Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Blackboard Jungle (1955)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Blackboard Jungle (1955)

In co-writer/diirector Richard Brooks' and MGM's shocking, cautionary tale, urban melo-drama and striking film with social commentary - it told about the state of education in a violent, inner-city US boys school (the "blackboard jungle"). The school had a number of budding, undisciplined punks and juvenile delinquents with switchblades who terrorized each other and their teachers. Subjects in the film considered controversial at the time included miscarriage, bigotry, juvenile delinquent gang violence, and sexual assault. Although some of the film was dated and off-kilter in parts, overall, it was very powerful and impactful.

It was the first American film to deal with the social problem of teenage delinquency and classroom anarchy in our urban public schools. The film was inspiring to an entire generation of mid-50s teens. However, it had four unrewarded Academy Awards nominations: Best Original Screenplay (Brooks), Best B/W Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Film Editing.

It was also notable as the first film to feature a rock-'n'-roll song in its soundtrack, "Rock-Around-The-Clock." (sung by Bill Haley and His Comets during the opening title credits); it was the first major Hollywood film to use R&R on its soundtrack - and thus, in other words, it was the first major rock and roll musical film; the disturbing film was banned in some US cities for inciting anti-social (and anti-American!) behavior. Theatrical showings exhibited what would soon be recognized as the first evidence of teenage rebelliousness, to blossom later in the decade and future years:

  • the gritty film began with a long scrolling prologue (about the social problem of juvenile delinquency in the schools) accompanied by a lengthy drum solo: "We, in the United States, are fortunate to have a school system that is a tribute to our communities and to our faith in American youth. Today we are concerned with juvenile delinquency -- its causes -- and its effects. We are especially concerned when this delinquency boils over into our schools. The scenes and incidents depicted here are fictional. However, we believe that public awareness is a first step toward a remedy for any problem. It is in this spirit and with this faith that BLACKBOARD JUNGLE was produced."
  • immediately following the prologue were the opening title credits (above a blackboard), accompanied by the song "Rock-Around-The-Clock" played by Bill Haley and His Comets
  • the film's main protagonist was idealistic, soft-spoken, middle-aged US Navy war veteran Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford), one of three new school teachers hired to work in a slum, inter-racial and multi-ethnic inner-city boys vocational school (North Manual Trades High School) in NYC; in the opening, he exited an elevated train platform and walked through a poverty-stricken urban slum area to arrive at the school; inside the school's courtyard, young delinquent hoodlums loitered, danced, and swaggered about
  • Mr. Dadier met with the school's principal Mr. Warneke (John Hoyt) and was promptly hired as an English teacher; after Dadier asked if there were any discipline problems at the HS, Warneke decisively asserted: "There is no discipline problem in this school"

Experienced, Cynical Teacher Jim Murdock (Louis Calhern)

Another New Teacher Lois Judby Hammond (Margaret Hayes)

Josh Edwards (Richard Kiley) - Math Teacher
Three Other Teacher Colleagues
  • Richard Dadier met some of the more experienced teachers (who spoke about the school's "delinquents" and the "disorderly mob"), including long-time cynic Jim Murdock who bluntly told him about the school after 12 years working there: "This is the garbage can of the educational system"; he also offered advice consisting of two tips for a rookie teacher on how to stay alive: "Don't be a hero. And never turn your back on the class"
  • one of the other new teachers, pretty, tight-sweater wearing Lois Judby Hammond (Margaret Hayes) was also cautioned by Murdock: "You gonna teach 'em in that outfit? Because if those kids ever get a look at -- have you arranged with the National Guard to escort you to class every day? "; Dadier was obviously worried and anxious about his first day of teaching
  • that evening, he met with his 4-months pregnant wife Anne (Anne Francis) who felt unattractive about her bloated looks; she was moody and upset about her previous miscarriage after two months, but Richard tried to calm her: ("Please, no bad memories, huh? No guilty feelings, please"); they celebrated his hiring at Peroni's Italian Restaurant with champagne and ravioli
  • as they exited the restaurant, drag-racing kids in the street crashed into a parked car and turned it onto its side, narrowly missing Dadier and Anne - it was an omen
First Day at North Manuel High School

