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Summer Holiday (1962)


Main image of Summer Holiday (1962)
Directed byPeter Yates
©Ivy Productions
Presented byElstree Distributors
Produced byKenneth Harper
Original Story/ScreenplayPeter Myers
 Ronald Cass
CinematographyJohn Wilcox
Music and LyricsPeter Myers
 Ronald Cass
Musical DirectorStanley Black

Cast: Cliff Richard (Don); Lauri Peters (Barbara Winters); Melvyn Hayes (Cyril); Una Stubbs (Sandy); Teddy Green (Steve); Madge Ryan (Stella Winters); The Shadows (themselves)

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Four young bus mechanics travel across Europe to Athens by bus on their summer holiday. En-route, they meet four girls (one who starts out as a boy), and eventually arrive at their destination with the boy/girl's mother in pursuit. They have many diversions, including romance, song and dance.

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Summer Holiday (d. Peter Yates, 1962) follows an established pattern of turning early rockers into family entertainers and distancing them from associations with juvenile delinquency. This began as early as 1958 with Tommy Steele and The Duke Wore Jeans (d. Gerald Thomas).

The film's opening sequence is among the most iconic of its era. Into the grey world of early '60s 'realism' comes Cliff Richard, driving his red bus and - literally - bringing colour to those around him. The transition to colour (following The Wizard of Oz , US, 1939) indicates that we are in fantasy territory - in folklore, Cliff would be the pixie/fairy who brings good tidings - and there never was a bus mechanic like this: his over-enthusiasm immediately sets him apart.

'Innocence' is the term often used for Summer Holiday, and it might have been made to illustrate the notion that pop music of the pre-Beatles era provides 'a perpetual busman's holiday'. Gidget (US, 1959), Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii (US, 1961), Beach Party (US, 1963) and Every Day's a Holiday (d. James Hill, 1964) all associate pop with summer at the beach and images of the teenager drawn from advertising rather than reality (the rear of Cliff's bus even has ads for Fidelity radios and Dolcis shoes).

Cliff has strong support: from Broadway, Lauri Peters and choreographer Herbert Ross; from the West End, writers Peter Myers and Ronnie Cass, dancers Una Stubbs and Teddy Green and Grazina Frame dubbing Lauri Peters' vocals. The appearance of Nicholas Phipps (associated with toff roles, as in Spring in Park Lane, d. Herbert Wilcox, 1948) as a British consular official is a neat acknowledgement of an earlier tradition.

Summer Holiday skilfully mixes commercial pop with mainstream show and swing numbers. Frequent opportunities for song and dance include a commedia dell' arte mime and a Yugoslav wedding dance. 'Really Waltzing' is a mass of swirling colour, while 'Stranger In Town' features a touch of the Gene Kellys, arranged by Stanley Black with Latin rhythms, trad jazz and blues.

The 'young ones' remain honest and decent throughout, unlike Barbara's mother Stella (Madge Ryan), a musical-comedy American 'mother from hell', self-seeking, avaricious and prejudiced towards Don (a 'hoodlum'). But being a fantasy, Summer Holiday ends with a reconciliation between youth and middle-age, thus reinforcing traditional values of successful business enterprise and marriage.

The film remains popular in folk memory, and there was even a 1997 stage production.

Roger Philip Mellor

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Seven days (4:00)
2. 'Is this me here?' (4:22)
3. The next time (2:49)
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Expresso Bongo (1959)
Young Ones, The (1961)
Moody, Ron (1924-)
Richard, Cliff (1940-)
Stubbs, Una (1937-)
Yates, Peter (1928-2011)