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Rock, Pretty Baby (1956)

Released almost concurrently with Rock Around The Clock (1956), this teen vehicle was considered a much more respectable and sympathetic portrayal of teen life than the garish Katzman musical.

The future doesn’t look too bright for the hot combo of a group of high school boys led by Jimmy Daley (John Saxon) when they are thrown off their first gig at a college fraternity dance. It seems they played too well – the college boys were there for necking and petting but the music of Jimmy’s combo made the girls more eager to dance than to make out.

One of the girls is Joan Wright (Luana Patten), and she leaves with the band. Joan is the daughter of a musician and has ambitions along musical lines herself. She becomes an arranger for the Daley combo, and a romance develops between Joan and Jimmy.

Jimmy’s father (Edward Platt) is unsympathetic towards his ambition to be a professional musician, while his mother (Fay Wray) is on Jimmy’s side, but not emphatically enough to do any good. And he has no money for a down payment on a $300 electric guitar, vital to the success of the band.

Flashy drummer Nino Barrato (Sal Mineo) sparks a campaign amongst Jimmy’s friends to collect for the guitar.

Guitar in hand, beautiful arranger by his side, Jimmy is on cloud nine and the boys begin to work preparing for the combo contest of DJ Johnny Grant.

Meanwhile, Joan (afraid of her passion for Jimmy) begins dating other guys and shows up at Jimmy’s party with a known wolf. Jimmy flips his teenage lid and takes a poke at Joan’s escort, which starts a free-for-all and leaves the Daley home in a shambles.

Joan takes off for the music school in San Francisco where she was going to enrol before she met Jimmy, and the old man makes the kid pay for the damages to the house by hocking his guitar.

Things get really morose until Joan, full of forgiveness and love, returns from SF after Dr Daley has asked her to come back. A now understanding father reclaims the guitar and takes Jimmy on a hair-raising ride to Johnny Grant’s contest using his doctor’s privileges to get motorcycle cops to clear the way.

Jimmy arrives in time to meet the combo and play but they don’t win.

They are, however, launched on a professional career when a representative of the Order of Bisons offers them a two-week job at summer camp.

Not one to miss out on a good thing, Universal followed Jimmy and his combo when they played that gig at summer camp, calling it Summer Love (1957). Luana Patten disappeared, to be replaced by Judy Meredith but the rest of the cast remained the same – as did the plot.

Jimmy Daley
John Saxon
Joan Wright
Luana Patten
Nino Barrato
Sal Mineo
Thomas Daley Sr. MD
Edward C. Platt
Beth Daley
Fay Wray
‘Ox’ Bentley
Rod McKuen
‘Fingers’ Porter
John Wilder
‘Sax’ Lewis
Alan Reed Jr.
‘Pop’ Wright
Douglas Fowley
‘Half-Note’ Harris
Bob Courtney
Twinky Daley
Shelley Fabares
Carol Saunders
Susan Volkman
Claire Saunders
Caryl Volkman
Kay Norton
April Kent
Lori Parker
Sue George

Richard Bartlett