Kenny Mathieson finds out whether Great Balls ofFire is jumping with jive (below). while Trevor
Johnston looks at the new releases overleaf.
INDEX: 13 LISTINGS: WEEK ONE 19 WEEK TWO 20
SEX ’N’ DRUGS AND ROCK ’N’ ROLL
Kenny Mathieson breaks a croissant with the director of Great Balls OfFire, while below, Trevor Johnston takes a stab at some ofthe films which have sealed musical legends in celluloid.
When Jim McBride signed up to direct the Jerry Lee Lewis biopic Great Balls ofFire. he did so in the knowledge that he would be ‘making a hit movie,‘ but it turned out to be a rough ride. The first problem was that Terence Mallick‘s after-the-fall script was ‘an unremittineg grim chronicle of drugs and alcohol and wife-beating and depression and general fucked-upness.‘ If that wasn‘t enough to deal with. another little surprise lay in store just around the corner.
‘lt turned out that Orion had sort of left Terry with the impression that he could direct it if he wanted to,‘ a slightly hungover McBride (he had been celebrating his birthday the night before) told me between bites of breakfast at the San Sebastian Film Festival. ‘and they had to break the news to him that he couldn‘t.
‘My writing partner Jack Baran and I then said what we would like to do is the prequel to what
comettist Dix Beiderbecke, H I T j as impersonated by Kirk ! Douglas (sounds by Harry ' James). Gasp as ooralx MUSICAL rattles oti solo alter solo BIOPICS . without moving hisiingers. Much. I THE JDLSDH STDHY . (1946) Larry Parks gets the I "*5 GLENN "ll-LE" boot polish out to play the STORY (195‘) “mm good Jewish boy who mm . Stewart plays the populist m synagogue mm big band leader in this grow“, mac and relentlessly upbeat musical
Hollywood tame. Jolson himselt supplies the vocals on chestnuts like ’Mammy'. And you thought Robertson's Dollies were oiiensive. j -
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Terry wrote. concentrating on Jerry Lee‘s early career. and then Terry‘s script could be the sequel.‘ McBride stops. a bite half-way to his mouth. and breaks into a rueful grin at the memory ofa sequel. ‘1 don‘t think there will be any sequel now. somehow. . .'
Put simply. Great Balls ofl‘ire belly-ﬂopped in the crucial American box-office. but McBride remains unrepentant about their decision to focus on Lewis‘s brief ascent to stardom. rather than the long decline. which he sees as ‘a pretty boring story about a stupid man who keeps screwing up his life. whereas the period we have covered is easily his most intensely creative period as an artist.
'At the time Jerry Lee Lewis was portrayed as some kind of uncontrolled sex maniac who took advantage ofhis thirteen year-old cousin. but when you read Myra‘s account of their marriage. it is actually a sweet love story. We played Jerry Lee as this very arrogant person. which is true. but also as a little kid. which he still was. even at 20. She had much more wisdom then he did. but they really were like a couple of little kids.‘
Jerry Lee was ‘eventually lured into co-operating by lots of money.‘ but the issue of who would sing caused further headaches for McBride. The original Sun Studio cuts were ‘everybody‘s first choice‘. but their shortcomings
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megalomaniac pursuit oi an acting career. Alicionados oi miscasting might have a
you Jive Bunny tans out there.
and listen to the records.
Bilie Holliday records
I I LISZTDMAHIA(1975)
l HogerDaltrey is Franz Liszt.
: Paul Nicholas is Richard Wagner, Ringo Starr is The
Pope. Ken Russell is on
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twenty ioot phallus, listen
outiorthe music by. er. j Hick Wakeman. I THE BUDDY HOLLY
ILADY SINGS THE BLUES STOHY(1978)Gary Busey (1972) Jazz chanteuse Billie earns his crust as a beeiy Holiday's tragic story oi heavy these days but here racial harassment and drug he was slim enoughto play abuse is laid in sacrlliceto tamed Elvis Costello Diana Hoss’s impersonator and all-round
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as recordings ruled them out for reproduction in movie theatres (‘Sam Phillips revealed that one of the the secrets of the Sun sound was that there was an air-conditioner which didn‘t work right. and it was rumbling through all the fucking songs ever recorded there!‘).
The problems were exacerbated by Dennis ()uaid‘s determination to sing himself. At one point. Quaid and Lewis agreed to do halfeach. a decision quickly quashed by the director when he got to hear about it. Nonetheless. ()uaid. who has his own rock band. The Eclectics. was not easily dissauded.
‘Yeahf McBride admits. ‘there were big fights with Dennis Quaid over that — he even walked off the project fora few hours at one point. because I didn‘t want him to sing. To my mind. Dennis is a musical amateur. and I mean that in the best sense — he is a lover of music. but he doesn‘t really have the talent.
‘I can tell you this because he‘ll never see it. Bob Seger is a friend of Dennis‘s. and he took me aside one day and he said look. l‘m a real close friend of Dennis. and I can‘t say this to him. but he can‘t sing. and you musn‘t let him embarrass himself. I said thanks Bob. leave it to me to do the dirty stuff! A word from him would probably have solved the problem.
‘What finally resolved it for everybody was that we finally got Jerry Lee into the studio with a good band to re-record the songs. and he was just amazing. There is only one good reason to be around Jerry Lee. and that is when he is on and really playing. That is a good reason. though. That is a thrill.‘
Great Balls ofFire plays at Glagow Cannon The Forge, Odeon. Edinburgh: Odeon. Central: Caledonian, Regal, Strathclyde: Kelburne, La Scala, Odeons Ayr and Hamilton and UCI Clydebank l 0 from
Fri 24 Nov.
I BIRD (1988)This
shadowy rendering oiaito
giant Charlie Parker's all
too short liie has obviously been a labouroi love for director Clint Eastwwod. Forest Whittaker is line in
the central role. while the
f soundtrack is a notable
Bird's original solos onto
new backing tracks.
nerdy song-writing genius Holly. The last ten minutes could be just the time iora quick game at SpotThe
I SWEET DREAMS (1985) Jessica Lange shines in this splendid account at country star Patsy Ciine's troubled marriage and patchy career. The songs are moving. the film is too. And His Cline is another on the listoluniuckyairtraveliers. .'
The List 24 November— 7 December 198911