I watched the 1956 jukebox musical Rock! Rock! Rock! which starred Tuesday Weld, Fran Manfred, Teddy Randazzo, Jacqueline Kerr and Jack Collins. This also features Alan Freed who was a very popular disk jockey in the 1950s and for much of movie he is presenting rock and roll acts. You get to see The Moonglows, Chuck Berry, The Flamingos, Jimmy Cavallo & His House Rockers, The Three Chuckles, Johnny Burnette Trio, LaVern Baker, Cirino & The Bowties and Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers. You also hear Connie Francis as she provided the vocals for Tuesday Weld’s character. Teddy Randazzo also performs four numbers in the movie.
This is a movie geared towards the teenage audience of the day which did quite well at the box office. I made a dip called Mish Mash Dip to go with it and seeing as this was a teenage movie I served Coca Cola in the bottle. Like always today I will post the recap of the movie and tomorrow I will post the recipe.
My sloppy attempt at recapping the story with some definite spoilers and most likely leaving important details out!:
This is Dori Graham (Tuesday Weld) and her boyfriend hasn’t asked her to the prom yet.
This is her best friend Arabella (Fran Manfred) who won’t be going to prom because no boy asked her.
This is Dori’s Boyfriend Tommy Rogers (Teddy Randazzo) who can’t sit in a chair without turning it backwards. I don’t know if this is a 1950s teenage thing or just a weird Tommy Rogers quirk. Also he is an aspiring singer.
This is Gloria Baker (Jacqueline Kerr) and she is the new girl who wants Dori’s man. She is also wearing a strapless evening dress to the prom in blue because it is Tommy’s favorite color (yes this is a super important plot point).
Once Dori finds out what Gloria is wearing to the dance, she declares that she will need one for the dance as well. The problem with buying the dress is Dori has spent all her allowance even though she promised her father (Jack Collins) she would keep a budget. We get to learn why you shouldn’t keep two sets of books for your budget. Yes we learn A LOT about being financially responsible in this movie and you thought this was just about the rock and roll.
Now we are going to take about a twenty minute break from the plot to watch television with Dori and Arabella. They are tuning into the Alan Freed’s Rock and Roll Jubilee of the Stars.
We get to watch The Moonglows, Chuck Berry, The Flamingos, Jimmy Cavallo & His House Rockers and much to Dori’s surprise her boyfriend Tommy Rogers singing “Thanks To You”.
After seeing Tommy sing, Arabella and Dori realize that Gloria will want Tommy even more and she is still is going to be wearing that blue strapless evening dress to the dance. The only logical choice was Dori definitely now needs a new dress.
Two things happen while Dori and Arabella are dress shopping. First Arabella meets Melville (David Winters) who she thinks is rather cute and who eventually is her date to the dance.
Second, Dori finds out that her father closed down all the charge accounts as a way to teach her about money. Therefore no strapless dress for Dori. Eventually her and her father strike a deal for the dress, he will give her fifteen dollars if Dori can come up with the other half.
I don’t even have the energy to explain this whole plan that Dori comes up with to get the money and the shenanigans that ensue. Basically it comes down to Dori loaning money to Gloria with 1% interest (please don’t make me explain how it gets to that point…) Dori thinks that 1% mean one dollar back for every dollar she loaned. Gloria knows that this is not only wildly incorrect math but wrong ethically. She uses that to blackmail Tommy to go to the prom with her in exchange for her not telling anybody about Dori’s unintentional loan shark ways. Of course Gloria doesn’t pay her back and uses the money to get a better dress. The fathers of each of the girls gets involved. Dori gets her dress and Gloria loses everything but still is going to the dance with Tommy.
Oh and somehow Tommy, who is a highschool student, got Alan Freed to do his whole show at this school’s prom. Work that out in your head.
It is now the day of the prom. Arabella is with her date Melville, Tommy is with Gloria and Dori is there with some nameless random guy.
