Be My Guest (1965) ***

Every genre produced a B-movie spin-off and the pop music sub-genre, revitalized by the appearance of The Beatles, was soon submerged in quick knock-off numbers that acted primarily as a showcase for various, hopefully, up-and-coming bands and, alternatively, whoever was to hand at the time. They were not viewed as star-making vehicles and the chances of, for example, a debuting player like Raquel Welch in A Swingin’ Summer (1965) hitting the big time was remote.

So nobody was counting on floppy-haired youngster David Hemmings (Blow-Up, 1966) making a breakthrough in this ho-hum-plotted let’s-put-on-a-show hardly-slick production set in the musical netherworld of Brighton, England. Had he not surfaced as a potential future star it would remain better known for the appearances of Jerry Lee Lewis and Steve Marriott, predating his fame as guitarist with The Small Faces and Humble Pie.

Astonishingly, this was actually a sequel, Hemmings reprising the character Dave from Live It Up (1964) in which he played a band member. Here, relocated to Brighton where his parents have taken on a hotel, Dave, now an ex-musician, tries his hand at journalism and in due course re-forms his group to participate in a talent contest. 

There’s the requisite American lass, Erica (Andrea Monet), a dancer, and the usual baloney reason for her ending shacked up (though not with Dave – too early in the decade for such blatant permissiveness) in the parental hotel. Most of the running time is taken up with Dave and his band getting into scrapes such as falling out with the local planning officers and blameless ideas misconstrued by those with more lascivious minds.

There’s a marvellous almost 1940s Hollywood innocence about the entire endeavour coupled with a brave, though failed, attempt to inject Beatles-style humor into the proceedings. And if you had any doubt, Hemmings has definite screen appeal. The hair became a trademark, almost a sign of inherent rebelliousness, which suited many of the characters he played. He had a very open face and eyes that, more than revealing internal conflict, were better for reflecting what he saw.

Interesting, too, the difference the camera makes of a persona when an actor is the lead rather than a support. There’s time to play on the features, to let the actor relax, rather than pushing himself forward to steal what few scenes he is in. Previously, he had always been noticeable. Now he acquires an aura and even in a bauble like this he shines. Andrea Monet, in her only movie role, is certainly no rival in the star-building stakes.

And since the movie is not filled with the usual run – or quality – of British character actors there’s no one trying to steal scenes from him, though you might look out for veteran Avril Angers (The Family Way, 1966).

Of course, there’s only so long you can admire an actor when there’s not much genuine acting to do, and this script does him no favors drama-wise. But luckily the music covers up most of the other deficiencies. Apart from Jerry Lee Lewis and Steve Marriott, there’s a chance to gawp at The Zephyrs, The Nashville Teens, Joyce Blair and Kenny and the Wranglers.

Director Lance Comfort (Devils of Darkness, 1965) does his best.

Author: Brian Hannan

I am a published author of books about film - over a dozen to my name, the latest being "When Women Ruled Hollywood." As the title of the blog suggests, this is a site devoted to movies of the 1960s but since I go to the movies twice a week - an old-fashioned double-bill of my own choosing - I might occasionally slip in a review of a contemporary picture.

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