Rockin’ in the Film World #14: SKI PARTY (AIP 1965)


cracked rear viewer

American-International Pictures takes the “Beach Party ” concept to the slopes in 1965’s SKI PARTY, an endearingly goofy ball of fluff headlining Frankie Avalon, Dwayne Hickman, Deborah Walley , and a pre-‘Batgirl’ Yvonne Craig . It sells itself with a sly wink to the audience that says, “We know the whole thing’s absurd, and we don’t care”! Besides the off-the-wall comedy, the film features above average musical interludes by guests Lesley Gore and the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown.

Frankie and Dwayne play a pair of slightly overage college students (Avalon was 25, Hickman 31!) trying to woo Deborah and Yvonne. The two knuckleheads can’t figure out why they can’t get to first base, while college Romeo Aron Kincaid scores with every babe on campus. When the whole gang (including Beach movie regulars Luree Holmes, Michael Nader, Salli Sachsee , and surfing champ Mickey Dora) go on a…

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Cleaning Out The DVR #11: Going My Way (dir by Leo McCarey)


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Last night, continuing my effort to watch 38 movies in 10 days (and, for the record, I have 7 days left as of today), I watched the 1944 musical-comedy-drama Going My Way.

Going My Way tells the episodic story of Father Chuck O’Malley (Bing Crosby), a priest from St. Louis who is assigned to take charge of a struggling parish in New York City.  O’Malley is meant to replace Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald), a stubbornly old-fashioned priest who is struggling to keep up with a changing world.  Though O’Malley is to take charge of the parish’s affairs, Fitzgibbon is to remain the pastor.  However, the compassionate O’Malley doesn’t tell Fitzgibbon about the arrangement and allows Fitzgibbon to believe that O’Malley is only meant to be his assistant.

It’s obvious from the start that Fitzgibbon and O’Malley have differing approaches.  Fitzgibbon is a traditionalist.  O’Malley, on the other hand, is a priest who sings.  He’s a priest who understands that the best way to prevent the local teens from forming a street gang is to convince them to start a choir instead.  When it appears that 18 year-old Carol (Jean Heather) is “living in sin,” it is the nonjudgmental O’Malley who convinces her to marry her boyfriend.

And, slowly but surely, Fitzgibbon and O’Malley start to appreciate each other.  O’Malley is even able to convince Fitzgibbon to play a round of golf with him, while Fitzgibbon tells O’Malley about his love for his mother in Ireland.

What’s interesting is that we learn very little about O’Malley’s past.  In many ways, he’s like a 1940s super hero or maybe a less violent and far more ethical version of one of Clint Eastwood’s western heroes.   He shows up suddenly, he fixes things, and then he moves on.  Instead of a cape or a poncho, he wears a collar.

(And, of course, he doesn’t kill anyone.  Actually, that’s probably a lousy analogy but I decided I’d give it a try anyway…)

At one point, O’Malley does run into an opera singer named  Genevieve Linden (Rise Stevens).  He and Genevieve (whose real name is Jenny) talk briefly about their past and it becomes obvious that they once had a romantic relationship.  We don’t learn the exact details but it does bring some unexpected melancholy to an otherwise cheerful film.  It reminds us of what O’Malley gave up to become a priest.

Fortunately, Genevieve is more than happy to help out with O’Malley’s choir, even arranging for them to meet with a record executive (William Frawley).  The executive doesn’t have much interest in religious music but then he hears Bing O’Malley sing Swinging On A Star.

It’s a bit strange to watch Going My Way today because it is a film that has not a hint of cynicism.  There’s no way that a contemporary, mainstream film would ever portray a priest as positively as Father O’Malley is portrayed in this film.  Indeed, it says something about the world that we live in that I instinctively cringed a little whenever O’Malley was working with the choir, largely because films like Doubt and Spotlight have encouraged me to view any film scene featuring a priest and an pre-teen boy with suspicion.  O’Malley is the ideal priest, the type of priest that those of us who were raised Catholic wish that we could have known when we were young and impressionable.  Bing Crosby does a pretty good job of playing him, too.  Watching Going My Way felt like stepping into a time machine and going to a simpler and more innocent time.

In the end, Going My Way is a slight but watchable film.  It doesn’t add up too much but, at the same time, it’s always likable.  Though the film may be about a priest, the emphasis is less on religion and more on kindness, charity, and community.  Going My Way was a huge success at the box office and even won the Oscar for best picture.

Personally, I would have given the Oscar to Double Indemnity but Going My Way is still a likable movie.

Speaking of likable, the Academy was so impressed with Barry Fitzgerald’s performance that they actually nominated it twice!  He got so many votes in both categories that Fitzgerald ended up nominated for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.  Subsequently, the Academy changed the rules and decreed that a performance could only be nominated in one category.  As for Fitzgerald, he won the Oscar for best supporting actor.  He later broke the Oscar while practicing his golf swing.

Barry and Oscar

Barry and Oscar

(Don’t worry.  The Academy sent him a replacement.)

Before Woodstock: T.A.M.I. Show (1964, directed by Steve Binder)


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Five years before Woodstock, there was T.A.M.I. Show.

In 1964, a concert was held over two days at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.  Free tickets were distributed to local high school students and the best footage from the two shows was edited into one movie.  Distributed by American International Pictures, T.A.M.I. Show was one of the first concert films.

T.A.M.I. stood for Teenage Awards Music International but no awards were given out during those two days.  Instead, 12 of the most popular music acts of 1964 performed on one stage.  The Beatles may not have been there but almost every other hitmaker of the year showed up.

Among the highlights of T.A.M.I. Show was the performance of James Brown and The Famous Flames, which many consider to be one of the best musical performances ever captured on film.

James Brown’s performance was followed by The Rolling Stones.  Though Keith Richards once claimed that trying to follow James Brown was the biggest mistake of their careers, T.A.M.I. Show was the first time that many American teenagers actually saw the Stones perform.

Also performing: The Supremes, at the height of their popularity.

The Beach Boys’ performance has become semi-legendary because, as a result of copyright issues, it was edited out of prints of T.A.M.I. Show following the initial theatrical run.

For years, T.A.M.I. Show was unavailable for home viewing but finally, in 2010, Shout Factory released this landmark of movie and music history on DVD and they even included the long censored footage of the Beach Boys.  For music lovers, T.A.M.I. Show is a must-see record of the rock scene in between the start of the British invasion and the rise of the counterculture.

Scenes I Love: Saturday Night Live (feat. Eddie Murphy)


Celebrity Hot Tub

With the trailer for the James Brown biopic now out for people to watch I just thought it would be appropriate I share one of my favorite scenes from the many years of watching Saturday Night Live.

Before he became a mega superstar during the 80’s, Eddie Murphy was just part of the ever-changing cast of comedians for Saturday Night Live. One of the funniest skits had Eddie as James Brown doing the intro to his very own talk show, Celebrity Hot Tub.