Watched: August 20 2017
Director: Richard Brooks
Starring: Glenn Ford, Anne Francis, Sidney Poitier, Vic Morrow, Margaret Hayes, Louis Calhern, Jamie Farr
Runtime: 1h 41min
Soft-spoken navy veteran Richard Dadier (Ford) gets his first teaching position in an inner-city school in a big city (New York?). While the school has a bad reputation, the principal denies any discipline problems.
Despite the principal’s assurances, the kids are disruptive, disrespectful and generally difficult, and Dadier’s commitment to his job is quickly dwindling. After stopping an attempted rape on a colleague, the students turn on him and attack him and another teacher in an alley. In addition, Dadier’s pregnant (and victim-blaming) wife Anne (Francis) starts to receive anonymous phone calls and letters claiming her husband is having an affair.
Dadier notices that Gregory Miller (Poitier) is a natural leader and that the other students tend to follow his lead, so he proposes that they work together to get the class on the right track. Will they manage to build a relationship and turn this class around? Or is Miller the one sabotaging Dadier’s job and marriage?
From the opening credits set to the tune of “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley & his Comets to the integrated classroom, it is clear that this was a progressive film upon its release only one year after segregated education was deemed unconstitutional in the USA.
We loved Blackboard Jungle, which we fittingly watched the day before the new school year started (and Sister the Oldest went back to teaching). Glenn Ford’s Dadier is a flawed hero who comes face to face with a lot of his own prejudices, and Sidney Poitier really stands out as Miller and saves him from becoming a cliché “angry black man.”
It’s historically very interesting, and films like it are still being made (idealistic teacher in inner-city school), including an (awesome) episode of South Park. What’s not to love?
What we learned: Don’t ever give up on the kids. Unless they pull a knife on you. Also, Sister the Oldest is very grateful she has the students she has…
Next time: Diabolique/Les diaboliques (1955)