The BBFC files: Blackboard Jungle

The BBFC’s senior archivist Jen Evans digs out the board’s original report on a teen rebel drama that scandalised 1950s audiences.

Jen Evans
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Sidney Poitier in Blackboard Jungle

Sidney Poitier in Blackboard Jungle

Blackboard Jungle is a high-school drama starring Glenn Ford as a teacher struggling to handle a class of tough New York teens. It sat alongside many ‘teenager’-focused films in the 1950s. Concern about the depiction of juvenile delinquency in cinema had been thoroughly discussed at the BBFC in 1954 when Laslo Benedek’s The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando, was refused a certificate as it was “potentially dangerous on social grounds” (and it wasn’t classified until 1967).

MGM submitted Blackboard Jungle to the BBFC in March 1955. Arthur Watkins, BBFC Secretary (1948-1957), reasons in his letter to MGM that “I do not have to stress to you the widespread concern which is felt by responsible people throughout this country about the behaviour of some of the younger elements in our population.”

Blackboard Jungle, “filled as it is with scenes of unbridled hooliganism”, was viewed by the Board several times as part of negotiations with MGM. A cuts list was eventually agreed upon in July 1955 and the film classified, with the cuts, as an ‘X’. Blackboard Jungle was classified ‘12’ on video in 1994.

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