I am a guest tonight on the radio program TV Confidentialairing tonight 7pm ET 4pm PT on KSAV.org Internet Radio.
I will be promoting my newest book Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies and will be talking Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Elvis Presley, Bobbi Shaw, Pamela Tiffin, Gail Gerber, Christopher Riordan, Diane Bond, Nancy Czar, Shelley Fabares, Irene Tsu, Celeste Yarnall, Steven Rogers, Aron Kincaid, Arlene Charles, Edy Williams, and all our fave 1960s teenage silver screen stars.
Climate change is rearing its head in NYC this week since it is almost mid-October and having hot humid days forcing me to turn on the air conditioning all week. The strange hot weather made me want to have a Ski Party (1965) personified by the “Lots, Lots More” song performed by Frankie Avalon. For me, this is the best musical number in the movie and perhaps the entire Beach Party series as the bathing suit clad college boys and girls are shimmying away poolside in the open cold air with snow-covered mountains in the background.
The first scene features beach party regulars Salli Sachse and Patti Chandler leading the girls to fight to regain the boys’ attention away from Swedish blonde bombshell Nita (Bobbi Shaw). The song begins with Frankie flanked by beach party regular Luree Holmes (daughter of AIP studio head James Nicholson) and Salli Sachse. As he gets up and moves to the side of the pool, two dudes (one being big time surfer and another beach party regular Mickey Dora) hop up. Frankie makes his way over to Patti Chandler and Playboy Playmate Jo Collins as their dancing partners blonde hunk Aron Kincaid and another dive into the pool. Frankie then dances his way over to AIP beach party movie first timer Mikki Jamison (though she had a rival beach movie Beach Ball already under her belt) and then his leading lady Deborah Walley.
The song ends with hunky but not to bright beach boys Steven Rogers (another AIP first timer) and beach party regular Mike Nader trying to score with Bobbi Shaw’s winsome Nita. Also in the movie are Dwayne Hickman, Yvonne Craig, Robert Q. Lewis, Mary Hughes, Christopher Riordan, with musical numbers by James Brown and the Flames, Leslie Gore, and The Hondells.
Being able to sneak in a pool scene with bikini-clad cuties and shirtless surfer boys in the middle of snow covered Sun Valley was genius and just what the teenage audience wanted. “Lots Lots More” would just have been a catchy song warbled by Frankie Avalon with twistin’ beach babes dancing beside him if it were not for Rafkin’s unusual camera angles capturing the curvy features of Walley, Chandler, Jamison, and Collins in particular and sometimes of just their torsos. HE also positioned the camera on a low angle looking up at the gals a few times, making them look almost Amazonian-like. This style would be used even more ingeniously by Russ Meyer when shooting his wildcats in the following year’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Available now in soft cover from BearManor Media! My newest book Talking Sixties Drive-in Movies!
A collection of profiles, interviews, and tributes about actors and films popular with the drive-in movie crowd during the sixties. Interviewees include Arlene Charles, Nancy Czar, Shelley Fabares, Gail Gerber, Christopher Riordan, and Irene Tsu talking Elvis Presley musicals; Bobbi Shaw and Steven Rogers talking beach party movies; Jan Watson and Diane Bond talking spy spoofs; Nicoletta Machiavelli talking spaghetti westerns; Mimsy Farmer, Maggie Thrett, Lara Lindsay, and Lada Edmund, Jr. talking alienated youth movies; and Valerie Starrett talking biker films. Some of the chapters center on one movie or a genre while others are career profiles with a main focus on one or two drive-in movies.
Very sad to hear of the passing of this iconic funny man. I always admired his talent and his dedication to help those in need with his many philanthropic causes. Below are comments from some of the sixties starlets that worked with him over the years who had nothing but praise for him that I interviewed for my book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema:
“Jerry Lewis is Jerry Lewis. There is no switch that turns him on or off. He is what he is. I think every great comedy performer has a dark side. And I think it is part of that dark side that lends itself to the pathos that you have to have in order to be a strong comedic actor, especially in the type of humor that Jerry does. I worked on The Ladies’ Man for many weeks. Jerry Lewis [who directed] was kind enough to let me off after about six weeks because I had an offer for a TV pilot.”
