Orchestra manager Steve Hollis realizes that big-band music is dead. People want something new, but what? On their way to New York, Steve and his companion Corny, stop at a motel in a small place called Strawberry Springs. It’s Saturday evening, and a huge number of young people are going to the Town Hall to listen to a local band called Bill Haley and His Comets, playing a new kind of music called rock’n’roll. It is accompanied by a new way of dancing, led by the siblings Lisa and Jimmy Johns. Steve immediately recognizes that this could be what all America is waiting for. He convinces the band and the dancers to let him organize their nationwide breakthrough, and goes to New York to arrange bookings with the top agent Corinne Talbot. Corinne has for a long time tried to get Steve to marry her, but in vain. She now realizes that Steve is in love with the young dancer Lisa Johns, which makes her change her strategy. Corinne tries to stop the rock’n’roll group everywhere, but despite …
the original rock’n’roll feature film–great showcase for Bill Haley and His Comets
Journeyman director Fred Sears (also an actor in many films–I remember him from Charles Starrett westerns) was a good choice to direct this low-budget Sam Katzman-produced quickie, meant to cash in on the rock’n’roll fad and the celebrity of Bill Haley and His Comets. Sears gets right down to business and features the music throughout–with wonderful (mostly) mimed performances by Bill Haley of his classic early Decca recordings, which still rock out today. Also seen are the pioneering lounge-rocknroll band Freddie Bell and His Bellboys, who were fine entertainers in the Louis Prima vein and who provided Elvis with Hound Dog. A plot is woven into the film here and there to keep things moving, but the emphasis is on the music. Haley’s friendly persona comes across well in his limited dialogue scenes, and the other characters in his band, such as sax player Rudy Pompilli, are quite animated, capturing a bit of what his live shows must have been like (probably much wilder than this film). Alan Freed also appears and is worked into the plot, and the Platters sing their two biggest hits. All together, it’s an excellent time capsule into the early days of rock’n’roll, and it’s a wonderful showcase for the great Bill Haley, who still has not received his due as a music pioneer. It’s easy to see why the film caused riots when shown overseas. Don’t miss it if you like Haley, Freed, and the glory days of rocknroll.