MeTV is a network that broadcasts shows from yesteryear that are supposed to trigger nostalgia among viewers of a certain age—like Me. The other day I caught a movie made in 1957 that made me sorry I was even alive in 1957. The name of the movie is “Don’t Knock The Rock.”
The show features a bunch of long-in-the-tooth teenagers and stars an even longer-in-the-tooth heartthrob named Alan Dale, who is out to corrupt the “youth” of Mellondale with something he calls rock and roll music. Problem is, there are citizens of Mellonville who are even OLDER than their so-called teenagers. And of course they are opposed to rock and roll music and resentful of Alan Dale, no matter that Dale hasn’t got a hip bone in his entire body (think Jack Webb meets Howdy Doody). How he landed a starring role in this movie is a huge mystery. I’m thinking Vito Corleone must have planted a dead horse’s head in some big shot producer’s bed.
Or perhaps Dale slipped a few bucks to his co-star, Alan Freed. Freed I have heard of; back in the day he was the nation’s most influential disc jockey, also known as Moondog and “the father of rock ‘n’ roll.” However, in 1957 the genre still had a ways to go—that is, as far as white performers went. Even the black performers in this movie are having a hard time getting their groove on. Little Richard performs as if he just can’t wait to get the hell out of Mellonville, where the local day-for-night club has all the ambience of the Springfield Retirement Castle.
Bill Haley of the Comets also looks trapped. “Why am I in this movie?” he wonders. These people don’t look ready to rock around the clock. They’d be lucky to walk around the block.
But wait! Here come the kids, and by kids I mean thirty-somethings. Can they ever dance! I mean, they are bouncing off sofas, ricocheting off walls, whirling and twirling and twisting the day-for-night away. If I were one of their parents, my main concern would be that my “kid” might accidentally lose an eye to an errant bullet bra.
The fun comes to a halt after a saucy blonde whose advances toward Alan Dale are rebuffed splashes whiskey on her fuzzy Jantzen sweater. That’s all it takes to bring in the police and a passel of fedora topped newspaper photographers. Flashbulbs flash, newspapers fly off the press, and everyone in Mellonville is properly scandalized.
So do I yearn for those days? Absolutely not. In 1957 I was a lonely white boy with no sense of rhythm who spent far too much time in my basement bedroom, surrounded by wretched wall art, listening to Lester Lanin records and staring at the telephone. There was a girl I was interested in, but I was too shy to ask her out. Where would we go? What would we do? Thanks to movies like “Don’t Knock The Rock,” I had no idea.