Love Is In the Air

Beach Blanket Bingo 1965 poster 1

Back on the beach, only we’re with Frankie and Annette in 1965’s Beach Blanket Bingo. Can’t have a Sorta Adios To Summer without at least one Frankie and Annette film, so here we go…

The group is hanging out on the beach, of course, when new singer Sugar Kane (Linda Evans) parachutes into the water. Well, not her, exactly, but skydiver Bonnie (Joanne Watley) is standing in for her while the real Sugar Kane (Linda Evans) waits on a boat to jump prettily in the water and pretend she just fell out of the sky. Naturally, the surfers rush out and save her, and naturally, her manager, Bullets (Paul Lynde) is waiting on the beach with photographers.

Frankie and Dee Dee are impressed by the skydivers and decide to try it themselves. Bonnie is impressed by Frankie. Dee Dee and Bonnie’s boyfriend and fellow skydiver Steve (John Ashley) aren’t impressed by Bonnie making eyes at Frankie. Who knew putting on a parachute could be so innocently sensual, though?

Bullets and columnist Earl Wilson (playing himself) are impressed with Frankie as well but for different reasons: They think he should be a recording artist. Frankie’s “meh” about the idea because he’s a down-to-earth kid who just wants to surf and be with Dee Dee.

Meanwhile, Bonehead (Jody McCrea) goes surfing by himself, which is a bad idea as it is. Of course he gets in trouble, only to be saved by a mermaid named Lorelei (Marta Kristen). Bonehead’s not just smitten, but he goes into a trance when he hears Lorelei’s whistle. Lorelei isn’t a Little Mermaid type, either–she can turn her tail into legs for a short time if she wants to, as long as Bonehead gets her home before midnight. Yes, he has to buy her a dress because mermaids don’t wear clothes.

Eric Von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck) and his gang of Rats are around, too, and when Von Zipper spies Sugar Kane he has to have her because he adores her. Bullets looks on Von Zipper and the Rats with obvious disdain and tries to eject them from Sugar Kane’s immediate vicinity, but Von Zipper is a sneaky guy who won’t be denied. He sneaks into Sugar’s room one night, where she’s fallen asleep with the TV on, and spirits her away with his Rats to the local pool hall. Sugar doesn’t mind being caught too much, and thinks Von Zipper’s plan to teach her how to play pool and ride his “sickle” (motorcycle) are “marvy.”

OK, there’s not a lot of plot to this thing. Like, barely any. It’s got a lot of music. It’s got lots of dancing, well, the Twist, anyway. There are plenty of gags. It’s got Buster Keaton hanging around Bobbi the Swedish Bombshell (Bobbi Shaw Chance) in her fur-trimmed bikini. They dance a lot, and Keaton keeps chasing her at random times in the film. There’s plenty of roasting by Don Rickles, who plays Big Drop, the owner of the skydiving company, and most of the schtick seems in the moment. The movie does recycle some bits from Beach Party, namely the Himalayan suspender gag, which Von Zipper still can’t get right.

The one thing they don’t do much of is surf. Well, Bonehead does a little bit of paddling, and it’s kind of funny that they have him get in trouble the way he does (it doesn’t look convincing) because Jody McCrea was a legit surfer. It would have been fun to see him charge the pipe, even if it would have been a wee bit out of character for the pratfalling Bonehead. And he could have seen Lorelai swimming next to him or something. Oh well.

I also wish they had gotten Dick Dale back for this film because the music has a distinct lack of energy even if it is charming in a very dated nineteen-sixties pop way. But, alas, Dale was either unavailable or decided that two Beach movies were enough for him.

One person who was pretty fed up with the Beach phenomenon was Walt Disney, who was incensed at the way the films were presented to the public because he believed it was contributing to juvenile delinquency. Disney also thought taglines such as “Bare As You Dare” and “When 10,000 Bodies Hit 5,000 Blankets…” were degrading to Annette Funicello, who he had signed off on appearing the films as long as she kept her navel covered. He dogged American International Pictures’ founder Samuel Arkoff, who patiently tried to explain that there was nothing objectionable in the Frankie and Annette movies, and in the end Disney quieted down.

Not surprisingly, the critics weren’t big fans either, and part of the problem was that the actors were getting a bit too old for their roles. The public disagreed of course, netting the movie a profit of $2.6M, or $23M when adjusted for inflation. To be sure, it was competing with such cinematic powerhouses as The Sound of Music, The Great Race and Dr. Zhivago, so the competition was pretty stiff.

Nowadays, the Frankie and Annette movies are looked on with fond nostalgia, as they capture an era that was on its way out. As Frankie Avalon said,

We saw what was starting to happen, that was going away, that innocence. Young people starting to speak back, talk back. Drugs started to come into view. Music changed, hairstyles changed. {The} Beatles came into it…there was a definite change and we had to adjust.

Speaking of adjusting, we’re blasting off into outer space tomorrow and I hope to see you then. Thanks for reading, all…

Beach Blanket Bingo is available to own on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.

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If you’re enjoying what you see on Taking Up Room, please look for additional content on Substack, where you’ll find both free and subscriber-only articles. I publish every Wednesday and Saturday.

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