Beach Party

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Beach Party
Original film poster
Directed by William Asher
Produced by Executive producer:
Samuel Z. Arkoff
Associate producer:
Robert Dillon
James H. Nicholson
Lou Rusoff
Written by Lou Rusoff
William Asher (uncredited)
Robert Dillon (uncredited)
Starring Robert Cummings
Dorothy Malone
Frankie Avalon
Annette Funicello
Morey Amsterdam
Music by Les Baxter
Cinematography Kay Norton
Editing by Homer Powell
Distributed by American International Pictures (AIP)
Release dates July 14, 1963
Running time 101 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $300,000[1]
Box office $2,300,000 (US/ Canada)[1][2]

Beach Party (1963) was the first of several beach party films from American International Pictures (AIP) aimed at a teen audience.[3] This film is often credited with creating the beach party film genre.[4][5][6][7]

One of the unique aspects of the AIP beach films is the absence of parents or any other authority figures.[8] This gang of independent, fun-loving teenagers are free to do whatever they want and live on their own terms. This first film includes a romantic sub-plot about two adult characters (Cummings and Malone) that was repeated only once in subsequent films, in 1964's Bikini Beach.


An anthropologist, Professor Robert Orville Sutwell is secretly studying the "wild mating habits" of Southern California teenagers who hang out at the beach and use strange surfing jargon. After he temporarily paralyzes Eric Von Zipper, the leader of the local outlaw motorcycle gang, who was making unwanted advances on Dolores , Dolores develops a crush on the Professor. Her surfing boyfriend Frankie, the local Big Kahuna, becomes jealous and begins flirting with Ava, a Hungarian waitress. Meanwhile, Sutwell's assistant Marianne further develops her crush on the Professor. Von Zipper and his gang plot to bring down Sutwell, only to be thwarted in the end by the surfing teenagers.



In the summer of 1962 Samuel Arkoff and Jim Nicholson were watching films in Italy with a view to purchasing some for release in the US. They saw one about a middle-aged man who falls in love with a young woman who spends all her time at a beach resort. They did not like the movie but were attracted by the setting, and commissioned Lou Rusoff to write a film set at the beach.[9]

Rusoff's script was apparently more in line with AIP's traditional fare of children getting in trouble with their parents. It was shown to William Asher who agreed to make the movie if it became more of a musical comedy about teenagers having a good time and not getting in trouble.[10] Arkoff and Nicholson agreed so Asher rewrote the script with Robert Dillon. He was asked not to take credit by Samuel Arkoff who told them that Lou Rusoff was dying of brain cancer. Asher agreed and Rusoff has sole credit; he died in June 1963.[10]

Annette Funicello was always first choice for the female lead. AIP tried to get Fabian Forte to play opposite her but he was under contract to 20th Century Fox so Frankie Avalon was cast instead.[9] John Ashley had made a number of movies for American International and was cast to play Avalon's best friend.

Production notes[edit]

The film was shot over three week starting in March 1963.[1]

Although Mickey Dora was Bob Cummings stunt surfer for long-shots, Cummings was already a competent surfer himself by the time he starred in Beach Party as the ungainly Professor. Films of him surfing in Hawaii on the Ken Murray's Hollywood television show feature a muscular young Bob cruising along comfortably on an old style long board.[citation needed]

Contrary to the popular opinion that Annette Funicello was not allowed to be seen in a bikini bathing suit in these films for AIP (or that she was not even allowed to wear a two-piece suit or show her navel), Funicello does indeed wear a pink two-piece in this very first film, shows her navel in a two-piece in Muscle Beach Party, and wears a bikini in Bikini Beach.[citation needed]

In one of the first instances of film cross-selling, AIP took advantage of the target demographic of this film to promote another in a different genre, when at the very end of the credits – after giving "A Special thanks" to Vincent Price for appearing as Big Daddy – the title reads "Soon to be seen in The Haunted Palace," a AIP horror film that would be released on August 28, 1963 – just weeks after the release of Beach Party.


The music in Beach Party was written specifically for the film and featured a score that picked up several cues from the songs used – a common move for most musicals, but a rarity for a B-grade studio teen film filled with pop songs – even today.[11] Les Baxter composed this score, as well as most of the films that followed, including Sergeant Deadhead, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine and Fireball 500.

Gary Usher and Roger Christian wrote three songs that appear in the film: the title track, performed by Avalon and Funicello; and "Swingin' and a-Surfin'" and "Secret Surfing Spot," both performed by Dick Dale and the Del Tones.

Bob Marcucci and Russ Faith wrote "Don't Stop Now," performed by Avalon.

Guy Hemric and Jerry Styner wrote two songs for Funicello featured in the film: "Treat Him Nicely," which Funicello performs while harmonizing with herself; and "Promise Me Anything (But Give Me Love)" performed off-screen and presented as source music.


