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  As Long as They're Happy Teen Idol
Year: 1955
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Stars: Jack Buchanan, Janette Scott, Jeannie Carson, Brenda De Banzie, Susan Stephen, Jerry Wayne, Diana Dors, Hugh McDermott, David Hurst, Athene Seyler, Joan Sims, Nigel Green, Dora Bryan, Gilbert Harding, Joan Hickson, Charles Hawtrey, Norman Wisdom
Genre: Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Guess who's arriving in Britain today? That's right, Bobby Denver (Jerry Wayne) the American megastar singer, famed for his habit of crying as he croons his ballads, a talent which has won him legions of female admirers - and a fair few male ones too. The reason he's here is that he thinks he has an interview with J. Arthur Rank to make movies in this country, but what he doesn't know is the secretary he has been arranging this with isn't who she seems, as she's actually sixteen-year-old Gwen Bentley (Janette Scott), a self-styled biggest fan of his, and he's really going to appear at her house...

There was a tendency in fifties films out of Britain to react with some bemusement, if not outright lampoonery, towards the latest pop culture crazes, and so it was with one of the production line Rank comedies here, As Long as They're Happy, which cast veteran star Jack Buchanan, who a couple of years before had been dancing with Fred Astaire in The Band Wagon, as the harassed father figure. Something he did very well, as apart from anything else he was happy to send himself up, and though it was plain to see the film was actually on Mr Bentley's side all along it was possible to garner some decent-sized laughs from the material.

One bonus was the array of Brit talent Rank had at its disposal and not a scene went by without some famous face or other hoving into view for a bit of business in a comic vein, so every so often Joan Hickson appeared as a barmaid or Charles Hawtrey appeared as a fan of Bobby's, that sort of thing. The main guest star was Diana Dors, then riding high in her native land as the English answer to Marilyn Monroe, although in truth her stock in trade was far from dumb blondes as Diana seemed far more savvy in her roles than her counterpart from across the pond would play. It was clear that she was included here to increase the box office takings, for she was only in this for about ten minutes at the maximum, but she made her scenes count.

Mostly this was the sort of material you would see in a sitcom of the age, although it was actually based on a West End play, and had the benefit over television of being able to use colour (though the TV the characters watch Bobby on isn't in black and white either!). The plot detailed the crooner's moving in with the Bentleys while he plays a few concerts in London - their house is pointedly in Wimbledon, it's mentioned often enough - all the better to put Gwen off him for she keeps declaring her undying love, something nobody in the family thinks it healthy. Thus were the starstruck teenagers of the United Kingdom put in their place while remaining a lucrative source of merchandising revenue.

Add in the returning daughters, Pat (Brit Broadway star Jeannie Carson) who is married to Nigel Green's bohemian, and Corinne (Nicolas Roeg's first wife Susan Stephen) who is married to rodeo rider Hugh McDermott and the stage was set for good natured chaos even before the crazy psychiatrist (David Hurst) showed up. Wayne was an American import spoofing so-called "sob singer" Johnnie Ray, but played along with the ridiculousness; it should be noted this Bobby Denver had nothing to do with Gilligan's Island, but also that Wayne was the father of Jeff Wayne, the chap who came up with seventies concept album behemoth War of the Worlds. Strictly for domestic audiences, this still had the power to amuse, though the songs were unexpectedly brief and even Buchanan only got to dance once (with Joan Sims as the fainting-prone maid). If you had an affinity with the type of jokes in newspaper comic strips, you were in the best position to appreciate these goings-on. Music by Stanley Black.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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J. Lee Thompson  (1914 - 2002)

Veteran British director frequently in Hollywood, usually with stories featuring an adventure or thriller slant. Among his many films, including a number of Charles Bronson movies, are Yield to the Night, Ice Cold in Alex, North West Frontier, the original Cape Fear, Tiger Bay, The Guns of Navarone, What a Way To Go!, Eye of the Devil, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes and Happy Birthday to Me.

 
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