For the next twenty minutes we get to again watch Alan Freed present musical acts. This time you get an another performance from Jimmy Cavallo & His House Rockers, then then Johnny Burnette Trio, an encore performance from The Moonglows , LaVern Baker, Cirino & The Bowties and two numbers from Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers.
Tommy tries to talk to Dori while her date was getting her something to drink but she was having none of it.
While he is trying to explain himself and the situation, Alan Freed introduces Tommy as the next act. Of course he sings a song that he dedicates to Dori about giving him one more chance. It melts her little teenage heart and she gets back with Tommy without so much as a glance to the guy who was her date. Dori kisses Tommy and then Alan Freed gets everyone one up to boogie to some more rock and roll.
Then in an awkward moment, when Dori gives Tommy another kiss, Alan Freed winks at Tommy as I guess to say good job teenage boy I barely know for getting back with your girl and Tommy winks back.
Things I kinda sorta did not like:
The mother: The mother was so one dimensional and that is saying something in this movie. You could take her out completely and it would not mess with the plot one bit.
The songs preformed by the two main characters: Both of Tuesday Weld’s songs have her lip syncing to Connie Francis’s vocals and you could tell. Plus she was quite stiff with her movements while preforming the numbers. Tony Randazzo who played Tommy was a singer who had a career writing and preforming especially during the 1960s. The four numbers he sang in the movie came off awkward as well. That probably is because they were picked and pigeonholed into scenes. His main offense for me was during his third song called “We’re Gonna Rock Tonight”. This is where we get to watch him try his very best to emulate Elvis and his dance moves and he DOES NOT EVEN COME CLOSE. Trust me! Watch it and let me know if you wish you could unsee it as well.
Things I liked:
Guy in Background of “I Never Had A Sweetheart”: So this scene is already kind of awkward and unintentionally funny (at least to me). So first off Arabella asks Dori if she has ever been in love. Instead of answering that with a simple yes or no, Dori launches into “I Never Had A Sweetheart” while walking around the diner looking off in the distance as one does. Then she sits back down and says “Well that is how I feel.” Dori you really didn’t answer the question but unlike me, Arabella accepted the song as a reasonable answer to her query.
The thing that really gets me laughing is the guy in the background when Dori starts the song. He is just staring intently at Dori and at parts he starts cuddling with whatever is in his hand. I am weird I totally admit. I found it funny and have watched the scene a couple of times now.
Favorite Scene/Musical Number: This one is hard to choose. They were so many good ones. The highlights for me was The Moonglows singing “I Knew From The Start”, Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me”, Johnny Burnette Trio’s “Lonesome Train (On A Lonesome Track) and of course Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers.
Favorite Character: I will admit I really don’t have one. Being that this movie was really a vehicle for the musical numbers, the characters don’t really get fleshed out. The closest to a favorite would be Jack Collins as Dori’s father. He was the only one who got me to chuckle a few times (besides random background guy) especially during the two girls watching the Alan Freed Show.
Father: What’s an EP?
Dori: Elvis Presley…..
Father: I still say what’s that?
Alan Freed: “Rock and roll is a river of music which has absorbed many streams: rhythm and blues, jazz, ragtime, cowboy songs, country songs, folk songs. All have contributed greatly to the big beat.”
Would I Watch It Again: Yeah while it isn’t the strongest plot wise or acting wise, it is a great time capsule into teenage culture of the 1950s. If you are into 1950s rock and roll, you should definitely check out this movie just for most of the musical number. It is great cheesy fun that doesn’t take itself too serious plus you get to learn how money, budgets and banks work! This movie is in public domain so you can easily find the full movie on YouTube for free.
3 thoughts on “Cinema and Canapes: Rock! Rock! Rock! (1956)”
Wow great post! I’m not a movies person so I don’t know much about 50’s films, despite the fact that I’m obsessed with early Rock n Roll. I think it’s interesting how the teen films of those days would incorporate the acts of the time into their movie plots. 😀
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It is interesting! I was expecting the more modern musical montage to happen. It was a pleasant surprise to get to watch the full songs.