Thursday, June 11, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Beach Party (1963)

NOTE: I watched BEACH PARTY (1963) for the Beach Party Blogathon sponsored by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings from June 8th through 12th, 2015. Be sure to visit those sites for links to posts on many more seaside movies -- the variety of contributions is amazing!

Somehow I've managed to go my entire life without seeing a "Beach Party" movie until this week, when I was inspired by the Beach Party Blogathon to watch the original BEACH PARTY (1963).

BEACH PARTY proved to be mindless fun, which was just what I needed this busy week. I can't say it was really all that good a movie, yet I found it pleasant, colorful company.

There's almost no plot, but to attempt a description: Frankie (Frankie Avalon) and Dolores (Annette Funicello), dueting the title song, arrive at the site of their beach vacation. (The movie immediately demonstrates it's a fantasy when Frankie drives his yellow jalopy right onto the beach!) Frankie is under the impression he's got Dolores all to himself, just as if they were married (ahem!), but Dolores -- wanting Frankie to put a ring on her finger before things get too serious -- has invited the whole gang along for the weekend.

Meanwhile Professor Sutwell (Robert Cummings) is documenting the teenage dating rituals he observes on the beach, and he temporarily attracts the interest of Dolores, to the annoyance of his loyal, more age-appropriate assistant (Dorothy Malone).

The movie's more about its parts than its story, said parts including attractive young actors, hummable music, colorful surfboards and swimsuits, and a bunch of silly comedians. There's nary a mature, responsible adult in sight, with the possible exception of Malone's character, who mostly acts as an observer to the goings-on.

One of the best moments in the movie comes early on when drums are beating and one by one the kids grab their surfboards to run into the ocean. It's a nicely choreographed and visually appealing moment.

The humor of inept motorcycle gang leader Eric Von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck) escapes me, and I could hardly wait for Bob Cummings to finally shave off the awful beard he wears through most of the movie, but I did appreciate the humor in the nice payoff at the end revealing the man taking a perpetual siesta in the teen's "hangout." Don't miss the promo for his next movie at the end of the closing credits!

Perhaps not surprisingly, given my love for his father, my favorite person in the movie was Jody McCrea as the good-natured if slow-witted "Deadhead," who I found much funnier than some of the comedians! He's quite cute in this, and, as has been noted here before, his parents Joel McCrea and Frances Dee often took him to the beach when he was growing up, so he stood out among the cast insofar as he actually knew how to surf!

The opening song has the feel of Disney's much more recent HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL movies. Later Frankie sings "Don't Stop Now," Annette sings "Treat Him Nicely," and Dick Dale and the Del Tones sing "Swingin' and a-Surfin'." That's about all there is to this 101-minute movie, which was directed by William Asher and filmed by Kay Norton.

While the movie is nothing amazing, at the same time I enjoyed its genial company enough to think that the Frankie and Annette DVD set might be a good investment. A colorful movie like this is perfect for those times when the brain is too tired out to watch something more emotionally involving!

I watched a recording I'd made from Turner Classic Movies which was cohosted by Ben Mankiewicz and Thomas Lisanti. Lisanti provided some interesting background, including the info that drinking and smoking seen in this film was cleaned up for subsequent films so that parents wouldn't object to their children going to see the movies.

At Speakeasy Kristina just reviewed Lisanti's book HOLLYWOOD SURF AND BEACH MOVIES: THE FIRST WAVE 1959-1969 which sounds like a good read.

Thanks to Kristina and Ruth for hosting the blogathon and inspiring me to fill in this gap in my movie viewing! I suspect more beach movies will follow in the weeks to come.


Blogger Silver Screenings said...

I laughed when you talked about Frankie driving his car right onto the beach – fantasy sequence, indeed!

These films really aren't great, but they are my ultimate guilty pleasure. I don't know what I find so utterly fascinating about them, but I'm hooked all the same.

Thanks for bringing "Beach Party" to the beach party blogathon!

5:28 AM  
Blogger Kristina Dijan said...

In the smorgasbord of cinema, sometimes only cotton candy will do. Jody was lovably dumb in these pictures :) silly as the kids are and as useless as the adults can be, things work out which is one of the appealing things about these movies. Glad you joined us and had fun!

9:28 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Ruth and Kristina,

Thank you both so much for hosting this blogathon, it was a wonderful idea to get into the summer spirit! :)

"sometimes only cotton candy will do." So true!

Thanks and best wishes,

4:49 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

I'm going to have to give these colourful and sweet confections a look soon! Enjoyed your piece, Laura, and glad you found the movie fun.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Forgotten Films said...

The Beach Party movies are fun. By no stretch of the imagination are they great cinema...but they are fun. I am a bit crushed though that you didn't care for Harvey Lembeck's Eric Von Zipper. He's the highlight of the whole series for me. "He is my idol"

6:51 AM  

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