Teachers (l to r) - Lois, Murdock, Josh, Richard

Unruly, Anti-Social, Misbehaving Students in an Assembly

Worried New Teachers

Ethnically-Diverse, Troubled Students
  • the first day at school was discouraging for Dadier and many of the other teachers - delinquent, tough-talking, lower-class student misbehavior included cat-calls at the assembly's announcement of Miss Hammond, rude and insolent students who talked back at Dadier: ("He's playing it real hard. He's a big man!"), evidence of bullying of the weaker students, and some caught smoking and loitering in the boys' room
  • one of the resistant students in the rest room was disaffected, inner-city black youth Gregory Miller (Sidney Poitier in one of his earliest roles), who repeatedly called Mr. Dadier "Chief"; once Dadier's class was directed to a classroom, another particularly unruly, insolent, disrespectful, bullying, rebellious and brash gang leader was identified as Artie West (Vic Morrow) who mocked his name with other classmates and called him "Daddy-O" after Dadier spelled out his name on the blackboard (that was smashed when struck by a hurled baseball when his back was turned)
  • Dadier tried to make the class relevant: "Some of you may wonder if English can help you get a job as a carpenter, a mechanic, or an electrician. The answer is yes"; as class was being dismissed, Dadier asked for Miller to stay behind for a "man-to-man talk"; he called Miller a "natural born leader" who was "a little brighter, a little smarter than the rest of those guys"; he asked for Miller's help to guide the students into becoming more cooperative: ("Every class needs a leader. You could be that leader, Miller. What you do, they'll do. You cooperate, and they'll follow you. How about it, Miller?"); however, Miller refused with a simple shake of his head and a mumbled: "I don't know" but then added: "Sure, if you think so"
  • at 3:30 pm on the afternoon of the first day, as she was checking out, Miss Hammond showed interest in Dadier and offered him a ride home in place of riding the city bus; moments later, she was dragged into the library and sexually assaulted in the stacks by a student named Joey Murray (Peter Miller); Dadier heard her screams, broke down the locked door, grabbed the offending boy, and defended her against the attack; the boy jumped through a window and suffered severe facial cuts and a broken nose; later, Dadier described the entire incident to his wife Anne that evening, causing her to doubt her own attractiveness to him when he first arrived home: ("You didn't think I was very sexy, did you?")
  • the next morning as he arrived at school, Dadier was greeted with stony silence and suppressed, intimidating and angry glances ("the silent treatment") from all of the students; Dadier tried to influence Miller to take his side ("You're leading them in the wrong direction"), but he was uninterested; he denounced their earlier talk as a "little snow job"
  • after work, Dadier and jazz music-lover Josh Edwards went to nearby Ned's Bar & Grill for a few too many drinks as they discussed how HS teachers might easily become alcoholics, and about the rough and hostile educational environment of their school: (Josh: "I am very disappointed...It's not fair. I want to teach. I really want to teach. So why don't they let me teach? Any man who really wants to teach should be allowed to teach"); when leaving the bar through an alleyway shortcut to the bus stop, they were brutally mugged and assaulted by Artie West and other gang members, and Dadier's briefcase was cut open with a switchblade

Josh At a Bar with Dadier: (Josh - "Why don't they let me teach?")

