Cast & Crew
Ex-spouses Grace Shaw and Lew Arthur are talent agents who meet several years after their divorce when their respective clients, singers Pete Porter and Honey Wynn, are auditioning for roles in a Broadway show. After both young people are rejected for the parts, all four end up at the same table in a diner. Seeing how well the two young people look together and get along, Lew suggests that they record a duet of a new song by a composer he knows. Pete, who was reared in Hairpin, Missouri, and Honey, from Wet Dog, Maine, find that they have a lot in common and spend time together talking about their aspirations. Meanwhile, Lew and Grace strategize how to sell the new "romantic duo" and convince Warren Sykes, president of Pop Record Company, to record them. Later, as Pete and Honey's song, "Who Are We to Say?," climbs to the "Top Ten" charts, the young people fall in love for real. Lew, Honey and Pete are content with their success, but the aggressive Grace gets restless. When she fails to interest Pete in recording a solo song, she works on Lew, suggesting that both Honey and Pete secretly want solo careers. Surmising from past experience that Grace is planning to double-cross them, Lew convinces the reluctant Honey to secretly record a song, in case Grace is having Pete do the same. During Honey's recording session, Grace maneuvers Pete into coming to the studio at the same time. Believing that he has been betrayed by his singing partner, Pete agrees to secretly cut his own "single" and to perform it at an upcoming charity telethon in which he and Honey will be participating. During the live, national broadcast of the telethon, just as Pete and Honey's performance is being introduced, Grace arranges for a note to be given to the emcee that pre-empts the duet and announces Pete's new solo song. During his performance, Lew and Honey leave, and afterward Honey cuts off all communication with Pete. Grace, who realizes too late that she has ruined a chance for a renewed romance with Lew, bears her loss stoically and tells Pete that Honey will eventually "come around." Although he is sorry about hurting Honey, Pete, following Grace's advice, leaves New York for a highly successful personal appearance tour in London, where he performs at the Palladium, and Germany. Honey releases her song, as well as several others, but none of them register on the charts, damaging her career. After ten "strikeouts," Warren refuses to record her, although he tells Lew that he will back Honey and Pete as a duo. Upon returning to New York, Pete searches for Honey, whom he still loves, and mopes when he cannot find her. Deep down, Grace is sorry to have ruined both Pete's romance and her own, but she continues to advise Pete to focus single-mindedly on his own career. She is surprised when Lew visits, wanting to resume their romance. Open to his romantic overtures, Grace says she has changed and is "about to become a real-life woman." However, when Lew suggests that Honey and Pete sing together at the upcoming Music Operators Convention in Chicago, at which they are both planning to perform separately, Grace suspects that his wooing is only a business tactic. Ignoring her own past scheming, she accuses him of attempting a "cheap trick," thus prompting a quarrel. After Lew leaves, Grace finds herself alone again. Later, at the convention, Lew, Honey, Pete and Grace are unexpectedly placed at the same table in the ballroom. Seeing that Pete and Honey get along well, Lew reminds Grace how he tried to get the young people back together. Overhearing his comment, Pete and Honey become indignant that their lives are being controlled by the older couple. The resulting four-way quarrel, which is observed by everyone in the ballroom, threatens to tear apart all their relationships, both romantic and business, and ends with Honey and Pete returning to their separate hotel rooms to pack. Feeling badly, Lew takes control from the unusually pliant Grace, who vows to "turn in her broom." Agreeing that they must "help the kids," as well as their own relationship, Grace talks to Honey "woman-to-woman," while Lew talks to Pete. The agents convince the young people to return to the ballroom, where the emcee then announces that they will perform one of their songs together. Singing reconciles Pete and Honey, and for the final verse they pull Lew and Grace up to join them.
Jerry Lee Lewis
Count Basie And His Orchestra
The Four Coins
Lewis Lymon And The Teenchords
Rocco And His Saints
Pete De Angelis
Claude De Metruis
Leone M. Richards
Max J. Rosenberg
Jack Wright Jr.
The majority of the music sequences in Jamboree! are simply shot and focus on the artists rather than elaborate sets or props (a good thing). The main exception is the opening scene; most of the film's budget for sets and dancers must have been blown on the number "Record Hop Tonight" by Andy Martin. As Martin and background singers stand off camera, a group of eleven dancers cavort in High Camp fashion on a giant abstract representation of a phonograph and wire record holder. The song itself is more be-bop-pop than rock 'n' roll, which points up an important aspect of the film; the music covers many genres, from country to rockabilly to pop to doo-wop to rock to blues to jazz and more.