  • "Beach Party Tonight" - Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello
  • "Secret Surfin' Spot" - Dick Dale
  • "Swingin' and Surfin'" - Dick Dale
  • "Don't Stop Now" - Frankie Avalon
  • "Treat Him Nicely" - Annette Funicello
  • "Promise Me Anything (But Give Me Love)" - Annette Funicello

Cultural references[edit]

The Rat Pack motorcycle gang is largely a parody of The Wild One (1953); Harvey Lembeck's "Eric Von Zipper" spoofs Marlon Brando's performance as the leader of the gang; however, unlike the Brando character he is generally clumsy and inept.

Big Daddy's club in this film (and Cappy's Place in Muscle Beach Party) is a reference to Southern California beach coffeehouses in general and Cafe Frankenstein in particular.

Professor Sutcliff's study of the post adolescent surfing culture is to be called "The Sutcliff Report" after "The Kinsey Report".


Beach Party was the highest grossing film AIP had made to that date, earning more its opening weekend than any of its competition.[8]

The Golden Laurel, which had no ceremony but published its award results in the trade magazine Motion Picture Exhibitor from 1958 to 1971, gave this film The Golden Laurel for Sleeper of the Year in 1964.

Cultural Impact[edit]

With this film, AIP created a new sub-genre – the beach party film. Several other studios attempted to imitate the AIP Beach Party formula, but never with equal success.[4][5][6] Films of the genre include: Surf Party, Ride the Wild Surf, and For Those Who Think Young (all from 1964), A Swingin' Summer and Beach Ball (both 1965), Catalina Caper and It's a Bikini World (from 1967).

The 1996 film That Thing You Do! features a parody of 1960s beach movies. In the film, the fictional singing group called The Wonders star as "Cap'n Geech and The Shrimpshack Shooters." The movie within the movie is titled Weekend at Party Pier and features characters similar to Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.

William Asher later said that "the key to these pictures is lots of flesh but no sex. It's all good clean fun. No hearts are broken and virginity prevails."[12]

Films in the series[edit]

Many of the same cast – and much of the same crew – were involved in the AIP films that followed. Sometimes character names changed (like in Pajama Party, Ski Party and Sergeant Deadhead), and not all were beach-based (Ski Party in the mountains, Ghost in the Invisible Bikini in a haunted house), but the basic elements and tone remained the same:

* Avalon appeared in every film except The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, and Thunder Alley. Funicello appeared in every film except Sergeant Deadhead and The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini.

At one stage there was talk of a Beach Party TV series but this did not eventuate.[13]


  1. ^ a b c Tom Lisanti, Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969, McFarland 2005, p71-80
  2. ^ "Top Rental Features of 1963", Variety, 8 January 1964 p 71. Please note figures are rentals as opposed to total gross.
  3. ^ Gary A. Smith, The American International Pictures Video Guide, McFarland 2009 p 21
  4. ^ a b McParland, p. 21
  5. ^ a b Burns, p. 47
  6. ^ a b Betrock, pp. 100-105
  7. ^ Warshaw, pp. 270-271
  8. ^ a b Arkoff, pp. 134
  9. ^ a b Samuel Z Arkoff & Richard Turbo, Flying Through Hollywood By the Seat of My Pants, Birch Lane Press, 1992 p 127-134
  10. ^ a b Mark McGee, Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures, McFarland, 1996 p221- 227
  11. ^ Mars
  12. ^ HOLLYWOOD BEACH BONANZA By PETER BARTHOLLYWOOD.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 13 Dec 1964: X9.
  13. ^ Christus Portrayal No Longer 'Types': Own Career Cited by Hunter; Happy Days for Freelancers Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 22 Jan 1965: c11.
  • Arkoff, Sam (1992). Flying Through Hollywood By The Seat Of My Pants: From the Man Who Brought You I Was a Teenage Werewolf and Muscle Beach Party. Birch Lane Press. ISBN 1-55972-107-3. 
  • Betrock, Alan (1986). The I Was a Teenage Juvenile Delinquent Rock ‘n’ Roll Horror Beach Party Movie Book – A Complete Guide to the Teen Exploitation Film: 1954-1969. New York: St. Martin’s Press. pp. 100–105. ISBN 0-312-40293-7. 
  • Burns, Walter (Fall 2003). "Song of the Beach: AIP is the Studio Responsible for the Only Successful Musical Series Ever Made in Hollywood". CinemaEditor Magazine 53: 46–51. 
  • Chidester, Brian; Priore, Domenic (2008). Pop Surf Culture: Music, Design, Film, and Fashion from the Bohemian Surf Boom. Santa Monica: Santa Monica Press. pp. 198–203. ISBN 978-1-59580-035-0. 
  • McParland, Stephen J. (1994). It's Party Time – A Musical Appreciation of the Beach Party Film Genre. Riverside, California, USA: PTB Productions. ISBN 0-9601880-2-9. 
  • Warshaw, Matt, ed. (2003). "Hollywood and Surfing". The Encyclopedia of Surfing. Harcourt, Inc. pp. 270–271. ISBN 0-15-100579-6. 

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