Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Five Best Spring Break Movies (excluding the Beach Party Series)

What? No Beach Party movies and no Gidget? We excluded the Beach Party films from this list for two reasons: (1) they have already been covered extensively at the Cafe; (2) they would dominate this list and we wanted to promote some of the other "spring break movies." As for Gidget, while it may have been the first mainstream feature about surfers, it was a coming-of-age film and not about young people on spring break.

1. Ride the Wild Surf (1964) - The premise, borrowed freely from Three Coins in the Fountain, has three young men arriving in Hawaii in search of the “big wave” at Waimea Bay. What they find initially are three pretty girls and plenty of teen angst. Despite their successful pop hits, stars Fabian and Shelley Fabares (shown on right) don't warble a single song. They do manage a couple of effective dramatic scenes and receive fine support from Tab Hunter, Susan Hart, Peter Brown, and Barbara Eden (as a dark-haired tomboy). Although the climax goes overboard on surfing footage, it's still a rare opportunity to watch some of the greatest real-life surfers of the 1960s.

Dolores Hart (who later became
a nun) and George Hamilton.
2. Where the Boys Are (1960) - This was the movie that introduced the premise of teens (well, young adults) heading to the beach in search of sun, fun, and romance. It differs from other 1960s spring break films in terms of its female focus and solemn conclusion. The plot starts out in lighthearted fashion with a quartet of young women (Dolores Hart, Yvette Mimieux, Connie Francis, and Paula Prentiss) heading to Fort Lauderdale for a good time. However, the film takes a serious turn at the climax--a jarring change in tone that, while effective, makes one feel somewhat guilty for enjoying the earlier playful proceedings. Connie Francis had a huge hit with the title song, which was written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield.

Ty Hardin and Connie Stevens.
3. Palm Springs Weekend (1963) - As soon as Troy Donahue starts crooning "Live Young" over the opening credits, it's clear that you'll either find Palm Springs Weekend to be nostalgic fun or a dated disaster. I fall into the former camp, in large part because of the young Warner Bros. cast that includes: Donahue, Connie Stevens, Stefanie Powers, Robert Conrad, Ty Hardin, Jerry Van Dyke, and a young Billy Mumy. Written by Earl Hamner, Jr. (who would later create The Waltons), Palm Springs Weekend is a silly, but entertaining lark (though it's notable for showing parents in a positive light).

Raquel Welch.
4. A Swingin' Summer (1965) - Three college pals try to a save a dance pavilion in Lake Arrowhead by staging a rockin' concert. Meanwhile, a gang of local hooligans aim to cause trouble and Raquel Welch plays a bookworm that wears thick glasses and keeps her hair in a bun. I'm not giving away any of the plot by revealing that the hooligans are defeated, the pavilion saved, and Raquel Welch lets her hair down and transforms into...Raquel Welch! A Swingin' Summer is diverting entertainment well played by its likable cast (James Stacy, Quinn O'Hara, and William Wellman, Jr.). However, it's best-known for featuring music performances from Gary Lewis & the Playboys, the Righteous Brothers, and Donnie Brooks. While the Rip Chords sing, too, Marshall Crenshaw in his book Hollywood Rock notes that the voices belong to Bruce Johnston (former Beach Boy who wrote "I Write the Songs") and Terry Melcher (Doris Day's son, who produced for The Byrds and Paul Revere & the Raiders). (March 2019 update: I just watched A Swingin' Summer again and would now remove it from this list. Time has not been kind to it.)

5. The Girls on the Beach (1965) - A trio of girls try to raise $10,000 to save their sorority house--but their questionable fundraising efforts (e.g., a bake sale, a beauty contest) fail miserably. Then, they meet three guys who--trying to sound impressive--claim 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 easily the weakest film on this list and yet it's undeniably fun if viewed in the right frame of mind. And again, it features some terrific music--this time from the Beach Boys, Leslie Gore and the Crickets (who continued after Buddy Holly's death). Carol Connors, who dubs for actress Noreen Corcoran on a couple of songs, was the former lead singer of the Teddy Bears ("To Know Him Is To Love Him"). A decade later, she co-wrote the Oscar-nominated "Gonna Fly Now" from Rocky.


  1. I fall into the nostalgic camp for "Palm Springs Weekend". At a weak moment I'll even get misty-eyed seeing how young everybody looks.

  2. Great choices but I would knock out Palm Springs Weekend and replace with Beach Ball. Of all the AIP knockoffs this for me was the most zaniest and enjoyable and closest to capturing the spirit of the AIP movies. It is fast moving fun with a great cast (Edd Byrnes, Chris Noel, Aron Kincaid, Don Edmonds, Gail Gilmore, Brenda Benet, Anna Lavelle) and some really great rock acts (the Supremes, the Four Seasons, the Righteous Brothers, the Walker Brothers). Even the songs warbled by the faux rock group the Wigglers are catchy.

  3. Let's see, I would have been 8 when this one came out -- I wasn't allowed to see the beach movies at the time, because they were too "adult" for me. Ah, the days of innocence in our culture...) Where The Boys Are has to be my favorite of the spring break movies. Loved all of the girl stars, and really loved George Hamilton! I'm with Caftan Woman -- now the adult films make me misty-eyed....

  4. I haven't seen any of these films, but I do love the song "Where the Boys Are." Your description has me interested in seeing the film.

  5. This is a fun list and a very timely post, too!