We’re all going on a summer holiday
The Socey family has several different signs that the summer is over. Until last year, it was the final day of the summer theatre camp my wife and I directed (that’s another story for another time). Then it was when our daughter Emma’s first day of the school year, followed by my college teaching wife’s first day of classes. The final sign was when WFYI radio would host a live broadcast from the Penrod Arts Fair.
The summer of 2006 brought a new Socey family tradition which is also a sign that summer is almost over. The day before Emma has to go back to school, the Socey family watches the 1963 musical Summer Holiday, starring pop singer Cliff Richard. First, a little about Cliff Richard and the film.
The film is a musical trifle about Cliff and three other lads who are going to take a double decker bus from London to Greece. Along the way they meet three pretty girls, a female singer disguised as a boy (Lauri Peters), a mime troupe headed by Ron (Fagan from Oliver) Moody, a pitchfork wedding, the singer’s overbearing mother and several background roles played by Richard’s backing band and one of my favorite 60s rock bands The Shadows.
Richard was being pushed as the English Elvis. Knighted and beyond famous in Europe, he hardly gets a mention in the U.S. He has three singles American radio listeners in their 40s or older might know. “Devil Woman” from 1976, “We Don’t Talk Anymore” from 1979 and the 1980 duet with Olivia Newton-John “Suddenly” from the godawful musical Xanadu. I know some folks love this film. Fine, you can have it.
OK, back to 1963. Richard made an impression in his first two films Serious Charge and Expresso Bongo. Then he starred in musical comedy The Young Ones (Cliff saves a youth center from closing!) in 1961, which was a hit in the U.K. This lead to Summer Holiday, another hit in the U.K. The same year this was happening in England, Elvis cranked out It Happened at the World’s Fair and Fun In Acapulco. The same year the first Frankie & Annette film Beach Party was released.
There were two people involved with Summer Holiday that made the film rise above the other films mentioned in the last paragraph. The director was Peter Yates, in his directing debut. He had already established himself as an assistant director on films like The Guns Of Navarone, The Entertainer and The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. After Summer Holiday, some of the films he directed included Bullitt, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Mother, Jugs & Speed (thanks, Raquel Welch), The Deep (thanks, Jacqueline Bisset), Breaking Away (film in Bloomington) and The Dresser, one of my favorite films from 1983, an important year for me as a filmmaker, but that’s another story.
The gentleman in charge of choreography and musical numbers director. He worked on a number of films and television as a choreographer before making his directing debut in 1969 with Goodbye Mr. Chips, a music starring Peter O’Toole (who “sang” and earned a Best Actor nomination) and Petula Clark. Other Ross directed films included The Owl and the Pussycat, Play It Again Sam, Funny Lady, The Sunshine Boys, The Severn Per-Cent Solution, The Turning Point, The Goodbye Girl, California Suite, Pennie From Heaven, Footloose and Steel Magnolias.
The point is that having Yates and Ross involved, this was more than just 90 minutes of kids twisting at the discotheque. There was actual dancing and camera movement that made it about the average Elvis and Frankie & Annette film. Between this and someone watching his 40 years later appreciated the innocent charm of this film.
OK, back to 2006. WFYI has a very popular British Telly Club. This particular summer, we decided to reward our telly club supporters with an English summer films series. One Sunday afternoon in June, July and August we would show an English film in our television studio. That summer we started with Summer Holiday, followed by Saving Grace (Brenda Blethyn, Craig Ferguson) and Mrs. Brown (Judi Dench, Billy Connelly).
The afternoon we showed Summer Holiday, I brought along my daughter who was 5 years-old at the time. We stayed in the back of the studio as to not distract the regular audience in case daughter gets fussy, potty break, etc. By the time the number “Let Us Take You For a Ride” is performed in the film, Emma is moving along to the choreography as best she could. Once the film was over, Emma said something many five years ask after such a cinematic experience…”Can we buy this , Daddy?”
Yes, I did.
The next time we did a Telly Club Summer Film Series a couple years later, we did show The Young Ones, the film of which the name of the great British sitcom was inspired. I’ll always remember an elderly woman half way through the film leaning over to me and saying about Richard “he’s not a very good actor, is he?” I have screened The Young Ones and Swingers Paradise for my family over the years, but Summer Holiday has been an end of the summer Socey family tradition and it will stay that way…unless Emma gets really moody in her teen years. We’ll see.