Cast & Crew
The mayor of an English town objects to the jukebox and television entertainment at a local coffeeshop and has its license revoked. Two of its patrons, Helen and Craig, decide to line up a number of acts appearing in London for a show to prove to the mayor the value of jazz and rock and roll. They visit a television studio in an attempt to enlist the help of disc jockeys and hear many acts, though they are rebuffed at first in their efforts. They finally succeed, but the performers have to get through a roadblock set up by the mayor. Local entertainers fill in until they arrive, and the show is a tremendous success. The mayor capitulates when he is praised for arranging the show, and he joins in dancing the twist.
The Brook Brothers
Gary "u. S." Bonds
The Paris Sisters
The Dukes Of Dixieland
Chris Barber's Jazz Band
Mr. Acker Bilk And His Paramount Jazz Band
Kenny Ball And His Jazzmen
Bob Wallis And His Storyville Jazzmen
Terry Lightfoot And His New Orleans Jazz Band
The Temperance Seven
H. L. Bird
W. C. Handy
John D. Merriman
A. J. Piron
It's Trad, Dad! aka Ring-a-Ding Rhythm
The threadbare plot - two teenagers organize a music festival in their small town despite resistance from the mayor and his closed-minded supporters - is merely an excuse to string together an array of musical acts - 26 in all! But what distinguishes It's Trad, Dad from countless other pop music film pastiches is the stylish look and sense of fun that Richard Lester brings to it plus the impressive array of musical talent which covers the pop spectrum from Dixieland (Kenny Ball and His Jazzmen) to rhythm 'n blues (Gary "U.S." Bonds) to ballads (John Leyton) to rock 'n roll (Gene Vincent).
Richard Lester had already garnered considerable acclaim - and an Oscar® nomination - for his witty movie short, The Running, Jumping & Standing Still Film (1959) but it was a thirty minute pilot he had made called Have Jazz, Will Travel that convinced producer Milton Subotsky to hire Lester to direct It's Trad, Dad. In an interview with director Steven Soderbergh for The Guardian, Lester said, "Subotsky sent me a 24-page script and I said "I think I can do something with it" - it was with pop-stars, with Gene Vincent and Helen Shapiro and a lot of trad bands, so I said, "I've been around this kind of music all my life. I think I know how to deal with it as soon as you get a first draft screenplay I'd be delighted to read it." He said, "That's the shooting script and you start in three weeks." I said, "But it's only 24 pages long" but he said, "You'll find a way to pad it out." So we gathered these poor pop people with this feast of moveable sets behind them and shot them three a day. At the end of the last week of shooting, the Twist started - Chubby Checker and his first big twist success. So I said to Milton "I think it would be a great idea. We could be the first film in history to have the twist in it. He's in New York. I could go over and shoot him." And he said "If you pay your own way you can go." So I did and we got him in the film, and that was one of the contributing factors to getting A Hard Day's Night."
Any Richard Lester fan can look at It's Trad, Dad and see the fresh and distinctive techniques that would fully emerge in Lester's A Hard Day's Night. For one thing, Lester's playful editing style keeps the viewer constantly engaged while also paying tribute to the musicians on display. Del Shannon is presented in emotional close-ups as he belts out "She Never Talked About Me" while The Brook Brothers are juxtaposed with oversized images of themselves as they perform "Double Trouble." In the Burt Bacharach composition, "Another Tear Falls", performed by Gene McDaniels, Lester establishes a moody confessional tone as cigarette smoke curls around the singer and in Acker Bilk's showcase number, "Frankie and Johnny," he cuts between humorous stills that illustrate the lyrics and iconic signature shots of the famed clarinet player. Among the other musical standouts are the decidedly offbeat version of "Everybody Loves My Baby" by the Temperance Seven, "Lose Your Inhibition Twist" by Chubby Checker, the dreamy "What Am I To Do?" by the Paris Sisters and Ottilie Patterson bringing down the house with "Down by the Riverside."
Lester's satiric sense of humor is also evident in the way he depicts the generation gap conflict between the teenagers and their elders. Small town bureaucracy also becomes a target for parody and so does the music industry, particularly in the scenes in which three popular British disc jockeys of the period - Alan Freeman, David Jacobs and Peter Murray - play themselves and come off as vain and self-absorbed media personalities.
As the film's youthful protagonists, Helen Shapiro and Craig Douglas were cast not because they were skilled actors but because they were popular singers at the time. Douglas is a pleasant but unremarkable light pop vocalist but Shapiro is a little dynamo with a powerful voice comparable to Brenda Lee. At the time of It's Trad, Dad, Shapiro was one of England's top female vocalists with such major hits as 1961's "Walking Back to Happiness" to her credit. Unfortunately, she never managed to break into the American top forty market despite catchy tunes like "Let's Talk About Love" which she performs in It's Trad, Dad. She did go on to star in another teenage musical, Play It Cool (1962) featuring Billy Fury and the Satellites and Bobby Vee but her biggest claim to fame was opening for The Beatles on their first major tour (it was said that John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote "Misery" for her.)
Musical revue films aimed at teenage audiences such as It's Trad, Dad rarely get any respect or favorable notices from the critics but Lester's film proved one of the few exceptions. The Times' David Robinson wrote "Lester's immoderate interest in technical tricks - speeded up action, multiple exposures, eccentric angles, tricky masking and so on...is all done with such frank enjoyment and at such a determined pace that criticism is disarmed" and London reviewer Philip French called it "One of the most imaginative British movies of the decade." Lester, in fact, would later admit that "I've had the best reviews out of It's Trad, Dad that I've ever gotten."
Producer: Milton Subotsky, Max Rosenberg
Director: Richard Lester
Screenplay: Milton Subotsky
Cinematography: Gilbert Taylor
Art Direction: Maurice Carter
Music: Ken Thorne
Film Editing: Bill Lenny
Cast: Helen Shapiro (Helen), Craig Douglas (Craig), Felix Felton (Mayor), Arthur Mullard (Police Chief), Hugh Lloyd (Usher), Guest Musicians: Chubby Checker, The Brook Brothers, Del Shannon, Gene McDaniels, The Paris Sisters, The Dukes of Dixieland, Gary "U.S." Bonds, John Leyton, Ottilie Patterson, Chris Barber's Jazz Band, Gene Vincent, Kenny Ball and His Jazzmen, Mr. Acker Bilk and His Paramount Jazz Band, The Temperance Seven, Terry Lightfoot and His New Orleans Jazz Band, Bob Wallis and His Storyville Jazzmen.
by Jeff Stafford
The Films of Richard Lester by Neil Sinyard
"Richard Lester Interviewed by Steven Soderbergh," The Guardian, 11/8/1999
Hollywood Rock: A Guide to Rock 'n Roll Movies by Marshall Crenshaw
Rock on Film by David Ehrenstein & Bill Reed
It's Trad, Dad! aka Ring-a-Ding Rhythm
Copyright length: 73 min. Opened in London in March 1962 as It's Trad, Dad!; running time: 73 min.
Released in United States 1961
Richard Lester's feature directorial debut.
Released in United States 1961