53 Years Ago Today…

Beach Ball opened starring Edd Byrnes, Chris Noel, Aron Kincaid and Gail Gilmore (aka ). It is arguably the breeziest and most enjoyable of the Beach Party clones. It is also the most blatant rip off throwing in everything from surfing, skydiving, and hot rodding to a battle-of-the-bands contest and the guys in drag to match the zaniness of the AIP beach movies. Four college dropouts (Byrnes, Kincaid, Don Edmonds and Robert Logan) try to con some nerdy girls (Noel, Gilmore, Brenda Benet and Mikki Jamison) at the student union to give them a student loan for tuition but in fact the money is needed to pay for their musical instruments. The gals get wise to their scheme and try to trick the guys into returning to school. The film works well because it is fast-paced, nicely photographed in color, has some funny moments, lots of beach scenes, a healthy-looking cast, and an excellent roster of musical performers most notably the Supremes, the Righteous Brothers, and The Four Seasons who are interspersed throughout the movie.

As for the cast, unlike Annette Funicello in the Beach Party movies or Noreen Corcoran in The Girls on the Beach, perky Chris Noel and the other gals are not afraid to show off their shapely figures in very revealing bikinis. Pretty blonde hanger on Anna Lavelle in particular dons the skimpiest swimsuits and has some funny moments as the guy’s addled-brained beach groupie Polly. The movie boasts perhaps the most curvaceous set of lead actresses in any beach movie from the decade. For boy watchers, the guys’ sport nice physiques particularly handsome Robert Logan and blonde Aron Kincaid who gives a droll performance as ladies man, Jack.  Edd Byrnes is definitely too long in the tooth to make a believable college guy but he does look swell in his swim trunks.

Surfing is limited to the opening stock footage of surfers riding huge swells and as with most beach-party movies when the actors emerge from the ocean it is calm without a big wave in sight. The film’s major asset is the music from the catchy instrumental entitled “Cycle Chase” heard throughout to the songs lip-synched by Kincaid and the others as the Wigglers to all of the numbers performed by the rock acts. The standout is definitely seeing the Supremes singing “Come to the Beach Ball with Me” and “Surfer Boy.”  Though the Motown songwriters did not come close to capturing the authentic surf sound (hell they were from Detroit and what did they know about surfing anyway?), the girls sing the catchy tunes well.  Florence Ballard and look great but Diana Ross is a fright with her chipped tooth and big beehive wig.  Her close-ups are truly scarier than anything found in The Horror of Party Beach—another reason why Beach Ball is a must to see.

More in my book Hollywood Surf & Beach Movies from McFarland and Company.



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