The British musical drama DANGEROUS YOUTH (1957) or THESE DANGEROUS YEARS (1957) represents two of my great interests: the film is an early rock and roll story and it is set in Liverpool. The significance of Liverpool is self-explanatory to the music history; my interest is in the city itself and the football team, of which I am a long-time supporter.
DANGEROUS YOUTH (1957) presents an interesting time capsule of a city that gave birth to “four lads that would shake the world. “ Herbert Wilcox’s images show the dank buildings, the crowded dancehalls, tea shops and coffee bars of an industrial city. The year Elvis Presley is the King of Rock and Roll and about to enter the army. What better time than to create a rebellious youth singer in the person of Dave Wyman (Frankie Vaughn), and his gang of leather wearing, cigarette smoking thugs that prowl the night for pleasure and plunder. Gang members have cool names like Smiler Larkin, Juggler and Cream O’ Casey.
Everyone ends up at the Palladium dancehall at night, looking both aloof and wanting at the sometime. Dinah Brown (Carol Lesley) plays a Marilyn Munroe Look alike dreaming of stardom and all the lights. She has no job and needs the money from a nightly talent contest for publicity pictures with rent being a distant second. Cheered on by her friend Maureen (Jocelyn Lane ), Dinah does an obviously dubbed risqué song ‘Isn’t this a lovely evening,’ dressed in a clingy evening dress, clutching the mic like Munroe will later do while singing Happy Birthday for John Kennedy. The room explodes with applause after and Dinah gets the highest rating of 95 for the prize. Dave Wyman wants a go and Frankie Vaughan, who was a singer, destroys Dinah by taking the money with his rendition of the rock and roll song ‘Dangerous Years.’
Dave flirts with Dinah, taunting her with her song below her window after the show and tossing half the prize money in her window. They end up in a clinch on the roadway when Dave feigns a faint, only to have Dinah narrowly pull him out the way of a speeding truck. Dinah is left to take a job slinging coffee in a shop and dreaming.
Dave Wyman gets the call up into what was compulsory military, service along with his friends. The predictable happens and the young clash with the British military authority. What must have seemed terribly insubordinate then looks to be rather playful today, when Wyman refuses to get his hair cut. He shaves the civilian barber’s head bald.
Matters turn dark as Wyman does not get on with army vet Pvt. Simpson (Michael Ripper), who gets dressed down for comment on the newcomers by the Commanding Officer (John Le Mesurier).
Wyman does find one friend in the person of the Padre played by George Baker. The Padre bails Wyman out of his first fight with Simpson by saying it was an accident that potatoes ended up in Simpson’s face during mess call. He is there even when the stakes become life and death for all.
Murder, mayhem, love and a minefield play a part in the story’s resolution.
DANGEROUS YOUTH (1957) was an attempt to make Frankie Vaughan into a teen idol by getting him singing and then in those dramatic situations of defying authority, running from the law and finding his true vocation of being a good guy after all like James Dean and Elvis Presley in the movies. He was the son of a Russian Jewish upholsterer and grew up in a poor part of Liverpool. Vaughan was a singer and in fact had a major hit with ‘Kisses sweeter than Wine’. He was never a major pop star, instead he got work on Broadway. His claim to fame was ironically a duet with Marilyn Munroe in LET’S MAKE LOVE (1960).
Carol Lesley would have a truncated career, never quite making it as a sex symbol as her competition was the likes of Diana Dors, Jayne Mansfield and others, including Norma Jean Baker. The beginning of the 1960s had Carole appearing in Doctor in Love (1960), with the handsome doctor Michael Craig, while Carole and Virginia Maskell were the standard love interests. These roles got her nowhere towards her dreams of stardom. She did not have the same ‘wow’ factor as others, struggling to get noticed by doing anything from toothpaste commercials to opening bowling alleys.
Devastated, Carol retreated from the public eye to marry. Carol resurfaced in 1974 with the news that she had died by suicide with an overdose of pills while living in New Barnet, England.
Sadly, her costar Virginia Maskell from DOCTOR IN LOVE (1960) also died by suicide in 1960.
Jocelyn Lane, who played the roommate/friend Maureen, when on to a long career, mostly in one shot roles, even working with Elvis Presley in TICKLE ME (1965). Lane was the younger sister of U.K. model Mara Lana, who was one of the most photographed in the fifties. Being Austrian born, Lane had trouble but did an acceptable North American accent. She also spoke several languages, yet her looks and her demeanor struck audiences as aloof. Lane retired in 1970 and married into Spanish royalty. One of her enduring images was off the 32 year old Lane looking 22 for the poster of HELLS BELLES (1969) in a leather mini skirt that became a key 60’s image of youthful rebellion.
Michael Ripper, who plays the small yet pivotal role of Pvt. Simpson, also enjoyed a long career in theatre and television. Ripper was much loved by fans of Hammer Films, where it is said that he appears in a role in every production usually as innkeeper, soldier, barkeeper or prominent citizen.
This picture marks the appearance of David McCallum in a small role which honestly I didn’t see due to the poor print quality. McCallum would play teenage thugs and younger brothers due to his looks early on and then eventually end up as an UNCLE agent, continuing to stardom on NCIS.
Speculation on my part, but perhaps viewing this picture as a young man in England may have spurred Bill Perks to change his last name to Wyman. Bill Wyman played bass for the Rolling Stones.
DANGEROUS YOUTH (1957) is a typical rock and roll film for that time. This fact does not detract from it being a fascinating snapshot of postwar youth culture trapped by no or little work. They walk amongst the docks, the perpetual gray skies with nothing to do but be with themselves. The ‘Dingo’ gangs which inhabited the confines of the sea caves doing mischievous things like stealing motor bikes, and being vandals to property because they can. The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Yard Birds and others grew up with such influences. Popular music and culture owes them so much and you wonder will there even be a time like this again. We can still blame Elvis.
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