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:
Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) – Musical #277
American International Pictures
Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Deborah Walley, Linda Evans, John Ashley, Jody McCrea, Michael Nader, Donna Loren, Paul Lynde, Buster Keaton, Don Rickles, Marta Kristen, Donna Michelle, Bobbi Shaw, Mary Hughes, Linda Bent, Salli Sachse, Patti Chandler, Timothy Carey
Themselves: Earl Wilson, The Hondells
Singer Sugar Kane (Evans) sky dives on to the beach for a publicity stunt — via her a stunt double Bonnie (Walley) — the female surfers worry that their boyfriends are paying too much attention to her. Dee Dee (Funicello) is especially concerned about Frankie (Avalon), who suddenly is interested in sky diving. When Frankie starts jumping, Dee Dee proves that girls can skydive too. Skydive instructor Bonnie also has a crush on Frankie, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend Steve (Ashley). Meanwhile, biker gang leader Eric Von Zipper (Lembeck) decides he adores Sugar Kane and Bonehead (McCrea) falls in love with a mysterious, beautiful woman of the sea.
• Jackie Ward dubbed Linda Evans.
• Sisters Luree Holmes and Laura Nicholson (daughter of James H. Nicholson) are extras in the film.
• Frankie Avalon’s last final full beach film. He was only in a few minutes of “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.”
• The role of Sugar Kane was intended for Nancy Sinatra. Linda Evans was cast in the film, according to Tom Lisanti’s book, “Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave.”
• The song “I’ll Never Change Him” was deleted from the final print.
• John Ashley and Deborah Walley were married in real life at the time this was made.
• “Von Zipper! The Rat Pack social director.”
• “Beach Blanket Bingo” performed by Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon
• “It Only Hurts When I Cry” performed by Donna Loren
• “New Love” performed by Linda Evans, dubbed by Jackie Ward
• “I Think, You Think” performed by Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello
While “Beach Party” is my favorite of the beach films, I found myself smiling throughout most of this film. What fun it is!
For starters, it has one of the best movie theme songs. When that drum starts on “Beach Blanket Bingo,” you just want to start dancing.
As with all beach party movies, there are about three or four subplots running. In “Beach Blanket Bingo,” they are:
– Dee Dee is jealous of Frankie’s admiration for singer Sugar Kane.
– Frankie has another admirer: Bonnie who works at the skydiving company with her boyfriend Steve.
-Biker gang leader Eric Von Zipper thinks he adores Sugar Kane. He decides to kidnap her.
-Bonehead falls in love with a mermaid.
Each beach film has daredevil sport, from motorcycle races to surfing. This time we have sky diving.
All of these things are nutty, but somehow work.
I think one of my favorite things about this is Jody McCrea’s role of Bonehead falling in love with a mermaid, Lorelei, played by Marta Kristen. McCrea’s characters in the beach films were generally dopey and not very bright. He’s still not very bright in “Bingo,” but he has a bit more depth, as he wistfully dreams about an unattainable love and doesn’t feel like connecting with the other surfers. I really love his scenes.
Also if you are a fan of the 1980s TV show “Dynasty” like I am, “Beach Blanket Bingo” has a connection to the TV show. Both Linda Evans and Michael Nader star in both the show and the film. Evans played Krystle Carrington and Nader played Dex Dexter on the famous TV show. In the film, Evans plays singer Sugar Kane and Nader plays surfer Butch, who has more lines than he usually did in the beach films.
In addition to the main theme songs are great. “I Think, You Think” and “It Only Hurts When I Cry” are two of my favorites. The only misstep was Avalon getting up for a solo and singing the ballad “These Are the Good Times.” It was an odd choice for a 1965 film, and felt more like one of Avalon’s 1959 hits. Also Harvey Lembeck sings, which is always interesting.
Other major highlights are the roles played by comedians Buster Keaton, Paul Lynde and Don Rickles and columnist Earl Wilson playing himself. They all have laugh-out-loud lines. One of my favorite parts is when they are watching the teens dance and Wilson says the last time he moved like that was in Ohio when he got stuck in a flock of bees.
In his memoir, Don Rickles remembered making the beach films fondly. They paid the bills and were a good time, he said.
I only have a few minor complaints not with this film, but with all of them. I always feel Annette could be on screen more or have more songs. I also am not an Eric Von Zipper fan. But I will take Von Zipper over Timothy Carey’s South Dakota Slim and his “boobaaay” (or whatever he is supposed to say) any day.
This is quintessential summer viewing. So turn this one on and be prepared to dance through the opening song.
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