Released in the U.S. as Seaside Swingers — and promoted with the tag-line, “When the Dreamers meet the screamers it’s the swingin’est hit that that ever swung” — James Hill’s Every Day’s a Holiday was theoretically an attempt to do for Freddie and the Dreamers what Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night (1964) did for The Beatles. It failed at this. It pretty much failed at the box office — at least in the US where it mostly played on the bottom of a double-bill. That’s how I first saw it at the impressionable age of 10 or 11. I was, in fact, so impressed that I rushed right out and bought the soundtrack album, which I still have, even though nearly 50 years later, I’m still cheesed that it lacked some of the songs I most wanted.
The film mostly failed because Freddie and the Dreamers completely lack The Beatles’ charisma, and here they’re essentially supporting players in their own movie (which might be for the best) — but it succeeds admirably as an engaging look at very British pop culture in the British Invasion era. It’s also an almost anthropoligical look into the curious Brit institution known as the holiday camp, which most of us yanks know — if at all — only from the stylized depiction of it in Ken Russell’s Tommy (1975). Russell made it look like the over-regimented “fun” it was, but he also made it flow and choreographed it all. This more realistic look at it makes it look as weird as the British penchant for driving to the seaside and just gazing at the beach through the car windshield.
The film itself is essentially a musical comedy featuring John Leyton (a mildly popular pop star who’d appeared as himself in Richard Lester’s first feature, 1962’s It’s Trad, Dad, but is best known for being in The Great Escape and the brief-lived TV series Jericho), Mike Sarne (a dilletante whiz kid — writer, actor, pop star, film critic, director — who could do no wrong — at least until he directed Myra Breckinridge in 1970), and Grazina Frame (a likable, big-haired blonde who never quite made it) as a romantic triangle of young people working at the holiday camp. (Leyton is very working class, Sarne and Frame very upper class.) Freddie and the Dreamers are relegated to playing the camp’s cooks, and are given two songs — a dreadful novelty number and a pleasant one that sounds like a Freddie and the Dreamers song. (This is a film with two bathroom break numbers — the Freddie novelty song and the far, far worse John Leyton number, “Crazy Horse Salloon.”) It’s all likable, even if most of the songs are only barely what could be called rock. The film’s rather not “with it” tone early on when John Leyton fantasizes himself as Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole (in blackface and dressed like Al Jolson for some incomprehsible reason). The songs are, however, generally solid pop — and we also get a music hall number. (The movie is very British.) Sadly, director James Hill is no Richard Lester.– he only even tries to half-heartedly find his inner-Lester at the end of the movie — and he handles the proceedings like someone who’s seen lots of Hollywood musicals. Oddly, Hill did direct eight of the more stylish episodes of The Avengers TV series — mostly around the same time
What’s amazing about the film is the amount of talent — some of whom would go on to be much more famous than this modest film — on display. A pre-Oliver! Ron Moody is on hand as a bogus Italian music teacher. Hammer horror stalwart Michael Ripper plays Leyton’s father — and even sings. The Baker Twins — Jennifer and Susan — who would play decorative blonde twins in the 1967 Casino Royale and in Tommy, get the biggest roles of their carrers. Ken Russell regular Judith Paris shows up (she’s the redhead with the beehive) as one of the Gillian Lynne Dancers. Lynne herself had been in movies and onstage for years, and would go way beyond her clearly West Side Story influenced work here to such stage work as Cats and Phantom of the Opera. Nicholas Parsons — famous in Britain as a TV and radio host — plays a pretty funny knock-off of Victor Spinetti’s fussy (read: gay) TV director from A Hard Day’s Night. Look quick for Patrick Newell — later “Mother” in TV’s The Avengers — as a bartender. Moreover, the whole thing was shot by future director Nicolas Roeg.
The Asheville Film Society will screen Every Day’s a Holiday (Seaside Swingers) Tuesday, Sept. 9, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.