Friday, March 30, 2012


Tom Harper is working his way through college; he wants to make a living at music and recorded a song a year ago called "The Longer I Love You," but nothing came of it; now he and his band Tom's Cats (featuring a goofy string bass player named Dog) have been hired by wealthy frat boy Carter Breed to play at a fraternity party. Before the band arrives, Carter gets some attention at the piano playing "Put the Blame on Mame" and winds up pestered by a glamorous beatnik chick who follows him around, asking questions like "Do you know Stravinsky's Petrushka?" When Tom's band performs, Carter's girlfriend Gay takes a shine to Tom, so Carter dismisses the band. That doesn't stop Gay from hanging out with Tom, and soon they're double-dating with Dog and Flip, a tomboyish sorority girl. Jealous Carter tells the prom committee that because of his father's connections, he can get Louis Prima and Keely Smith to play at the prom for free, but his dad puts the kibosh on that plan. At a pool birthday party for Gay, Tom and Carter get into a fist fight so both guys are out of Gay's good graces, but suddenly Tom's record starts getting airplay and before you know it, it's a #1 hit; suddenly he has the connections and is able to get not only Prima & Smith but Mitch Miller, Connee Boswell, Bob Crosby, and more big-name musicians for the prom. Tom and Gay & Dog and Flip are happy, and Carter tends to his wounds with the glamorous beatnik chick.

This early entry in the teen movie cycle that peaked in the 60s with Frankie and Annette isn't bad, but it's also not very interesting. The music is not rock & roll at all, it's the last gasp of the vanilla popsters of the previous generation: Crosby and Boswell peaked in the 1940s, and Mitch Miller plays an oboe, for God's sake. Prima & Smith were still popular—they perform their top 40 hit version of "That Ol' Black Magic"—but they're not exactly rock. Neither is Tom Harper, played by Paul Hampton (above left) who carved out a career as a songwriter and actor. Though Hampton's character is clearly supposed to be the good guy, he comes off as only marginally more likeable than Carter, played by Tom Laughlin (who later played Billy Jack, pictured above with his beatnik fan). The real conflict here isn't so much personality as it is class, but though we're told Hampton is working-class, he looks and acts like all the other rich frat guys in the movie. Jill Corey and Barbara Bostock and OK as Gay and Flip, and James Komack (later a producer of Welcome Back, Kotter) is decent comic relief as Dog. In addition to songs performed by the musicians, the movie is a musical with characters singing to each other on occasion—sometimes it feels like a dry run for something like BYE BYE BIRDIE. The songs are unmemorable and there are too many of them. I stuck with it mostly because Hampton and Laughlin were attractive; your mileage may vary. [TCM]

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