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  Up Jumped a Swagman To Be Frank With You
Year: 1965
Director: Christopher Miles
Stars: Frank Ifield, Annette Andre, Ronald Radd, Suzy Kendall, Richard Wattis, Donal Donnelly, Bryan Mosley, Martin Miller, Harvey Spencer, Carl Jaffe, Cyril Shaps, Frank Cox, Fred Cox, Joan Geary, William Mervyn, David Rendall, Gerald Harper
Genre: Musical, Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dave Kelly (Frank Ifield) travels from Australia to Great Britain with big ambitions: he wants to be a successful singer. He sings on the ship there, and once disembarked he goes to London with nothing but a few belongings and a guitar to strum accompaniment to his crooning, so he has nowhere to live and starts out his first day there by sleeping on a park bench and shaving in the fountain. However, as luck would have it sharing the bench is a tramp who happens to be a magician, and after adorning Dave with doves he gives him a contact in the showbiz industry, Mr Lever (Richard Wattis), a publisher. He takes a chance and shows up at the offices, and is ushered in by a secretary, Melissa (Suzy Kendall) who he is immediately smitten with...

Frank Ifield was a British born, Australian pop star of the nineteen-sixties, and as with pretty much every one of that kind he was given his own movie to demonstrate his pipes and with any luck his aptitude with acting. Alas, as with most of those singers who won a starring role in a would-be blockbuster, he was more comfortable on stage behind a microphone, and as a result he never acted in anything again, no wonder when you see his rather awkward screen persona in Up Jumped a Swagman (the title emphasising the Down Under origins that were part of his appeal). He was well known for his wide vocal range, often introducing a yodel into his stylings, and as if to recognise where his strength lay, he got to sing around a dozen tunes here.

Or mime to his singing, at any rate, but the public were keener on attending his concerts than they were seeing his movie, and while he had a major run of hits in the first half of the sixties, by the point this was released he was being superseded by new trends in pop as pioneered by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. He was notable for his international profile, however, doing far better than a number of his contemporaries, so you could understand why a movie was judged a saleable product, but, well, frankly it was a mess, a mishmash of jokes and crowbarred in songs as if the producers had difficulty making up their minds what sort of personality Ifield should project, be that a traditional Tommy Steele-esque entertainer or something owing more to A Hard Day's Night.

Obviously the former was going to suit him better as he was identified with the safer sixties pop that emerged from the imitative of America rock and rollers from the fifties, though Ifield tended to recreate old standards with his modern for the times yodelling sound, a family entertainer, basically, so it was little surprise when plonked down in an effort this surreal that he found it tough to hang onto his audience in the cinemas: he admitted himself he didn't know what on earth it was supposed to be about. Yet from such follies do cult movies grow, and though even in the twenty-first century when eccentric items like this can find a following, Up Jumped a Swagman remained rather obscure, it was worth taking a chance on for fans of the out of the ordinary hailing from his decade.

The plot? OK, it was difficult to summarise, but essentially it traced Dave's attempts to make it as a performer of the sort of ditties littering the action, with barely two minutes going by without him breaking out into song. However, there were complications, as at one scene it would seem like a satire of the pop biz, as our hero was put through a series of tests to work out if he was suitable for the big publicity push that not only verge on the bizarre but jump straight into it, and then in another he was strolling through London streets with his landlord's daughter Annette Andre (best known for TV series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)) while that landlord (Ronald Radd) staged his own Rififi-rip-off robbery in his flat upon the shop below, complete with a running gag about how much use an umbrella would be. It may have been a combination pulling in various directions at once, but if you had a sense of humour about it, this was actually very inventive in its tries at serving many entertainment masters, not wholly successful, but amusingly nutty.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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