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  Golden Disc, The Toppermost Of The Poppermost
Year: 1958
Director: Don Sharp
Stars: Lee Patterson, Mary Steele, Terry Dene, Linda Gray, Ronald Adam, Peter Dyneley, David Jacobs, David Williams, Richard Turner, Marianne Stone, Redmond Phillips, Raymond Hodge, Stanely Platts, Peter Godsell, Dennis Lotis, Nancy Whiskey
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Joan Farmer (Mary Steele) is an aspiring singer topping the bill at this London theatre, but she quickly realises nobody is there to listen to her, the audience want to hear the support act, crooner Dennis Lotis, who they swoon over and file out of the auditorium to catch at the stage door while Joan goes on. She is greeted with the sight of hardly anyone in the seats at all, and when she is finished her act she mopes backstage to her dressing room, but there is something to cheer her up, an old showbiz pal, Harry Blair (Lee Patterson), who is back in the country trying to establish himself as a songwriter and producer. Then Joan's Aunt Sarah (Linda Gray) appears to lift her spirits further, inviting them both back to her latest acquisition...

That being a coffee bar, which was the in thing for socialising in 1958, especially when you could get all revved up for the evening on espresso rocket fuel, helpful for listening to the jukebox or if you were lucky, a live performer. This was the milieu The Golden Disc existed in, a blatant cash in on youth culture in a way that the Americans had been exploiting across the Atlantic: the lessons of the cheap and cheerful - and highly profitable - Bill Haley vehicle Rock Around the Clock were very well learned by all sections of the entertainment industry. The studio here was Butcher's, one of the most prolific B movie producers of the era, and knowing a good thing when they saw it they rushed this into cinemas.

They did not have a Bill Haley, nor an Elvis Presley for that matter, to present to the eager audience, but they did have Terry Dene, a name that while moderately successful in his day, found his name kept alive by TV stations broadcasting this film as filler, leading the unwary to not believe their eyes when they realised yes, someone did intend us to take this seriously. Much of that reaction was down to how director Don Sharp struggled to bring the material to life, and while his efforts were admirable they did tend towards the embarrassing end of the pop music spectrum, not that there was much that could be readily identifiable as rock 'n' roll. Not to modern ears, but back then the Brits wrestled with competing with the Americans like this.

By essentially placing their own spin on tunes from the United States, which meant cover versions of what had been hits over there (interesting that Pat Boone is mentioned as a rival to Terry when Boone became notorious for "sanitising" raunchier black numbers for the majority of the square, white public) and lots of skiffle. This in turn would lead to the interest in the blues, but 1958 was not quite ready to mainstream that yet, so Dene's songs were bland confections that somewhat belied his reputation for a stormy temper away from the stage, much of that thanks to the press winding him up to generate a story. Here butter wouldn't melt in his mouth, his aspiring pop star was wholesome enough to make your teeth itch, and he was not the only performer to be caught here as Joan and Harry devise a new record label.

They publicise their product with the use of Aunt Sarah's coffee bar, which does make the plot more captivated by the ins and outs of showbiz management than it is with promoting Dene's career, indeed a large part of the drama, such as it was, involved Joan negotiating contracts and deciding the best method of distribution, only broken up by scenes of the artistes singing. The only one of those who may be known this far ahead was Nancy Whiskey, who had a big success with a wistful skiffle ditty called Freight Train, though it's a mark of how famous she was, never mind the calibre of stars The Golden Disc secured, that probably most people will look blank should you mention her today. With impromptu dancing (which appeared awkwardly contrived) and a tone that veered from serious to romantic to comedic, it was patently obvious that they were trying to beat the American efforts at their own game, a pursuit that many a British endeavour would attempt far into the future. Silly ephemera, then, but very telling as to where the pop culture was at for this point in time.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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