THURSDAY

Almost two decades before introducing “Happy Days,” Bill Haley and the Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” was the startling theme of Blackboard Jungle. Adapted from Evan Hunter’s novel, the 1955 film exposed shocking juvenile delinquency in America’s high schools. Rick Dadier (Glenn Ford), called “Daddy-O” by his incorrigible charges, just wants to teach inner-city kids—but finds himself fighting them for control of North Manual High School. The biggest troublemaker, Artie West (Vic Morrow), eventually pulls a switchblade on the teacher. Sidney Poitier plays Gregory Miller, a promising student torn between fitting in and acting responsibly. Blackboard Jungle was banned in the South for its depiction of integration less than two months before Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren declared all public schools must be integrated “with all deliberate speed.” The film also upset the entire country with its depiction the exploits of its out-of-control youth, including the attempted rape of a female teacher. Hoping to forestall criticism, MGM added a warning message suggesting that the film was meant to raise public awareness of a dire social problem. Blackboard Jungle became a major hit, and “Rock Around the Clock” topped the pop charts. Hollywood, reeling from its loss of audience to television, had discovered an enduring formula for teenpics: teenage revolt + youth music box office. Teens, then as now, were happy for any excuse to ditch the family room for the theaters and, in the 1950s, drive-ins. Blackboard Jungle screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7, at the Library of Congress’ Pickford Theater, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Free. For reservations call (202) 707-5677. (Mark W. Sullivan)