Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

High School Confidential! (1958)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

High School Confidential! (1958)

Jack Arnold's exploitative, juvenile delinquent ("wild youth") B-film cult classic was the first of three Mamie Van Doren films produced by Albert Zugsmith, followed by College Confidential (1960) and Sex Kittens Go to College (1960). It featured drug trade in a high school, lots of 50's slang words, and hep-talk beat lingo: ("Don't flip your lid", "I dig you," "Do you want to start a rumble?", and "If you flake around with the weed, you'll end up using the harder stuff"). The film with an anti-drug message appeared on screens soon after similar films, including Laslo Benedek's The Wild One (1953), Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and Richard Brooks' The Blackboard Jungle (1955).

Platinum blonde sex-pot starlet Mamie Van Doren appeared as co-actor Russ Tamblyn's 'bad girl' nympho, cat-in-heat guardian-aunt Gwen Dulaine, vamping throughout the film when her husband was absent. The very 50s film also contained a switchblade fight, beatnik poetry and a jalopy drag race, the assertion that marijuana use led to hard drugs (such as heroin), and featured the tagline:

Behind these "nice" school walls

In the film's opening, crooner Jerry Lee Lewis (as Himself) sang the title song from the back of a flatbed truck, while high school teen couples danced outside Santa Bella HS. Tony Baker (Russ Tamblyn), a tough and cocky guy and new transfer student from North High Chicago, parked his car on the curb outside the school. He intimidated another student who wanted the same parking spot: "You got 32 teeth, buster, you wanna try for none?"

Tony immediately began flirting with pretty blonde and Doris Day-like rich coed Joan Staples (Diane Jergens) and told her: "Hi ya, sexy, you look real cultured. Let's, uh, cut out to some drag and eat pad, huh," but her tough guy boyfriend J.I. Coleridge (John Drew Barrymore) interrupted. Tony was informed by straight-student Petey (Carl Thayler) that J.I. was the head of the Wheelers-Dealers, the high school's dope-pushing drug ring - a group he was interested in ruling.

Afterwards, Tony sauntered into the outer office of principal Mr. W.O. Robinson (Charles Halton) ("Where's the warden?") and insulted the secretary. Portraying himself as a troublemaker, he had an awful scholastic record, and was in his 7th year in HS as a mature senior (two as a junior and three as a senior, plus two years in the military). In his first class, he introduced himself to the blonde teacher Miss Arlene Williams (Jan Sterling) with a wolf whistle and an invitation:

"You know for a 'teach,' you're pretty cool. Why don't we cut out and go back to your pad and live it up, huh?"

Tony disrupted her lesson on the derivation of slang words (a strange lesson indeed) - as he rebuffed the teacher:

You know you could be the most, but all, I mean, that old style jive you've got written up on the board is nowhere....Now look, take it from this stud, will ya? Uh, I mean, that stuff is strictly for the tinners that live around the block. Like if I were to say to this kitten here, if I were to say, uh, uh, 'Let's blow this joint,' or Let's hop in my camp and take off for the casbah...'

He was returned to the principal's office for his arrogant, impudent and insulting manner. His switchblade and cigarello were confiscated. While the teacher was absent, Coleridge delivered a jive-talk historical commentary to the class about the discovery of America:

Columbus, why man, he was the hippest! Now one swingin' day when Chris was sittin' at the beach goofin', he dug that the world was round. And with this crazy idea stashed in his lid, he swung over to the royal pad to cut up a few touches with a cool chick, Queen Isabella - who was a swinger! Belle took a long look at him and said, 'Christy, what is this jazz you're puttin' down about our planet being round?' She said, 'Everybody' hip that it's square. The only thing square about this world are the cats what live in it!' He said, 'Now look, I'm in your pad for one swingin' reason.' He says, 'I know I can make it East by swingin' West. Now I wanna take some non-stop studs to go in a deep pool of water with me and maybe come up with the New World bit. If I'm straight, why everybody swings. And if I goof and run into any of them flip Indian kitties over there, I coulc sit down and smoke a little pipe with them. And who knows, baby, maybe run off with the deed to a groovy piece of real estate. Is that crazy, man, but like, this a sick bit you raise, and if you find out that the world is square, this is why it's easy, baby, we just tool off the deep end and dig a little infinity, that's all. Now Belle, dig me hard, baby. He says, 'I know you're hung with the affairs of the court jazz, this is why I need scoffin' for this trip, baby, and that takes bread. And in the Bread Department, I am nowhere.' 'Man, a man like you a real bring-down. See, you pump me up with a crazy story and then expect me to spring for the gold.' She says, 'You just cooled the whole bit.' She said, 'You know the kingdom is next to Tapsville. And if I ever laid this story out to my old man, why he'd flip out. You know how square Ferdie is.' He said, 'Belle, listen baby, you the swingin'est chick in the whole mother kingdom. And I'm hep that if anyone can score for the bread, it's you.' Well, kitties, the next morning, she came up with a real wicked plan, to hock the royal axe. And after Chris made his boat connection and scored for three, he got some cats together with eyes for adventure and split across the Atlantic - no tomorrow style.

