Musical Monday: Hootenanny Hoot (1963)

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:

Hootenanny Hoot (1963) – Musical #253

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Gene Nelson

Starring:
Ruta Lee, Peter Breck, Joby Baker, Pamela Austin, Bobo Lewis, Lauren Gilbert,

Themselves: Johnny Cash, The Gateway Trio, Judy Henske, Vikki Dougan, George Hamilton IV, Joe and Eddie, Cathie Taylor, Chris Crosby, The Brothers Four, Sheb Wooley

Plot:
TV director Ted Grover (Breck) and producer A.G. Bannister (Lee) are constantly at odds about what makes a good television shows … and they previously were married. While traveling, Ted runs across a country music hootenanny in a Missouri college town led by Billie-Jo Henley (Austin). Ted pitches the idea of making a TV special out of the college kids and the country music.

Trivia:
• One feature film appearance of Cathie Taylor, Judy Henske

Highlights:
• Johnny Cash’s appearance

Notable Songs:
• “Abilene” performed by George Hamilton IV

• “Frankie’s Man Johnny” performed by Johnny Cash

• “Sweet Love” performed by Chris Crosby

• “Wade in the Water” performed by Judy Henske

My review:

With this film, you come for the music and not the storyline.

The few sentences of plot I wrote above is about how much dialogue is in this film — the actors speak a few sentence before another act starts singing. But that’s honestly okay. The real purpose of the film is to showcase country music singers.

While I’m not a great fan of country music, this is still a good time. It goes without saying that one of the major highlights is the all-too-brief scene with Johnny Cash singing “Frankie’s Man Johnny.” While I wasn’t familiar with the other singers, I did know the song “Abilene,” though I wasn’t familiar with singer George Hamilton IV (not the actor). I wasn’t familiar with Bob Crosby’s son and Bing Crosby’s nephew, Chris Crosby, who sings and reminded me a bit of Ricky Nelson with his song. It was also interesting to see powerhouse singer Judy Henske in her only feature film.

As for the actors, Ruta Lee and Joby Baker are the standouts here. I find Joby Baker to be incredibly underrated as a comedic actor.

Former actor and dancer Gene Nelson directs. And they should have had him choreograph as well. The dancing is pretty amateurish.

The last time I watched “Hootenanny Hoot” in 2005, I watched it back-to-back with “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” And 16 years later, I accidentally revisited (and now am reviewing) these two films the same way.

I initially hated this film as a teen, but now I just enjoy the music. Just be warned: The title song will be stuck in your head forever.

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