TOP 10 1960s STARLET MOVIES: BEACH BLANKET BINGO

Re-posting another lost blog entry.

Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)

Starlets: Annette Funicello, Deborah Walley, Donna Loren, Linda Evans, Marta Kristen, Donna Michelle, Bobbi Shaw, Salli Sachse, Patti Chandler, Mary Hughes, Luree Holmes, Alberta Nelson, Myrna Ross

Continuing with my Top 10 Starlet Movies in the immortal words of Eric Von Zipper, Beach Blanket Bingo is “nifty.”  It is the best, the zaniest, the quirkiest, and most fondly remembered of the Frankie and Annette epics.  Admittedly, the story centering around Dee Dee proving to Frankie that girls can sky dive as well as boys while she fights her jealousy of Frankie’s raven-haired instructress (Deborah Walley), Bonehead falling in love with a mermaid, and a beautiful singer kidnapped by Von Zipper’s biker gang is far-fetched.  But it contains some very funny lines mostly delivered by Don Rickles as Big Drop and Paul Lynde as an acid-tongued press agent whose verbal sparring with Avalon is one of the movie’s highlights.  Lots of colorful beach scenes are intermingled with stock sky diving shots.  All your AIP favorite stars are here, the songs are bouncy and light, an array of guest comics provide some of the series’ funniest moments, and a bevy of beautiful blondes (including Linda Evans of Dynasty  and Marta Kristen of Lost in Space fame) enhance the action.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDesGtp-JII

Frankie, looking especially cute here, delivers one of his best performances but poor Annette who proved she could act in Muscle Beach Party really has nothing much to do, as her character seems resigned to the fact that her boyfriend has a roving eye.  Jody McCrea finally gets to stretch his acting muscle and his scenes with the charming Marta Kristen as a mermaid are touching and bittersweet.  Linda Evans is darling as the naïve Sugar Kane and stands out whenever she dons a bikini.  It is these two hot blondes along with Playboy Playmate Donna Michelle as Animal and the rest of the bikini-clad beach girls that make Beach Blanket Bingo a winner with girl watchers and fans of Sixties starlets. 

Besides the girls, another big plus for Beach Blanket Bingo is the music score.  The songs are some of the best from the series beginning with the title song—the grandest opening number of all the beach-party movies.  The up tempo tune is sung in such a light and bouncy manner by Frankie and Annette that you can’t but help want to jump to your feet and dance along.  They also do well with their second duet, the popular “I Think, You Think.”  Pretty Donna Loren turns up early to expertly belt out the heart wrenching “It Only Hurts When I Cry.”  Check out when cute beach boy Mike Nader feeds a long weiner to surfer Johnny Fain who takes the whole thing. Hmmmmm. Jackie Ward delivers the Linda Evans lip-synced songs in fine style but it is The Hondells who standout with “The Cycle Set.”

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9ZRvb8LJsk

Despite its minor flaws, Beach Blanket Bingo is the apex of the beach movie genre.  However, little did anyone know at the time that this would be the last beach pairing of Frankie and Annette and that the films to follow would go straight downhill.

Trivia:

Nancy Sinatra was originally signed to play the singing sensation Sugar Cane, who gets kidnapped by Eric Von Zipper and his biker crew. Soon after, her brother, Frank Sinatra, Jr., was really kidnapped by some friends of singers Jan and Dean. Feeling the role hit too close to home, she withdrew and was replaced by Linda Evans. Problem was she couldn’t sing so Jackie Ward, who had a Top 20 hit with “Wonderful Summer,” dubbed her singing voice.

Evans was next cast in the female lead in the independent beach movie, A Swingin’ Summer. This time it was her turn to withdraw after she won the role of Audra in the TV series The Big Valley. Supporting actress Quinn O’Hara was then bumped up to lead with Mary Mitchel taking Quinn’s original part.

Notable quotes (from my books Drive-in Dream Girls and Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies):

“You can’t do better than romancing on screen Marta Kristen and Linda Evans!  When I first saw Marta I thought, ‘That’s a girl I could fall in love with.’  But she was married at the time so that idea was shot down. We’d drive over together to the location and practice lines in the car. I only had contact with Linda Evans on the set. I would have liked to been more familiar with her and the other girls but I stayed away.” – Jody McCrea

“I remember when Linda Evans had her first kissing scene with Frankie Avalon. You could not help but notice the spark. Even with ‘Lights!  Camera!  Action!’ something goes on in all of us that you just can’t stop.” – Ed Garner

“William Asher handpicked a lot of the girls to be in the beach movies. He favored girls like Salli Sachse and Linda Opie because they had the best figures. I definitely understood that.  Since I was tall—5’7”—he was always telling me to stand in the back. In a lot of the scenes you had to be really upbeat and because I wasn’t very outgoing it was difficult for me. The only time he ever complimented me was when we did the scene in How to Stuff a Wild Bikini where the girls were on top of the guys’ shoulders and we had to knock each other off. I really had a great time doing that. I was part of the last two couples standing. Asher said to me, ‘Well, that was great! You finally came alive.’ It was a backhanded compliment. Except for that scene, I was never able to put on the show he wanted.

“Annette also had problems working with William Asher. She voiced her displeasure to me about him and I remember telling my father that she didn’t like Asher very much.  But that was about it. Asher may have given Annette a hard time because he didn’t want her for the films. I think he and Sam Arkoff wanted Sandra Dee or someone of her ilk. When my father hired Annette, Asher was not so supportive. Though Annette didn’t like him, being a professional, she never said she wouldn’t work with him or request another director.  She is not that kind of person.” – Luree Holmes

 

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