This is the weekend that we fall back from Daylight Savings Time, so your PopCulteer decided to fall way the hell back this week. Our Sunday video delight tonight is a sixty-one year old movie about Rock and Roll. Shake Rattle and Rock is a pop culture gold mine.
Shake, Rattle and Rock tells the story of a group of duddys of the fuddy variety who contrive to ban Rock and Roll, which is gaining a foothold in their town thanks to a local deejay who’s using it to turn kids away from juvenile deliquency and toward more productive endeavors. The main attractions are early rock icons Fats Domino and Big Joe Turner, who conveniently show up to perform during lulls in the plot, but the thing that makes this early Rock and Roll flick something special (aside from a decent plot) is the cast.
The Rock and Roll TV deejay (sort of a cross between Alan Freed and Dick Clark) is played by Touch Conners, who later dropped his basketball nickname and reverted to “Mike.” MST3K fans know all about his days as “Touch” from the movie, Swamp Diamonds, everyone else probably knows him as TV detective Mannix. His romantic interest in the movie is played by Lisa Gaye, hot off of her role in Rock Around The Clock, another early piece rock cinema that starred Bill Haley and The Comets, and was known for inciting a few riots in theaters that played it.
That’s not all the pop culture gold here, however. The supporting cast is where it really gets fun. “Axe,” The teenaged hipster is potrayed by then-fifty-one-year-old Sterling Holloway (later the voice of Winnie The Pooh among many other Disney characters). The prudes trying to shut down Rock and Roll are led by Margaret Dumont, most famous for her stuffy dowager roles in the classic Marx Brothers movies, and another veteran of Marx Brothers’ films, Douglass Dumbrille. Dumont’s henpecked husband is played by Raymond Hatton, a character actor with over 400 credits on IMDB.
We even get another classic character actor, the diminutive Percy Helton, as a comically creepy undertaker.
The plot is not stupid, which is a rarity in this type of film, and the performances by Domino, Turner, Annitta Ray and Tommy Charles are great examples of early Rock and Roll.We just lost Fats Domino a few days ago, and it’s nice to see him here in his prime.
This was an early American International Pictures “B” movie, but unlike most of those, it’s really quite well done, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s about as deep as an ABC Afterschool Special, but the music is great. The only thing that would make it better would have been if they’d worked in scene so that Sterling Holloway and Percy Helton could share the screen together. These two vocally-distinctive performers would have had audiences gasping for a throat lozenge.