The drivers of the plot are introduced in Jamboree! after the opening number, as manager Lew Arthur (Bob Pastine) has lunch with his client, singer Honey Wynn (Freda Holloway). Honey has lost out on an audition for a Broadway revue, as has young singer Pete Porter (Paul Carr), who is managed by Grace Show (Kay Medford). Lew and Grace are not only rival managers, but also former husband-and-wife. Honey and Pete hit it off together and their managers join forces to promote the couple as a singing duo. They go to the famed Brill Building to ask Warren Sykes (David King-Wood), president of the generically-titled "Pop Record Company," if he will let them record a demo of their new duo. Sykes responds, "Bring in the kids at 3:30 on Wednesday. Carl Perkins is cutting at 2:30; he rarely ever uses all of his time - what's left is yours." The comment provides a segue to a sublime filmed record of the great Sun Records rockabilly cat Perkins and his band (Clayton and Jay Perkins and W.S. Holland) ripping through "Glad All Over." The film goes on with short intrusions of plot (conflict arises when Grace talks Pete into splitting up the duo and going out as a solo act), but mostly works in many more musical segments thanks to introductions by real-life radio disc jockeys around the country and even around the world.
Carl Perkins' Sun Records labelmate Jerry Lee Lewis shows up midway through the film to knock out the immortal "Great Balls of Fire," as part of the Jerry Lee Lewis Trio (with J. W. Brown on bass and Russ Smith on drums). Interestingly, The Killer lip-synchs to an alternate version of the tune, not the familiar hit single version. Other notable acts in the film include Fats Domino performing "Wait and See," rocker Charlie Grace doing "Cool Baby," and Buddy Knox swinging with "Hula Love." A baby-faced Frankie Avalon makes his film debut here, lip-synching his early hit "Teacher's Pet," backed by his original group Rocco & His Saints. Country fans were not left out, as Slim Whitman shows up to croon the classic western tune "Unchain My Heart." If there were any older parents who may have stumbled into this movie devoted to Top 40 hits of the day, their patience was rewarded by an appearance by Count Basie and His Orchestra performing their well-known number, "One O'clock Jump." Following this instrumental, Basie's vocalist Joe Williams steps up to perform "I Don't Like You No More." As with other 1950s rock movies, the running time is also filled with many lesser lights - musical acts long forgotten - such as Lewis Lymon & the Teenchords (Lewis was literally Frankie Lymon's less-talented brother), the Four Coins (a poor man's Four Freshman), and the like. In addition, there are a number of songs by the fake musical leads in the story, although they are not a total waste because actress Freda Holloway's vocals were actually recorded by the great Connie Francis.
The producers of Jamboree!, Max Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky (they would go on to found Amicus Productions in England), came up with a simple and no doubt effective way to generate targeted ballyhoo for their film - they cast no less than 16 radio disc jockeys from a variety of markets as themselves, on the theory that these deejays would plug the film endlessly on their shows upon its release. (The ploy brings to mind a similar stunt from the producers of the Three Stooges feature The Outlaws Is Coming , in which they cast numerous local TV kiddie show hosts in minor roles in the hopes that the film would receive free plugs aimed directly toward the Stooges' TV fans).
The most notable deejay to appear in the film is Dick Clark, then a record-spinner for WFIL in Philadelphia, and whose TV program American Bandstand had just been picked up for national exposure on the ABC Network a few months before. Following his film debut in Jamboree!, Clark would go on to a legendary career as one of the most successful producers in television history. In the movie, Clark appears as the host of a TV telethon raising money for an unspecified "dreaded disease," and introduces a number of other deejays, including some from London, England and Cologne, Germany. Clark was not the only deejay in Jamboree! to go on to bigger and better gigs; Joe Smith of WVDA in Boston later went on to become president of the Warner Brothers Records label.
Jamboree! may have gotten its title indirectly from legendary deejay/promoter Alan Freed (who starred in Vanguard's Rock Rock Rock! the previous year); Freed recorded a half-hour weekly radio show by that name for broadcast on Radio Luxembourg, the powerful "pirate" AM station heard throughout the British Isles and much of Europe. (The show, broadcast on Saturday nights in that area, was wildly popular with teenagers and was the first exposure to rock 'n' roll for many in Britain, including the lads from Liverpool who later called themselves The Beatles).
Critical reaction to Jamboree! was rather dismissive. The critic for Variety called the film "old fashioned in concept, reminiscent of the early days of talking pictures when producers slapped a group of singing acts together." Similarly, the reviewer in the Los Angeles Mirror wrote that Jamboree! was "like a throwback to the early days of Vitaphone musical reels." Presumably, these critics were lamenting the lack of plot, but the repetition of deejays introducing musical numbers makes for a refreshing time capsule from our modern perspective; more plot would have just gotten in the way. Art Fein (writing in Marshall Crenshaw's Hollywood Rock: A Guide to Rock'n'Roll in the Movies) puts it this way: "Why is this little-seen (and even less well known) exploitation film slightly better than its contemporaries? Partly because there's no message, and mainly because they booked two Sun acts....The so-called cameos in this movie are by 16 deejays from all over the globe. Warner Brothers must have thought their word-of-mouth would boost the picture. It didn't..."