Tony (an orphan according to his school records) claimed he was living in an apartment with his married guardian aunt Gwen Dulaine (Mamie Van Doren) and uncle Vic (Steve Ellis), although Gwen was actually posing as his aunt. She appeared in her kitchen, bath-robed and sexually-aggressive when she asked her 'nephew': "Are you looking for excitement?" as she bit into an apple, and then she jealously worried about his dating prospects in high school: "That's why I worry, thinking of you coming up against those young, tight sweaters." With her husband Vic away, she came onto him: "Stop treating me like a stranger. With Vic out of town, it's lonely. Relatives should always kiss each other hello and goodbye, polite-like" - and she planted a passionate kiss on him. He revealed his arrangement with her - she was being paid to provide him with room and board and nothing more.

Tony's Aunt: Gwen Dulaine (Mamie Van Doren)
"Are you looking for excitement?"
"Thinking of you coming up against those young, tight sweaters."
"Stop treating me like a stranger."

Some of the high school teachers, including Miss Williams, were assembled by City Commissioner Walter Burroughs (Ned Wever) to learn about marijuana (as a stepping stone to dangerous narcotics, such as heroin) and the drugs' dangerous spread through dealing to younger and younger public school students.

At school, Tony was asked if he wanted to join a drag-car racing group (The Rangers) by its clean-cut, letterman sweater-wearing leader Steve Bentley (Michael Landon), but he declined. In the cafeteria, Tony openly moved in on Joan in her boyfriend's presence. Earlier, Joan had said she was "dry" (out of money and her supply of weed, implying that she was 'addicted') and now she appeared sick (Tony called it a "case of the screaming meemies").

In the boys' locker room, J.I. brought some Wheelers-Dealers gang members with him to lead a switchblade showdown against Tony, but the group was swiftly intimidated. He threatened to usurp J.I.'s position as President of the gang of weed-head hoodlums, and to co-opt J.I.'s girlfriend Joan. After school, he brashly offered Miss Williams a ride home when her car's ignition wouldn't start. She told him that he always seemed to be trying to prove something to everyone: ("You're always trying to make people notice you. You want to be considered important").

Meanwhile, Joan was still complaining that she needed a "stick" (marijuana cigarette) but had no money ("I'm clean. I've used up my whole allowance"). Desperate for cash, she received an illegal $15 cash kickback from a dress shop, and then met up with J.I. at a teen beatnik hangout club that night, but still complained that she was short $20 dollars to purchase marijuana. The two listened to a poetess (Phillipa Fallon) who stood up and recited an unusual beat poem:

My old man was a bread stasher all his life. He never got fat. He wound up with a used car, a 17-inch screen and arthritis.
Tomorrow is a drag, man, tomorrow is a king-sized bust.
They cried: "Put down pot. Don't think a lot." For what? Time how much and what to do with it. Sleep, man, and you might wake up diggin' the whole human race, givin' itself three days to get out. Tomorrow is a drag, pops, the future is a flake.
I had a canary who couldn't sing. I had a cat that let me share my pad with her. I bought a dog that killed the cat that ate the canary. What is truth?
I had an uncle with an Ivy-League car. He had life with a belt in the back. He had a button-down brain. Wind up a belt in the mouth and a button-down lip.
He coughed blood on this earth. Now there's a race for space. We can cough blood on the moon soon. Tomorrow is Dragsville, cats. Tomorrow is a king-sized drag.
Hula fast shorts, swing with a gassy chick, turn on to a thousand joys, smile on what happened, then check what's gonna happen, you'll miss what's happening. Turn your eyes inside and dig the vacuum.
Tomorrow, drag.

