It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.
This week’s musical:
“Billie“- Musical #299
Patty Duke, Jane Greer, Jim Backus, Warren Berlinger, Billy de Wolfe, Charles Lane, Dick Sargent, Ted Bessell
Fifteen year old tomboy Billie (Duke) finds herself on the boy’s track team when the coach sees how fast she can run. Her secret to fast running is “a beat” she hears in her head. Billie doesn’t like being treated differently from her male teammates and wants to be an equal, not a girl. At the same time of her track success her father (Backus) is running for mayor under a “keep women in the home” campaign.
-Based on a 1952 play “Time Out for Ginger”
-Filmed between seasons of “The Patty Duke Show”
-Actor Peter Lawford is listed as an executive producer for the film.
-Kent McCord who later starred as Officer Jim Reed on the TV show “Adam-12” has an uncredited role as a spectator student spectator.
-A dance number where Billie teaches the other male and female students how to have “the beat,” complete with the latest 1960s dance moves. I don’t really see how it teaches the students anything, but it works in a nice dance number with 20 kids.
-Character actor Charles Lane plays Billie’s track coach. It’s always a treat to see him. You can see him in 1930s pre-code films all the way to 1960s
-Robert Banas who was Jet “Snowboy” in “West Side Story” leads the dance “She is a Girl is a Girl.”
-”Lonely Little in Between” sung by Patty Duke. An odd song where Billie sings about being a tom boy. Includes lyrics such as “I should have been a boy but I’m a girl.” She later sings “Funny Little Butterflies” which is the exact same tune, but now she has a crush and feels like a girl.
The plot of “Billie” is actually pretty dumb, but it is still a fun one to catch. If you do come across it on TV, watch it–it’s seldom aired.
It has a lot of crazy one-liners such, mostly said by Jim Backus who seems to specialize in playing terrible parents (see: Rebel Without A Cause). Some quotes include “Try to be more like your sister” and “You did great today, son” to Duke. Another favorite is when Billie’s sister Jean says “I’ve decided to quit college and come home” and dad says “That’s marvelous!”
However, it is an interesting movie to see so many 1960s television actors such as Richard Deacon, Patty Duck, Jim Backus, Dick Sargent and Ted Bessell. You also get the chance to see 1940s actress Jane Greer playing Duke’s mother.
It’s also interesting because this movie has some feminist undertones in a time when beach movies were focusing on sex and pretty girls in bikinis.
Though “Billie” is a pretty terrible movie, It’s also a lot of fun. It’s fairly typical of most goofy, 1960s teen films. Overall, Patty Duke does a good job and is a driving force behind the films energy. While her character was 15 year old, Duke was actually 19 when this film was released in 1965. The dance numbers and songs are energetic and make you want to dance along.
If you are looking for some mindless, 1960s nostalgic, colorful film, “Billie” may be an alright fit.