Producer: Max Rosenberg, Milton Subotsky
Director: Roy Lockwood
Screenplay: Leonard Kantor, Milton Subotsky (writers)
Cinematography: Jack Etra
Art Direction: Paul Barnes
Music: Neal Hefti
Film Editing: Robert Broekman
Cast: Kay Medford (Grace Show), Bob Pastine (Lew Arthur), Paul Carr (Pete Porter), Freda Holloway (Honey Wynn), David King-Wood (Warren Sykes), Jean Martin (Cindy Styles), Tony Travis (Stage Manager), Leonard Schneider (Assistant Stage Manager), Aaron Schroder (Songwriter)
by John M. Miller
Jamboree on DVD
Jamboree is an undeniable time capsule for pop music historians but watching it in real time is a sometimes painful experience! The flimsy plot, and there is way too much of it, has a formerly married talent agent team scheming against each other in the competitive world of top forty hits. On their own, Grace (Kay Medford) and Lew (Bob Pastine) aren't having much success with their new discoveries so they decide to join forces and promote their singers Honey Wynn (Freda Holloway) and Pete Porter (Paul Carr) as a duo. The ploy works better than they imagined but then Grace gets greedy and pressures Honey to go solo, a plan complicated by a budding love affair between the singers. The worst part of all this are the numerous musical numbers performed by Freda (dubbed by Connie Francis) and Paul. Not only does this cut into valuable screen time for the more dynamic performers featured but the songs - "For Children of All Ages," "If Not For You," "Who Are We to Say" - are instantly disposable.
On the positive side, there are a few standout cameos. Foremost among them is Jerry Lee Lewis banging out "Great Balls of Fire" which generates real heat but is over too soon. Fats Domino is a delight performing "Wait and See" and rockabilly star Carl Perkins picks up the tempo with "I'm Glad All Over" (no relation to the Dave Clark Five hit). Less familiar to contemporary music lovers are practically forgotten artists like Buddy Knox ("Hula Love"), Charlie Gracie ("Cool Baby") and Jimmy Bowen ("Cross Over") - all three of them playing songs that blur the lines between rockabilly, country, rock 'n roll and novelty songs. Unfortunately, the staging of each musical number on a sparse soundstage with minimal art direction is visually uninspired. The only thing that really matters is the music and from act to act it's purely a matter of taste for the viewer. There's nothing wrong with Count Basie and his orchestra performing "One O'Clock Jump" but big band music seems as out of place in Jamboree as Slim Whitman's rendition of "Unchain My Heart" or Mary Lou Harp warbling "Crazy to Care."
If nothing else, Jamboree has a curiosity value which will appeal to anyone who grew up listening to the radio in the fifties (which means anyone over the age of forty-nine). Several of the most influential deejays of that era have cameos in the film; among them are the perpetually young Dick Clark, Los Angeles's Dick Whittinghill and Joe Smith of WVDA in Boston (he later became president of Warner Bros. records). It's also fun seeing a baby-faced Frankie Avalon prior to his AIP Beach Party films of the early sixties and Frankie Lymon's little brother, Louis, belting out "Gone" and sounding just like Frankie. Also of note is the director, Roy Lockwood, who entered the British film industry in the thirties and scored a major success with his movie adaptation of Jack London's The Mutiny of the Elsinore (1937). How he ended up helming Jamboree is anyone's guess. You'll also recognize Milton Subotsky's name in the credits. He served as a co-screenwriter here but later became a successful producer, specializing in horror films such as Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965), Torture Garden (1967) and Tales from the Crypt (1972).
For more information about Jamboree, visit Warner Video. To order Jamboree, go to TCM Shopping.
by Jeff Stafford
Jamboree on DVD
The opening credits list the singers and singing groups who appear in the film. All cast, disc jockeys or "DJs" (who appear as themselves) and most of the crew credits are listed in the ending credits. Between the DJs and crew credits, an alphabetical list of songwriters appears without song titles. Although credits list Minneapolis disc jockey Sandy Singer's radio station as WTCN, in the film he verbally identifies himself, and is seated before a sign identifying the station, as WDGY. The singing voice of actress Freda Holloway was dubbed by popular singer Connie Francis.
Performances by popular singers and singing groups are interspersed throughout the film, with the singers portraying themselves performing variously in a telethon, a Music Operators of America convention or "Pete's" Palladium show. Frankie Avalon is described in the film as a new talent being considered by "Grace" and is shown in a recording session. Brief exterior, stock shots of New York and London appear in the film. A poster advertising Damn Yankees, a musical that ran on Broadway from May 1955 to October 1957, is shown in a New York street scene.
Throughout the film, the success and failures of Pete and "Honey" are shown in the fictional headlines of Variety, Billboard, The Cash Box and other real-life industry trade journals and through the announcements of various disc jockeys. Jamboree! marked the film debuts of television personality Dick Clark and most of the featured musical performers, among them, Avalon, Dick Clark, Jerry Lee Lewis and Slim Whitman. The Variety review stated that the film was "old-fashioned in concept, reminiscent of the early days of talking pictures when producers slapped a group of singing acts together." The Los Angeles Mirror review reported that the film was "like a throwback to the early days of Vitaphone musical reels." Jamboree! was one of the films featured in the 2000 television documentary Hollywood Rocks the Movies: The Early Years (1955-1970).