#FBF: Beach Party Movies

When one thinks of the 1960s one typically thinks of the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, women’s liberation, burning draft cards, and…

Beach Party movies.

From 1963 to 1968 teens were wild for movies set on the beach. They all had the same basic formula. Teens/college kids, goofy grown ups, a surface level conflict, dancing, singing, surfing!

When the very first Beach Party movie released in 1963 (called Beach Party…who could’ve guessed?) it was a surprise hit, selling more tickets the weekend it opened than any of their competition.

The movie starred Frankie Avalon (at that time a 23 year old teen idol) and Annette Funicello (one of the original Mouseketeers). The duo starred in the majority of the follow up Beach Party movies including Pajama Party, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, and Thunder Alley.

Because Annette still had a contract with Disney, she needed permission to star in the beach films. They gave their blessing with one condition. Annette couldn’t wear a bikini. And she especially couldn’t show off her belly button!

Heaven forbid!

Lots of stars made cameos in the beach movies including:

Buster Keaton in Beach Blanket Bingo, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (yes, that’s the actual title…I know, I know…), and Sergeant Deadhead.

Mickey Rooney. Also in How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (goodness, that title just never stops being inappropriate, does it?).

Stevie Wonder in Muscle Beach Party and Bikini Beach.

Don Rickles in Muscle Beach Party, Beach Blanket Bingo, and Bikini Beach.

Shockingly, this genre of movie couldn’t go on forever. They jumped the shark before that was even a thing (Fonzie wouldn’t do that until 1977!) with a flick called — and I’m NOT making this up — Ghost in the Invisible Bikini.

It wasn’t the last Beach Party movie (even if it should have been), but it was the beginning of the end.

I mean, you know it’s bad when even Batman starts trolling you with a parody show called Surf’s Up! Joker’s Under!

It wasn’t long before Beach Party movies were replaced in popularity by Outlaw Biker films starting with The Wild Angels.

I mean, that’s not a jarring transition. Not at all!

Fun fact: Teens often threw Beach Bashes in the 1960s. They’d play games, roast marshmallows, and dance to The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean. I wrote a beach party scene into my soon-to-release novel All Manner of Things. You can preorder the book now at Baker Book House or wherever great books are sold.

4 Comments on “#FBF: Beach Party Movies

  1. I was there! I was so in love with Avalon. And I was THERE, there being California. I was Younger than the stars, but shockingly very aware the stories didn’t represent reality, even though I really, really wanted them to.

    I’ve devoted a huge number of memory cells to a song from one of the beach movies, “The Pinapple Cha Cha.” Pray for me.

    “Latin rhythms came to the island,
    Now they’re here to stay.
    Sweet lailanis cha cha the hula…”


    • Okay, I knew you were a California girl, but had NO IDEA you were a fan of the Beach Party movies. This makes me happy! How fun!

      Headed to YouTube to find that cha cha. 😉


  2. Beach Party was filmed on the Pacific Coast beaches in Spring of 1962. One of Cappy’s lines is “D is for Dallas. I may not go there.” The movie was released in 1963 when Kennedy had a great influence on teenage minds. He visited Palm Beach on the Atlantic Coast just before going to Dallas. With what happened, the blatant innocence that characterized Beach Party was never to return in the later films, although they were fun.


  3. BTW…The term “Beach Party” in a film first surfaces in 1959’s “Teenage Zombies”. Production information places the making after the first and most famous of teenage surf movie hit the theaters. In an interview prior to his death, lead actor Don Sullivan said the film was made when he was 25 years old. That would be around 1954-55, before “Gidget” was even in the cans. Whatever the truth, the whole concept had been around before American International ran with it.


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