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 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.
This week’s musical:
A Swingin’ Summer (1965) – Musical #644
United Screen Arts
James Stacy, William Wellman Jr., Quinn O’Hara, Raquel Welch, Martin West, Mary Mitchel, Allan Jones, Lili Kardell
Themselves: The Righteous Brothers, Gary Lewis & The Playboys, Donnie Brooks, The Rip Chords, Gypsy Boots
When their summer jobs fall through, Rick (Wellman) and Mickey (Stacy) hatch a plan to run the dance pavilion at Lake Arrowhead. Rick’s girlfriend Cindy (O’Hara) secretly has her father put up the money for the idea so the boys can work that summer – and she can have fun. Rick and Mickey eventually line up top musical acts, like Gary Lewis and the Playboys and The Righteous Brothers. However, lifeguard Turk (West) and his friends are jealous that they didn’t have the idea first and try to sabotage the dance pavilion.
• Raquel Welch’s first credited film role.
• Linda Evans was supposed to star in the film, but was offered “Big Valley” instead. Quinn O’Hara replaced Evans in the role, according to a Sept. 1964 news brief.
• The band The Rip Chords broke up the same year “A Swingin’ Summer” was released. The song they performed “Red Hot Roadster” was going to be released as a single, but only was released on the film’s soundtrack.
• The credits say “Introducing Robert Blair,” but this was his last film.
• Actresses billed as “Swingin’ Summer Girls” include Lori Williams, Sherry Nix, Irene Sale, Darlene Hunter, Kathee Francis, Diane Swanson
• Last film of Lili Kardell.
• Musical performances by Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Donnie Brooks and the Righteous Brothers.
• “Pennie the Poo” performed by Donnie Brooks
• “Red Hot Roadster” performed by The Rip Chords
• “Justine” performed by The Righteous Brothers
From the era, poster art and musical cast, you would think this would be a summer beach film. The knock-off type that followed the “Gidget” and Anette Funicello and Frankie Avalon films.
But in a surprise location change, this is a lake film – located at Lake Arrowhead in California.
The story revolves around Rick (William Wellman Jr.) and Mickey (James Stacy) trying to make money over the summer. Their initial summer jobs fall through, so instead they come up with a scheme to run the dance Pavillion at Lake Arrowhead. They book popular music acts from Gary Lewis and the Playboys to the Righteous Brothers. But Rick’s girlfriend Cindy (Quinn O’Hara) is angry that his time is spent working rather than having fun with her. Cindy turns to a lifeguard Turk (Martin West) for fun. Turk is also jealous that he didn’t have Rick’s idea first and tries to sabotage the Pavillion’s success.
If you have ever seen “Winter-A-Go-Go” (1965), this is essentially the same film, it is just set in the summer rather than winter. Wellman Jr. and Stacy even star in both – the two had been real-life friends since 1956.
That said, “A Swingin’ Summer” is better, and also has better musical acts.
The Righteous Brothers perform an energetic “Justine.” I wasn’t familiar with Donnie Brooks before this film, but his performance was fun and exciting. I liked how he was non-stop dancing throughout his performance, even if I thought the title of his song was dumb (Penny the Poo).
Also interesting in the realm of music history, the band The Rip Chords broke up the same year this film was released.
My only main disappointment is that Gary Lewis and the Playboys didn’t sing. They play the role of a house band and back everyone up. This was because the band hadn’t hit it big yet, according to film historian Tom Lisanti.
Raquel Welch also has a small role as a sexy brainy girl who wants to date James Stacy, and she sings one song.
For some reason actor Robert Blair is given a big build up in the film. He’s Welch’s boyfriend and he and Stacy compete with her. This was his only film though, so I’m not sure he got a huge “and…” title in the credits.
Linda Evans was supposed to co-star in this film, but she turned it down to be in “Big Valley.” Since the costumes were already fitted to Evans, Quinn O’Hara had to go out and buy her wardrobe, because she and Evans were not the same size, according to Lisanti.
Is this the best summer film? No. It’s rather low budget and hasn’t received a restoration, so watching it now it’s washed out. (If you watch it on Amazon Prime, the subtitles are hilarious and mismatched).
But it also is better than most of the well-known beach films, even of the American International Pictures variety. I thought it was interesting that it was different than other summer films at the time. The teens are working, rather than non-stop partying. And the different location of the lake.