Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Beach Boys Harmonize While Kookie Stays in Orbit!

With its Beach Party series thriving at the box office in 1964, American International Pictures (AIP) was anxious to make a movie with surf music's supergroup: The Beach Boys. Brian Wilson, working with songwriting partners Roger Christian and Gary Usher, had already contributed six tunes to Frankie and Annette's Muscle Beach Party (1964). However, according to Marshall Crenshaw's Hollywood Rock: A Guide to Rock 'n' Roll in the Movies, the Beach Boys' AIP film deal fell apart when the studio insisted on retaining the soundtrack rights.

The Beach Boys.
While the Beach Boys never headlined their own movie, Paramount did feature them later that year in The Girls on the Beach. The title song, written by Wilson and performed by the Beach Boys, appeared on their sixth studio album All Summer Long. The group also appeared in the movie, but only long enough to sing "Little Honda."

The focus on The Girls on the Beach is the Beatles--and they never appear in the movie! The premise has a trio of girls trying to raise $10,000 to save their sorority house. After several futile fundraising efforts (e.g., a bake sale, a beauty contest), they meet three guys who--trying to sound impressive--claims to know Paul, John, George, and Ringo. The girls decide that a Beatles concert is a surefire way to save the Alpha Beta House!

It's a silly plot, to be sure, but the cast is likable and the music good. In addition to the Beach Boys, Leslie Gore and the Crickets (who continued after Buddy Holly's death) perform jaunty tunes. Carol Connors dubs for actress Noreen Corcoran on a couple of songs, including the marvelously-titled "We Wanna Marry a Beatle." Connors was formerly lead singer of the Teddy Bears, who scored a huge pop hit with "To Know Him Is To Love Him." Years later, she co-wrote "Gonna Fly Now" from Rocky.

Kincaid and friends.
Among the cast, the most recognizable performers are Ahna Capri, Lana Wood (Natalie's sister), and Aron Kincaid. Ahna Capri would go to play John Saxon's brief love interest in Enter the Dragon. Lana Wood's most famous film appearance was as Plenty O'Toole in Diamonds Are Forever. Kincaid, a beach movie veteran, would appear in two AIP films, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (with Deborah Walley) and  Ski Party (his best role as a campus heart-throb who falls for Dwayne Hickman dressed as a girl), and Paramount's Beach Ball.

The second half of this "Spring Break" double-feature, Beach Ball stars Edd Byrnes--forever known as Kookie from the TV series 77 Sunset Strip. Less charming than The Girls on the Beach, Beach Ball is best known for its incredible musical line-up: Diana Ross and Supremes, The Four Seasons (who sing "Dawn"), the Righteous Brothers, the Hondells, and the Walker Brothers.

In between the musical numbers, there's a plot about Byrnes trying to get a grant (!) so his band, The Wigglers, won't have to return to their instruments to the music store. The best thing about Beach Ball is that the plot doesn't get in the way of the music. Plus, it's fun watching Byrnes trying to act super cool. When a girl asks him to leave the dance floor so they can chat, he quips: "Don't bug me, baby. I'm in orbit."

Neither of these two Paramount forays into the 1960s surf musicals compares favorably with AIP's Beach Party series (no Annette, no Eric Von Zipper!). Still, they're entertaining in a silly way and, if you're a fan of 1960s rock-and-pop music, it's a rare opportunity to watch some of the decade's biggest acts.


  1. Not a fan of beach movies, Rick, so I haven't seen many--this one included. These films sound like they have a lot of good music in them, though.

  2. This sounds like an enjoyable double feature, especially for the music. Fun post, Rick!

    1. Both movies feature standout comedic performances by Gail Gerber billed as such in The Girls on the Beach and then in Beach Ball as Gail Gilmore (a name change suggested by her Hollywood agent because, as quoted in her memoir Trippin' with Terry Southern, "Gail, Gerber is a German name and this is a Jewish town").