Both Were Brutally Beaten Up by Arte West's Gang of Seven

Dadier to Anne: "I've been beaten up, but I'm not beaten"
  • later when he returned home battered and shaken, Dadier worried that Anne might react and cause a miscarriage: ("I don't want you to lose the baby, Anne"); she insisted that he quit his job at the school: 'You're never going back to that school again," but her headstrong and stubborn husband vowed to not give up: "Oh, yes, I am. Yeah, I've been beaten up, but I'm not beaten. There's a big difference. I'm not beaten, and I'm not quittin'"
  • after taking a week to recover, Dadier met with his former college Professor A.R. Kraal (Basil Ruysdael), who was now the School Principal at a highly-functioning, suburban upper-class coed HS; Dadier asked himself whether the teaching conditions would ever improve: "Is it hopeless? Is there no way to get through to those kids? Is there no way to make them understand?"; the Professor assured him: "You'll find a way"; Dadier explained how he hadn't been properly trained to deal with a new generation of juvenile delinquents in the urban classroom - and he was quite discouraged: ("The kind of students I have, why bother with them?... They'll survive without me.... If I'm gonna be a lion tamer, I should teach with a chair and a whip")
  • Dadier felt like he had lost his ideals about why he wanted to teach: "I thought that if I could help to shape young minds -- sort of sculpt lives -- then by teaching, I'd be creating"; although he was offered a job at the school, he declined and decided to give it one more try at his troubled urban "blackboard jungle" school: "I think I'll take another crack at my jungle"
  • on his first day back at North Manuel HS, Dadier told a police detective (Horace McMahon) that he couldn't identify his assailants in the dark - making it difficult to press charges; the detective theorized about the root causes of the problems with the kids: "I've handled lots of problem kids in my time, kids from both sides of the tracks. They were 5 or 6 years old in the last war. Father in the Army, mother in a defense plant, no home life, no church life, no place to go. They form street gangs. It's way over my head, Mr. Dadier. Maybe the kids today are like the rest of the world -- mixed up, suspicious, scared. I don't know. But I do know this -- gang leaders have taken the place of parents, and if you don't stop them..."; the detective was frustrated that justice wasn't being served on the troublemakers by the forgiving Dadier: ("Tying our hands so it can happen again? And don't worry. It will")
  • in his first lesson back on the job, Mr. Dadier brought a tape-recorder to have students listen to their voices; one of the Puerto Rican students named Pete Morales (Rafael Campos) was chosen, and then derogatorily called a "spic" by Arte West, who also called implicated Dadier as bigoted: ("Morales is a spic... Maybe you don't like spics"); Dadier used the occasion to lecture the boys on name-calling: "There's not gonna be any name calling here, not today, not tomorrow, not ever!" - and he specifically referred to certain labels, such as "spic," "Irish Mick," or "nigger" that could easily lead to racial divisions and trouble
  • later, Principal Warneke called Dadier to his office to directly accuse him of being "guilty of racial prejudice" and bigoted thinking in his classroom: ("You're the teacher who's supposed to be the bigot...It's reported that you've maligned religious and racial groups in your classroom"); Dadier was infuriated by the accusation, as Warneke continued: "I don't care if a boy's skin is black, yellow, or purple! He gets the same teaching, the same breaks as any white boy"; Dadier defended himself, claiming that he only used negative, bigoted terms in a lesson on name-calling, and was given no recourse to face or know his accuser: ("You condemned me without even a hearing!"); the Principal was forced to back down and apologize for the false accusations: ("Look, I'm sorry, Dadier. I may have been hasty. If I'm wrong, I apologize"); in his next statement, Warneke appointed Dadier (with some drama experience) to be in charge of the school's Christmas show - as an extra job (and/or "penalty...reward"?); shortly later, Dadier projected and took out his own frustrations on Miller and accused him of getting him into trouble with the Principal
  • that evening at a bus stop, Dadier happened to witness the hijacking and robbery of a newspaper truck committed by Arte West's gang (all suspiciously wearing identical gang jackets); West claimed that his friends were only members of a "club" and weren't involved in a heist; Dadier warned that juvenile delinquents faced reform school or a year in jail, but Arte didn't care and retorted: "Look, you're in my classroom now, and what I could teach you. The first lesson is don't butt in. Just don't. Or--or you could flunk out for good"
  • the next destructive rampage led by Arte was in Edwards' classroom where they mocked the swing and jazz music he was listening to on a phonograph record player; they deliberately and cruelly assaulted him and smashed his prized and irreplaceable 15 year-old record collection; he was personally devastated and told Dadier: "They broke my records"; the only punishment the students received was to write the sentence 500 times: "I respect private property"; a few days later, Josh Edwards resigned
  • in the faculty room when the teachers began discussing how to retaliate against the unruly students, Dadier spoke up: "They outnumber ya, they outweigh ya, and they outreach ya. Besides, they get clobbered at home and in the streets. They're used to it"; he summarized the uncaring attitude of most of the teachers who were failing their recalcitrant students: "Nobody cares. Nobody listens. I mean nobody cares...There must be some way to reach them"