Tony arrived and invited Joan to dance - while hinting to her that he possibly knew where she could purchase some marijuana. The next afternoon at Joan's outdoor swimming party at her luxurious home, Tony told Joan that he was still trying to "make a connection" for himself with a drug-pusher: ("Give me a chance to score!"). She revealed that her usual source for reefers was Jukey Judlow (Burt Douglas), and then asked him: "I didn't know you were a weed-head, Tony." Meanwhile, one of the female students named Doris (Jody Fair) was alternating between fevers and chills - evidence of hard-drug usage. And then after Doris was thrown into the pool, she became hysterical. Both Tony and Joan were shocked after noticing needle marks down Doris' arm:

Joan: "I thought she was just a weed-head like me."
Tony: "She was, she graduated. Don't look so surprised. Look, do you want me to spell it out for you? If you flake around with the weed, you're gonna end up using the hard stuff."

Later that evening, Mike met with Jukey and requested 5 pounds of marijuana, but Jukey would only sell him smaller quantities - individual cigarettes ("sticks") at a buck apiece. Jukey told Tony he would introduce him to the big-time operator ("ace-man") at the teens' drag-strip the next evening to buy a larger quantity ("a can").

On their way during a date to the drag-strip the next night, Joan was surprised that Tony refused to "turn on" and share a "joint" with her: "With me, it's strictly business." At the track, when Tony inquired about a drug deal with J.I., he identified the name of the local drug pusher, known as Mr. A., who also sold "some H, some coke, and some goofballs." Tony bought a large bag of marijuana from J.I., then hid it in his car's front right hubcap, but then the hubcap fell off at the end of a four-car jalopy race. Simultaneously, the police arrived and arrested a number of teens, including Tony, although he was swiftly bailed out by defense attorney William Remington Kane (Lyle Talbot) who claimed he worked for Mr. A. After Tony's arrest, he asked J.I. to put him in touch with Mr. A so he could acquire the "hard stuff."

Tony's school counselor and conservative teacher Miss Williams visited Tony's sultry Aunt Gwen to see about his living situation as a clue to his outrageous behavior. When Tony's teacher arrived, Gwen sported a tight-sweatered, pointed 'bullet bra' covering her protuberant breasts. She began smoking and pouring herself a drink, as they confronted each other:

Gwen: Look, Miss Dimple Toes, if you people at the school think that Vic and me -- Vic's my husband and he's out of town on a job -- if you think we're raising a juvenile delinquent, say it.
Miss Williams: No, Mrs. Dulaine, we...
Gwen: Don't double-talk me. You've got me pegged as a no-good relative.
Miss Williams: The only reason I came here...
Gwen: Come on, honey, don't draw diagrams with me. I'm no idiot child. I just don't believe all the stuff the papers said about wild reefer parties and fates worse than death in the bushes at night. I know Tony even if he's only been living here a short while. He's practically a grown man who wants to get a bang out of life just like you and me.
Miss Williams: I think if Tony's interests were channeled then...
Gwen: There's nothing to channel. He's healthy and normal and full of fun. You know what I mean, too. Don't tell me you never rode a hot rod or had a late date in the second balcony. (Looking over at the prim and proper teacher) - Or maybe you haven't.

After Miss Williams left as Tony arrived home, Gwen alerted him: "Your teacher's got a yen for ya...Don't forget. I really know you're not a baby." In Tony's bedroom, the sex-starved seductress rolled around on his bed while Tony changed his clothes behind his closet door. She demanded his immediate attention rather than to his girlfriend Joan: "Pay attention to me....I'm lonely...I don't like being brushed off all the time. I could forget myself and say the right things to the wrong people." She vaguely threatened to expose him - although it was unclear what she was getting at.

That evening, J.I. interrupted Tony's date with Joan, and the two left the local hangout (for "wheeler-dealer stuff") to be driven by Mr. A's assistant Bix (Ray Anthony) to meet up with the main pusher. Before Tony left, he tipped off an undercover waiter named Quinn (Charles Chaplin Jr.) in the restroom - revealing that he himself was an undercover police agent posing as a new transfer student at Santa Bella HS, to crack the drug ring. It was over an hour into the 87 minute film before the revelation occurred. [Note: Tony was actually agent Mike Wilson, infiltrating the high school (where all students looked over 20) in the hopes of exposing a dope-pushing drug ring called the Wheeler-Dealers.]

