Cast & Crew
Young New York TV director Ted Grover quarrels with his ex-wife and boss, known professionally as A. G. Bannister. Although A. G., a producer, is still in love with Ted, her executive manner has driven him to break his IBS contract and head for the West Coast. En route, he is caught in traffic in Norburg, Missouri, where the college crowd is preparing for their Saturday night hootenanny. After seeing Billy-Jo Henley perform, and impressed by the enthusiasm of the crowd, Ted wires his agent, Steve Laughlin, to come to Norburg to evaluate the group for a new TV series. After notifying A. G. of Ted's whereabouts, Steve arrives, meets Billy-Jo, and falls in love with her. Ted returns to New York and sells his idea to a rival network. Their star-studded hootenanny show is highly successful on television, and A. G. (now jobless because she allowed the rival network to grab the idea) comes to congratulate Ted. They reconcile and join Billy-Jo and Steve in a happy hootenanny.
The Brothers Four
The Gateway Trio
George, Iv Hamilton
Joe And Eddie
Ellis W. Carter
George W. Davis
James B. Gordon
Typical of most Katzman productions, Hootenanny Hoot features a transparent plot which merely serves as a linking device for the musical numbers. Ted Gover (Peter Breck) is a success-driven television producer who predicts the next big musical craze will be the hootenanny after witnessing its popularity on the fictitious campus of Norburg College. Gover's ex-wife A. G. Bannister (Ruta Lee) welds considerable influence at a national network and would make an ideal partner on a live hootenanny broadcast. Money talks and soon the once feuding couple are collaborating on the big event. You can predict the inevitable outcome as well as the developing romantic subplots along the way, one which involves the sassy blonde hootenanny organizer Billy-Jo Henley (Pamela Austin) and Bannister's talent agent Steve Laughlin (Joby Baker). The insufferable comic relief is provided by Bannister's wisecracking housekeeper Claudia (Bobo Lewis, a poverty-row Imogene Coco). Her main function is to prop up her employer's ego with sage advice like, "C'mon honey, there's always a bunch of stallions around to chase a pretty filly like you."
The real reason to watch Hootenanny Hoot is for its eclectic and unhomogeneous mix of folk, gospel and country-western acts. First, the-so-lame-you-have-to-see-them acts (would these groups ever have been a sensation on any college campus in the sixties?) which include The Brothers Four performing "Frogg" and "Little Cory," The Gateway Trio with their renditions of "Puttin' on the Style" and "Foolish Questions," and Cathie Taylor's performance of "The Frozen Logger" before a highly unlikely rapt audience. The riverside sequence showcasing the music of Chris Crosby and Judy Henske is much more memorable and entertaining if only for the inappropriate and awkward staging. Chris Crosby looks embarrassed as he croons the ballad "Sweet Love" among the awestruck picnickers and poor Judy Henske, clad in a bathing suit, has to shimmy and sway as she belts out "The Ballad of Little Romy." Despite her powerful voice, Henske's self-consciousness in being exposed this way is palpable and you have to wonder what Sam Katzman was thinking. Folk singers in bathing suits?
The other musical acts include the gospel duo Joe and Eddie performing the uptempo "There's a Meeting Here Tonight," George Hamilton IV (no relation to the actor George Hamilton) singing "Abilene," and Sheb Wooley who performs the novelty theme song, "Hootenanny Hoot", backed up by dancers who look like they just escaped from a Las Vegas production of Oklahoma. The choreography in this number is like a car wreck at the intersection of Hollywood and Broadway, mixing modern jazz routines with square dancing. Sheb Wooley, by the way, was best known for his top forty novelty hit, "Purple People Eater."
The real highlight of Hootenanny Hoot - and it's all too brief - is an appearance by Johnny Cash. Looking lean, mean and out of his element on a college campus, he runs through a wry version of "Frankie's Man Johnny."
Hootenanny Hoot was Katzman's first film for MGM after a fifteen year stint at Columbia and it was a modest effort at best. It certainly didn't spark a national interest in hootenannies but might have made a stronger impact if Katzman had been able to round up a better mix of top forty folk and country acts such as Bob Dylan, Skeeter Davis ("The End of the World") and The Rooftop Singers ("Walk Right In"). Variety, however, gave it a thumbs up and stated that the film's commercialized brand of folk music had "a somewhat more widespread appeal, particularly in that real estate between N.Y. and L.A. known as the rest of the country. It is also likely to be less offensive to some than the twist and the r 'n r and, at any rate, it should do well enough to justify one of Katzman's sequels, say something along the order of "Don't Refute the Hoot."
Producer: Sam Katzman
Director: Gene Nelson
Screenplay: Robert E. Kent
Cinematography: Ellis W. Carter
Film Editing: Al Clark
Art Direction: George W. Davis, Merrill Pye
Cast: Peter Breck (Ted Gover), Ruta Lee (A.G. Bannister), Pamela Austin (Billy-Joe Henley), Joby Baker (Steve Laughlin), Bobo Lewis (Claudia Hoffer), Lauren Gilbert (Howard Stanton).
by Jeff Stafford