Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford) is a teacher at North Manual High School, an inner-city school where many of the pupils, led by an African American student, Gregory Miller (Sidney Poitier), frequently engage in anti-social behavior. Dadier challenges both staff and pupils but the conflict results in anonymous phone call threats against his family. Dadier suspects Artie West (Vic Morrow) as the one making the calls, and challenges him on this.
In March 2005, the 50th anniversary of the release of the film, and the subsequent rise in popularity of Rock and Roll, was marked by a series of "Rock is Fifty" celebrations in Los Angeles and New York City, involving the surviving members of the original Bill Haley & His Comets. The film itself made its North American DVD debut on May 10, 2005.
Blackboard Jungle was the first of what would become a popular genre: the film in which an idealistic teacher is confronted with a class of cynical teenagers, who have disengaged from conventional schooling. As so often in later films, issues of race and class lie at the heart of the dynamics. Subsequent films that exploited the theme include: To Sir, with Love (1967; starring Poitier as a black teacher in a white school), Class of 1984 (1982), The Principal (1987), Stand and Deliver (1988), Lean on Me and Dead Poets Society (both 1989), Class of 1999 (1990), Dangerous Minds (1995), The Substitute (1996), One Eight Seven (1997), and Freedom Writers (2007)
This was the debut film for Morrow and Farah and one of Poitier's earliest. Farah later changed his name to Jamie Farr.