“Jerry Lewis was totally off the wall and we had a lot of fun working on this film [It’s Only Money, 1962]. He had me laughing so hard and so long during some scenes we had to stop and start over. We wasted a lot of time and money just cutting up and laughing. He was such a practical joker and had all of us including our director, Frank Tashlin, in stitches. You never knew what Jerry was going to do next. You could play the same scene with him ten times and it wouldn’t come out the same way twice. But Jerry could be serious also. He was very generous and gave me a book that I still have called You’re Better Than You Think. Inside he inscribed, ‘and you really are Joannie.’ I was going through a period of time with a bad marriage and feeling down and depressed. I was unhappy about a lot of things. Jerry really set my head straight…”
“Jerry could be a little bit of a maniac sometimes. When he had someone like Frank Tashlin directing him, he’d fool around a lot. But when he was directing himself using Paramount’s money he’d be more careful and serious. Watching him direct himself in The NuttyProfessor was really something! When he called, ‘Action!’ he’d go from being Jerry the serious director to Jerry the actor playing the suave Buddy Love or the nerdy Prof. Kelp. It was amazing to watch. On The Disorderly Orderly, he missed one of his pratfalls and hurt his back. We filmed this up in the Doheny Estates for about eight weeks. When I did Cracking Up with him in 1982 he was really nervous. It was right before he had his heart attack and he was a basket case throughout the shoot. This was a funny movie but Orion went bankrupt and it didn’t get released in the U.S. But it was a huge hit in Europe because they just revere Jerry. They thought my part was so funny because I was speaking fractured French and it was subtitled. But the average American didn’t know I wasn’t speaking real French.”
“Overall I had fun doing this movie [The Nutty Professor]. Watching Jerry Lewis play this outrageous character was a great experience. He was always making the cast laugh. However, one moment he’d be a really nice person and the next minute he’d be crazy. He scared me. I had a scene with a few of lines. I drank a lot of coffee that morning because we sat around a lot. Those were the days when you could be on a movie for three months and not do much. I don’t even drink coffee but because I was bored I drank it. I got very nervous from drinking the coffee and I was also nervous about doing the scene. Since I didn’t do it correctly he yelled at me. I tried to do it right a second time and he yelled again. I started shaking all over. So he cut the scene entirely.”
“I was so in awe of Jerry Lewis and thought he was amazing. Frenetic is a good word to describe him on the set [of The Nutty Professor] but he could be charming as well. He wore Alfred Dunhill cologne, which smelled wonderful. One day when he walked by I said, “Jerry you smell so good.’ The next day he handed me a bottle of it. He also gave me a very good talk about being a young girl in Hollywood and what I should expect. I think he could see that I was a very straight-laced young person. I was very pristine and was lucky to have gone out in a car on a date at this point.”
“Jerry was just lovely to work with. But to be honest it was a little confusing. Because he wore so many hats on Hardly Working—actor, director and co-writer—it was hard for me to get my character in tune with the right person. First you’re listening to Jerry the intellectual analyzing the scene and speaking with the cameraman and the rest of the crew. And then all of a sudden he’s this lunatic. It was quite an experience. I think it is very difficult for an actor to direct himself. I know it’s done all the time and sometimes extremely successfully but it’s hard. Jerry’s health also wasn’t very good at the time.”
Podcast now online of me discussing 1960s Elvis movies and my book Talking Sixties Drive-in Movies with host Ed Robertson of TV Confidential. Entire program is an interesting listen but if just looking for me I come on about the 30 minute mark or so.
She said what!?! Talking about the spaghetti western Navajo Joe, Nicoletta Machiavelli commented that her leading man Burt Reynolds “was so snooty that the whole crew couldn’t stand him!” Read more in my book Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies.