers Irving and Paula Klaw became the focus of Senate hearings led by Estes Kefauver, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency, in 1955,” the same year that Blackboard Jungle and Rebel were released. Harron’s take on the Bettie Page story, and on the fifties in general, is worth checking out, and I’m now pretty curious to see this film.

Also via GreenCine, David Thomson’s article marking the 50th anniversary of James Dean’s death after crashing his Porsche Spyder into another vehicle. In addition to reflecting on Dean’s final moments, Thomson notes the important connection between Rebel Without a Cause and Blackboard Jungle, which made a belated hit out of Bill Haley and the Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock.” Thomson’s article generally celebrates Dean’s legendary status, cemented of course by his dying young, but it’s also useful for a quick run through on the cultural pulse of 1955.

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