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  When the Boys Meet the Girls And Gershwin Meets Herman's Hermits
Year: 1965
Director: Alvin Ganzer
Stars: Connie Francis, Harve Presnell, Joby Baker, Sue Ane Langdon, Fred Clark, Frank Faylen, Hortense Petra, Stanley Adams, Romo Vincent, Susan Holloway, Russell Colllins, Bill Quinn, Peter Noone, Louis Armstrong, Liberace, Sam the Sham
Genre: Musical, Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Danny Churchill (Harve Presnell) is an heir to a vast fortune, but is currently more interested in college life as tonight when he helps to put on a show there with a hundred other male students. At the moment Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs are rockin' on the stage accompanied by two male go-go dancers in drag, but what the students really wanted to spruce up their spectacle were some genuine women, so Danny has obliged and pulls up outside in the college bus filled with showgirls dressed in their spangly gold outfits. Once Sam is finished, the girls are ushered on and perform, much to the surprise of the audience who are getting more than they bargained for, an event which leaves Danny in public disgrace...

Well, he gets a salacious headline or two in the newspapers, but it's enough to send him into the wilds of Nevada for the third screen adaptation of George and Ira Gershwin's Girl Crazy. The previous one had been a substantial pick-me-up for audiences during World War II, starring as it did Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, but producer Sam Katzman opted to keep the original tunes yet mix them with newer sixties pop and rock, along with something for the mums and dads in Louis Armstrong and Liberace. The results, as you can imagine, were a wreck of neither one thing nor the other proportions, even if it was the only place you would ever see Sam the Sham perform in a movie, trivia fans.

Harve Presnell has often been noted as emerging as a baritone just at the point the musical landscape changed, leaving what would have been his forte in screen musicals more or less not being made anymore, so you could see what Katzman had in mind by casting him in a role where he'd get to belt out the showtunes, but also why even back in 1965 he looked like an anachronism (and presumably a mature student considering he was in his thirties when he appeared here). His co-star and romantic lead was Connie Francis, playing Pony Express mailwoman Ginger Gray, probably a better fit to this sort of stuff as she was more of a light entertainer and gets a jaunty little number to trill about delivering said mail, though the script had her rather too bad tempered to be as endearing as she should have been.

This was the sort of comedy that Elvis Presley had made synonymous with this era of family entertainment, though Presnell - who these days is best recalled for his inspired casting as the stern father-in-law in the Coen Brothers' Fargo - was no Elvis and was soon finding singing in stage productions a better use of that impressive voice. He proved affable enough here, paired with Joby Baker as his sidekick, another very typical face in these fluffy entertainments who would go on to be an artist of paintings you would never in a million years associate with his type of light comic acting, and va-va-voom comedienne Sue Ane Langdon as Tess, the woman who wants to wed Danny for his fortune and is prepared to use legal action to get her way.

Naturally, Danny falls for Ginger, though not before she has fallen from her horse, which has a habit of trotting in speeded up sequences presumably because they didn't want it galloping through their studio at full pelt. On the subject of that studio, there was evidently some cost-cutting going on since painted backdrops and blatant sets abounded, not convincing anyone and rendering this all the more like a stage show, underlined by the I Got Rhythm setpiece where Katzman pushed the boat out and delivered the dancing that we should have had a lot more of. Elsewhere, Peter Noone had a few lines to stiltedly speak as an "exchange student", as well as performing a tune or two in a nod to the British Invasion of pop groups, another element which failed to gel. They were so desperate to appeal to everyone in this mess that you also got a nightclub double act of comedians apropos of nothing as Ginger is persuaded to turn her in debt ranch into a hotel for divorcees, so what better do these ladies of a certain age like than Liberace? Actually, Katzman might have been on to something there...
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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