In February 1957, the film Rock Around The Clock was shown at the Odeon, Aylesbury. The film had opened in the UK on 20 July 1956 at the London Pavilion, and in other towns there had been reports of problems with “teddy boys” destroying seats and dancing in the aisles – so some extraordinary measures were taken to prevent trouble in Aylesbury.
The Bucks Advertiser reported on February 8, 1957, that:
Police officers in plain clothes – some accompanied by their wives – occupied seats in strategic positions at the Odeon Cinema, Aylesbury, every night last week, while outside was a police dog and its handler … In addition to the police, there were also present three experienced management personnel of the Odeon circuit who have attended the various cinemas where the fulm has been shown.
In fact, there were no problems in Aylesbury – and the manager. Mr. W. D. Laing told the paper that “he was extremely happy that the scenes which have accompanied the film in other places did not take place in Aylesbury.”
News of the disturbances around the country may have been exaggerated by the newspapers – at least to some extent. There is a file in the National Archives which shows that the Home Office was approached by the Cinematograph Exhibitors’ Association (C.E.A.) about the prohibition by some local authorities of the showing of the film. Introducing the subject, the following comment appears (click on image to enlarge):
The file includes a list of towns where the film had been banned – including Oxford, and the whole of Berkshire, including Reading, Windsor and Maidenhead:
There are also examples of exaggerated reporting:
Images: The National Archives
Rock Around The Clock was not a great film but was the first movie to showcase the new music of the fifties – rock ‘n’ roll in a low budget story targeted at teenage audiences. But it did have a big impact.
Pete Frame in his book “The Restless Generation” devotes 10 pages to the release of the film in the UK. He writes:
Rock Around the Clock, a cheap Hollywood exploitation movie rushed out to capitalise on the current American rock ‘n’ roll fad, really did stick a dagger into Britain’s staid way of life, opening up a festering wound – later descrined at a “generation gap” – which grew wider and deeper by the day … It is not an exaggeration to say the film changed lives. Of how many movies can that be said? Most people who saw it left the cinema uplifed and exhilarated. Some felt inspired. Hundreds of kids wanted to start bands. Thousands wanted rock ‘n’ roll to be the soundtrack of their lives.