When I was a kid my brother and I went to the movies a lot, like almost every Friday night or Saturday afternoon. There was only one theater in town, but the owners knew their patrons, and so there was always a kid-friendly movie showing. From 1962 to about 1970 I must have seen every Disney film, plus any other that appealed to the Baby Boomer audience.
Among these films were the Beach Party series, the first of which was released in 1963. The big name stars were Frankie Avalon, singer/heart-throb, and Annette Funicello, ex-mouseketeer. There were seven films in all, plus a slew of copy-cat films.
On a cold rainy day not too long ago I decided to revisit the Beach Party scene. That was easy since they are streaming on Netflix. About 15 minutes into the first film, I began to seriously lose interest. Amazing how what held one’s attention at age 8 just doesn’t cut it at age 57!
So I found myself fast forwarding though it, stopping to get a good look at the swimwear and the beach clothes. Now, that is where these movies really shine! What is really super about the costuming in these movies is that they did not try to put all the girls (or boys either, for that matter…) into one “look”. Annette, the demure Disney star, was dressed in more covered up two-piece suits or in maillots, whereas some of the other girls wore skimpier bikinis.
Why is that so good? Because it is authentic. In 1963 swimsuits were getting smaller, but some people were slower to reveal more skin, just like many women were reluctant to shorten their skirts. Moving through the series, which ended in 1966, the bikini became more prominent, and one piece suits all but disappeared. Still, Annette continued to be more covered up, due partly to her being pregnant in the last movie she filmed for the series!
Posters copyright American International Pictures