  • meanwhile, Anne received an anonymous letter (printed in capital letters on student notebook paper): "WATCH YOUR HUSBAND. THERE'S ANOTHER WOMAN"; more letters followed plus phone calls; they hinted that her unfaithful husband and pretty work colleague Miss Hammond were having an ongoing affair
  • shortly later, Anne encouraged her husband to consider quitting like Josh had done and to accept a teaching job in Prof. Kraal's school: "You'd teach in a decent place where kids want to learn, where a teacher's respected," but Richard refused to leave the "challenge" at North Manual HS
  • one day in the school's auditorium, Dadier discovered - to his surprise - that George Miller was leading a group of black singers while playing the piano as they sang: "Go Down Moses" together as they rehearsed for the Christmas show; Dadier was puzzled by the major change in Miller's behavior (and the revelation of his musical skills) compared to his uncooperative rule-breaking in class ("I mean, you can be so cooperative on a thing like this. In my classroom, I--I--")
  • after showing an animated film "Jack and the Beanstalk" to his class, a discussion about the "fairy tale" with a happily-ever-after ending was encouraged amongst the students; the story was relatable to most of the students: ("That Jack was a real heist man. He got away with burglary three times. I liked the part where he knocked off the giant"); it was concluded by Miller that Jack was a burglar and committed murder, but then was rewarded and married a Princess - making it clear to Arte that "crime always pays"; Dadier asked the students if it was right to dislike the giant only because he was "different than anybody else"; he summarized that any stories heard in life (in printed materials and the media) needed to be intelligently analyzed and examined for "the real meaning," and then added: "Learn to think for yourselves!"; Dadier was encouraged that he was finally able to get through to his class
  • meanwhile, more anonymous letters arrived for Anne as well as phone calls about Dadier's alleged affair with Miss Hammond; after a late-night Christmas show rehearsal, Miss Hammond openly asked if Dadier would like to escape from the tensions of school and run away with her: "Don't you feel that you want to throw your briefcase away and take a flier someplace, anyplace, with me maybe? Don't you? Don't you, Rick?...You'd like to, all right, but you're married"; he refused: "You keep thinking that way, you're gonna end up in a mess of trouble"
  • Dadier counseled and pestered George Miller about how he should continue his schooling after HS: ("Don't give up trying, Miller. Don't quit"), but because of his limited options, Miller was willing to settle being an auto mechanic: ("There ain't much choice, is there? For the same reason I live in this neighborhood, colored neighborhood, Mr. Dadier"); Miller explained how he quit trying to further his education and apply himself, because everything seemed hopeless: ("Nobody gives a hoot"), and he accused Dadier of being short-sighted about racial discrimination: ("We're talking from different sides of the fence, Mr. Dadier. You're not black"); to prove that he cared, Dadier proposed a pact between them: "We'll have sort of a pact, you and I: Neither of us quit. How about it?"
  • the stress of the letters and phone calls about a possible affair led to Anne's "mentally-disturbed" state and her unexpected labor and delivery of a premature baby boy; Anne's doctor told Richard about his concern that her torment was due - not to her worries about a past miscarriage - but to problems in her marriage and her doubts about him
  • after Richard briefly spoke to Anne in her hospital room, their neighbor Mrs. Brophy (Martha Wentworth) handed him the letters that had caused her labor pains; a successful Christmas show didn't matter to Dadier, who now felt completely defeated by the school and his students; he announced his resignation to Murdock: "I'm through. I'm finished. I'm quittin'. As far as I'm concerned, that school is just dead"
  • the no-longer cynical Murdock admitted that he had become inspired by Dadier's commitment and dedication to care for his students: ("I wanted to get through to them, too"), and saw the change that he had brought to the school: ("You proved something. The kids in our school can be taught if you don't stop trying. You got through to them"); but Dadier felt that no one truly cared about the teaching vocation: "Who cares? You think the kids care, their parents care? Who cares about teachers anyhow?"; he mentioned how little teachers were paid: "Teachers get $2.00 an hour, right?" - less earnings than a household cook, and about the same as a babysitter or a soda jerk
  • once their premature baby boy was out of danger, Anne admitted: "I was silly and vain and selfish, so I doubted you. I was like one of the bad kids in your class-- somebody told a lie, and I believed that lie"; she also confessed that she was wrong for urging him to quit earlier, and assured him to continue in the profession: "You'll get through to them"
  • back in class after the Christmas and New Years' break during a lesson on reading want ads, Dadier caught Belazi (Dan Terranova) cheating ("having loose eyes") and copying from another student's paper - 5 points were deducted from his paper; at the same time, Arte West also flagrantly plagiarized answers from another student and was caught, but refused Dadier's repeated requests to bring his paper up to the front to receive a penalty; when Arte refused to comply, Dadier was prepared to take him to the Principal's office; the confrontation escalated, and Arte drew his switchblade and kept threatening Dadier to "Come on, take it"; George Miller prevented Belazi from unfairly grabbing Dadier from behind, but Dadier was still struck in the hand and wounded by Arte's knife; none of the other students obeyed Arte's commands to get into the "rumble" to overwhelm Dadier

