Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Just as Rock n Roll and Country Music were exploited by the movie companies, in Hootenanny Hoot (HH), Folk Music gets the same treatment: Very brief plot that surrounds the musical performances.
HH begins with Peter Breck (The Big Valley) trying to shoot a TV show, we quickly find out that his ex-wife, Ruta Lee, is the producer and she has other ideas on how the show should be shot. In a huff, Peter quits and says he's going to drive to the coast - somehow we next see him in Missouri!
In Missouri he happens on a preview of a Hootenanny that is going to be given later that night at a local college.....Start cueing musical performances, as we get our first two acts - The Gateway Trio singing "Puttin' On The Style" and George Hamilton IV singing his hit "Abilene". Peter walks around like some big city asshole smoking his pipe and checking out all of the rubes and is amazed at how the crowd is digging these acts. Overall, he seems to be mainly interested in checking out a co-ed played by Pam Austin, which is a little creepy since he appears to be at least fifteen years older than her.
Peter follows Pam to the college and catches a rehearsal with Johnny Cash singing "Frankie's Man Johnny". Johnny looks much healthier here than he did four years later in Road To Nashville. In this scene Pam Austin is wearing an outfit, and since the movie is in black and white, it gives her the appearance of being nude (maybe this is why Peter keeps following her!). Peter wants to know exactly what a "hootenanny" is and he's told it's Folk and Country Music and Dancing. There are several dance numbers in HH, but I'm old enough to actually have attended a Hootenanny back in 1962 or 1963 and I don't remember any dancing, just a flat bed truck with straw on the floor and people singing such songs as "If I Had A Hammer".
Peter calls his agent, played by Joby Baker, and wants him to come and check things out in Missouri. Peter tells Joby that there's money to be made with these country and folk singers because people in the middle of the country (what we now call Blue States) are crazy for this type of music. He thinks he can sell it to TV and put on a weekly Hootenanny. This was an odd part of the movie, since in a movie exploiting music, we have a plot point about exploiting music.
Joby attends the Hootenanny that night with Peter and the movie has performances by Joe and Eddie singing "There's A Meeting Here Tonight", Cathie Taylor singing a humorous number "The Frozen Logger", The Brothers Four singing "Frogg" and Sheb Wooley singing the title song. Surprisingly, The Brothers Four each get to have a line of dialogue as Peter tries to convince them, along with the other acts, to break their Hootenanny contracts and do his TV show. At the same time Joby has reported back to Ruta, who is just in a tizzy about what is going on with Peter. Also, Joby accuses Pam Austin of only being interested in Peter for the purpose of furthering her career.
We get a scene the next day beside a river, that looked suspiciously like the one I had seen in College Confidential, so I'm assuming it was on a studio back lot. At the lake, Chris Crosby (son of Bob, nephew of Bing) has one of the better songs in the movie: "Sweet Love". It probably would have been the best song in the movie, except he's followed by Judy Henkse singing "The Ballad of Little Romy". Judy is such a strong performer, she really trounces everyone with this performance and her later performance in the movie. Judy also gets a line of dialogue, maybe that was repayment for having to sing in her bathing suit!
Joby and Pam have found they have an attraction to each other, but Joby won't double cross his friend Peter who is back in New York trying to sell a Hootenanny on tour show and not having any luck. Once he's back in Missouri (the Hootenanny performers were supposed to be too busy to do a TV show, but they sure hang around the same town a long time) he finds Pam in love with Joby and Ruta is now in town also. Peter accepts the relationship between Pam and Joby, but is still cold toward Ruta.
The network agrees Peter can put on a special and if they like it, the network IBS (I'm guessing it stood for International Broadcasting System and NOT Irritable Bowel Syndrome!) will give him a permanent show. The network president also gives him an order that is my favorite line from the movie " None of that coffee house jazz with Beatniks flopping over each other", instead the show must have an Americana theme and be on a specific date. This causes problems for Peter, but luckily he finds a circus that he can co-book with and puts on the "All American Hootenanny Circus". We get Sheb Wooley singing "Building A Railroad" while some shirtless guys bang anvils, followed by The Gateway Trio on a trampoline (I"M NOT MAKING THIS UP!) singing "Foolish Questions", Judy Henkse doing a powerhouse of a song with "Wade In The Water", and The Brothers Four doing "Little Cory".
While all of this has been going on, Peter finds out that Ruta has quit her job just to be with him and that she's the one that got him the job with IBS - aah! what a nice (I'm being facetious here, in case you don't know) early 1960s message: a woman will and should do anything to get her man! (Modern women, you may now commence gagging!) The show closes with Sheb Wooley once again singing "Hootenanny Hoot" with the cast and audience joining in singing and dancing. This was the third time I had heard the song, once during the opening credits, once at the Hootenanny and this final time, leaving me with an earworm as all I can now hear over and over is that chorus of: "Hootenanny Hootenanny.. Hoot.. Hoot, Hootenanny Hootenanny..Hoot..Hoot..."
If you like to see the trailer for the movie, check out this link at TCM: Hootenanny Hoot
Below is a clip of Johnny Cash from the movie doing "Frankie's Man Johnny"