Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Frankie goes to Hollywood ...

No, not that Frankie, nor even one of my favourite '80s groups, but England's "legendary crooner" Frankie Vaughan. Frankie (1928-1999) may be rather forgotten now, but was one the UK's leading entertainers with lots of popular hits ("Tower of Strength", "Green Door", "Give Me The Moonlight" etc) and became an all-round entertainer filling The Palladium, and worked in America too at Vegas and the like.  Of those singers popular in the mid-50s (when I first began noticing music) like David Whitfield, Dennis Lotis (and his pipe), Michael Holliday, Alma Cogan and Lita Roza, Frankie was certainly the most popular and was a looker too. He symbolised that era (as did Diana Dors, Sabrina, Arthur Askey, Norman Wisdom) before the arrival of Tommy Steele and Cliff Richard and the all-conquering Elvis.
He made 4 films in England with the Herbert Wilcox/Anna Neagle team, and was taken up by 20th Century Fox to co-star with Marilyn in LET'S MAKE LOVE - though it was Yves Montand who scored there!. He also did another rare Fox movie THE RIGHT APPROACH in 1961, which I will be receiving shortly .... and then returned to the UK where he was famously involved with charities, and a happy family man. I like this poster for his first film, produced by Neagle, and directed by Wilcox, which tries to make him look mean and moody. Seeing the film now though it is certainly quite effective and captures that 1957 vibe perfectly. My IMDB review said:

THESE DANGEROUS YEARS, 1957. This is an amusing view now, with English crooner Frankie Vaughan who was popular at the time (before the pop boys Cliff and Adam and Marty came along in the early 60s and who were then replaced by The Beatles a year or so later). Vaughan became an all-round entertainer famous for his charity work. This is the first of 4 movies he did with director Herbert Wilcox and Anna Neagle (who produced) and casts him as a singer who is drafted into the army and falls foul of the camp bully. It has that 50s vibe in spades, particularly when starlets blonde Carole Lesley and Jackie Lane (above) are around with their perfectly '50s bedsit, (Carole was another showbusiness casualty, committing suicide in 1974 aged 38). Lots of familiar faces here: George Baker, Thora Hird, John le Mesurier, David Lodge, Michael Ripper, Reginald Beckwith, Eddie Byrne. Frankie acquits himself well, sings a few songs, not long before heading off to Hollywood and Marilyn Monroe. It was titled DANGEROUS YOUTH in America and seemed to tie in with Elvis in the Army ...
WONDERFUL THINGS followed in 1958, I have not seen it but it is out on dvd in a month or so. Here, he and Jeremy Spenser are fishermen in Malta. 
THE HEART OF A MAN in 1959 is unavailable now and co-stars him with our recent re-discovery, Anne Heywood. 
Dame Anna gets with it ...
THE LADY IS A SQUARE though is a real treat from 1959, the last of his British films. This stars Anna Neagle herself as the lady of the title, with Frankie and Janette Scott, plus Anthony Newley.  This now is 1959 England in aspic as much as ROOM AT THE TOP, EXPRESSO BONGO, or I'M ALRIGHT JACK. Delirious fun!  Dame Anna bowed out in style here, its a nice look at London then too as we start at a classical concert at that new Royal Festival Hall and end up on stage at the Talk of The Town nightclub (I've been on that stage too) where Dame Anna gets with it. Frankie plays a rising singing star who works as her butler to woo her daughter Janette.  (Frankie fared better in the movies than Tommy Steele or even Cliff - there seems no interest now in THE DUKE WORE JEANS or TOMMY THE TOREADOR or even THE YOUNG ONES! - Tommy though had roles in Hollywood too with FINIAN'S RAINBOW and THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE. Adam Faith went for the moody vibe with BEAT GIRL and MIX ME A PERSON, while Marty Wilde was on that jet in JET STORM, also 1959 label. We reported on Billy Fury's PLAY IT COOL recently too - music label.).
Quite a lineup: Miller, Signoret, Montand, Monroe, and Frankie ....
We know LET'S MAKE LOVE well, the least of Monroe's later films, and generally a damp squib, but Vaughan does ok, having two terrific numbers with Marilyn, the title track and "Specialisation". It seems Marilyn wanted Frankie to go over their lines at her bungalow, but the family man declined leaving the way clear for Monsieur Montand!  We will report on THE RIGHT APPROACH in due course, a very forgotten Fox item, about 5 bachelors sharing an apartment in Hollywood and trying to succeed. Frankie leads the guys and the girls are Martha Hyer and Juliet Prowse. Should be interesting at least. Frankie continued being one of England's great entertainers until his death in 1999. 

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