Arte West Flagrantly Cheating in Class

Arte Drawing a Switchblade on Dadier

Dadier Stabbed in the Hand and Bloodied by Arte
  • Dadier knew that West was helpless without support from his gang: "You're not so tough without a gang to back you up, are you, West?"; Dadier also accused Arte of three previous infractions: (1) for attacking him (and Mr. Edwards) with his gang in the alleyway with 7-2 odds, (2) for falsely accusing him of racial prejudice to Principal Warneke, and (3) for having sent the "foul" anonymous letters (and phone calls) with false allegations; while Dadier roughed up Arte and scuffled with him at the blackboard, the other classmates subdued Belazi (who picked up the switchblade) who yelled out before trying to escape: "I'm gettin' outta here. I'm not goin' to that reform school! Not me"
  • Dadier explained why he wasn't going to forgo any punishment this time: "There's no place for these two in your classroom. Look, we've all made a step forward this morning. Now, there's no sliding back now, not ever again. Now, whether you like it or not, I'm taking these two downstairs"; with the other class members, Miller decided to assist Dadier in dragging Arte and Belazi to the Principal's Office: ("I think maybe we can give you a hand, Mr. Dadier")
  • in the final scene as they both exited the school, Miller made a deal with Dadier that they both wouldn't quit the school prematurely, since Miller had heard rumors that Dadier was planning on quitting; Miller mentioned how Dadier was already broken in and should take advantage of his experience: "Well, you know the ropes around here pretty good now, and it would be a shame to waste all that...Besides, it would be kind of rough breakin' in somebody new"; they both agreed to honor their pact: (Miller: "Well, we have a pact. We wouldn't want to break that", Dadier: "No, I--I guess we wouldn't", Miller: "Well, see ya around", Dadier: "I'll see you around")
  • the film ended with a reprise of "Rock-Around-The-Clock"

Opening Scrolling Prologue

Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford) Outside Boys' High School

Mr. Dadier Reporting to Principal Warneke's Office - Hired as an English Teacher

Soft-Spoken Dadier with Principal Warneke: ("There is no discipline problem")

At Dinner, Dadier Celebrating His Hiring with His Pregnant Wife Anne (Anne Francis)

During First Day's Assembly, New Teacher Miss Hammond's Reaction to Cat-Calls

Students Caught Smoking in Boys' Room

Rebellious Black Student Gregory Miller (Sidney Poitier) with Dadier

The Class Making Fun of Dadier's Last Name ("Daddy-O"), and Breaking the Blackboard with a Baseball

Gang-Leader Arte West (Vic Morrow)

Dadier's "Man-to-Man Talk" with Miller: "Every class needs a leader...How about it, Miller?"

Sexual Assault on Miss Hammond in the Library

The Next Day - Dadier Was Treated Like an Outcast by Students

Detective: "The kids today are like the rest of the world -- mixed up, suspicious, scared..."

Dadier's Classroom Lesson on Bigoted Name-Calling

Dadier Falsely Accused by Principal Warneke of Being Racially-Bigoted

Dadier with Gang Leader Arte West at the Time of His Gang's Newspaper Truck Hijacking

Arte West to Mr. Dadier: "You're in my classroom now"

Arte's Classroom Assault on Mr. Edwards and His Prized Record Collection

Anne's Receipt of Anonymous Letters

George Miller Revealing His Musical Gifts - Playing and Singing With a Black Vocal Group

Dadier's Lesson on The "Real Meaning" of "Jack and the Beanstalk"

Miss Hammond's Flirtations with Dadier

Dadier's Encouragement to Miller to Further His Education

At the Hospital Following Anne's Premature Labor and Delivery

Dadier to Murdock: "I'm through. I'm finished. I'm quittin'"

Anne Admitted to Her Husband That She Was Wrong for Doubting Him or Urging Him to Quit

Dadier Scuffling With Arte at the Blackboard Before Taking Him to the Principal's Office

Final Scene - The Pact Between Miller and Dadier Was Confirmed: Both Would Remain at the School


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