The meeting with Mr. August (Jackie Coogan), was held in the office area of his own company. [Note: Dope czar Mr. A. was revealed to be the bald jazz pianist in the teen hangout beatnik club, his other job.] In an adjoining room, the heroin-addicted Doris was writhing on a couch - suffering from withdrawal - and possibly being pressured into being raped.

[Note: This scene was re-shot for more liberal European standards, with a view of Doris partially unclad.]

Although Tony's background had been checked out to qualify him as a new customer, Mr. A offered him an injection of heroin, that Tony deceptively injected into a small rubber ball (that he palmed in his hand) rather than his arm. Bix bragged: "The more kids that get hooked, the better for business." Arrangements were made for a drug delivery in about an hour of half a kilo of heroin, in exchange for "four big ones."

It was revealed that Tony was really named Mike Wilson, and his message to Quinn resulted in Mr. A's place being staked out by police. Later that evening, high-as-a-kite, marijuana-addicted Joan was awaiting Tony in his bedroom, and learned that he had made a secret audio recording of the "buy" meeting before asking for a joint - with a promiscuous kiss. Tony summoned Miss Williams to tend to Joan, as he departed to receive the drugs with Bix. At the same time, his drunken 'Aunt' Gwen arrived with a similarly-drunken friend. While Tony was gone, J.I. and Jukey arrived and learned from Joan, who bargained for a "joint" to squeal, that Tony was wired for tape recordings of Mr. A. The exchange of drugs between Bix, Mr. A and Tony in the kitchen area of the teen hangout occurred just as J.I. telephoned and alerted them to Tony's role as an undercover cop.

Tony attempted to defend himself while a fight broke out in the main club area, aided by Steve and his wholesome Rangers buddies, but Quinn was shot and killed by Bix during the commotion. The drug-pushing operation was exposed and defeated.

Conclusion: With Narration

In the final scene, the uncredited narrator (Ned Wever) wrapped up the film with a documentary style, fact-based ending (voice-over) to mollify the day's censors, as a well-dressed Tony/Mike drove away in a convertible with three of the female characters (Miss Arlene Williams, Joan Staples and Gwen), along with Gwen's husband Vic in the back seat. Mr. A and Bix were arrested and convicted, and J.I. and Jukey were placed in juvenile reform school:

You have just seen an authentic disclosure of conditions which unfortunately exist in some of our high schools today. But now Arlene will teach in a school that has cleansed itself of its ugly problem. Joan confines her smoking to ordinary cigarettes. Gwen's problem is also solved, her husband came home. For some of the people in our story it didn't have a happy ending. Mr. A and Bix are serving five years to life. J. I. and his boys are in reform school. But the job of a policeman like Mike Wilson will not be finished until this insidious menace to the schools of the country is exposed and destroyed.

(l to r): J.I. Coleridge, Joan Staples, Tony Baker

Tony In Class with Miss Arlene Williams (Jan Sterling)

J.I.'s Classroom Hep Monologue on Columbus

Tony's Switchblade Show-Down in Locker Room with Wheelers-Dealers

Poetess in Teen Hangout

Tony to Joan: "Give me a chance to score!"

Needle-Marks on Doris' Arm

Tony with Drug Dealer Jukey Judlow (Burt Douglas)

Joan on a Date with Tony - Driving to the Drag-Strip

Miss Williams' Visit to Tony's Aunt

Gwen to Tony: "I really know you're not a baby."

Gwen Rolling Around on Tony's Bed As He Undressed

"Pay attention to me...I'm lonely."

J.I. and Tony on the Way to Meet with Mr. A

Heroin-Addicted Doris

Deleted From Some Versions

(l to r): Mr. A, J.I. and Tony During Drug Buy Meeting

Tony's Faked Heroin Injection

Joan - A Junkie Addicted to Marijuana, Begging for a "Joint"

"Aunt" Gwen - Drunk

Mr. A Holding a Gun on Tony/Mike During Drug Buy Bust


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z