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Hootenanny Hoot (1963).

March 11, 2011

The Scoop:
A jaded New York television director (Peter Breck) is traveling through Missouri when he comes upon a small town having a hootenanny and discovers that – gasp! – country music exists and that people actually like it. Along the way he and his agent (Joby Baker) fall for the local hootenanny organizer (Pam Austin), which causes problems with the director’s city slicker TV producer ex-wife (Ruta Lee).

“Hootenanny Hoot” is essentially a country-lite answer to the wave of rock ‘n’ roll movies of the 1950s. The familiar plot – an outsider discovers some new kind of music that the kids really dig then tries to sell it to the world – is just a thin excuse to string together a series of musical performances that are meant to be the heart of the movie. Although the focus here is ostensibly on country music, there’s a heavy folk influence here, so the hootenannies come off as equal parts Nashville and Greenwich Village. The music isn’t bad, although except for Johnny Cash and Sheb Wooley, most of the performers aren’t that memorable.

It’s an entertaining enough diversion that has the look and feel of some of your favorite early 1960s sitcoms. It’s slight but fun, if you can get past some of the minor big city condescension that the characters (and filmmakers) show toward small town America.

Best Bit:
It’s Johnny Cash’s number, of course. His personality instantly outshines everyone else in the movie and the undertone of menace in his performance is a great, bitter antidote of the cleancut wholesomeness surrounding him.

Side Note:
The film was rushed into production to capitalize on the popularity of the short-lived TV series “Hootenanny,” and it features several acts that also appeared on the show.

Companion Viewing:
“Rock Around the Clock” (1956) and the other early rock ‘n’ roll features.

Gonna Put Me in the Movies.

Take a Look:
The trailer:

Johnny Cash steals the show:

The Brothers Four sing “Darling Cory”:

Sheb Wooley sings the full theme song, without visuals. Hootenanny, hootenanny, hoot-hoot!

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