American Hot Wax

American Hot Wax is a 1978 biographical film directed by Floyd Mutrux with a screenplay John Kaye from a story by Art Linson. The film tells the story of pioneering disc jockey Alan Freed, who was instrumental in introducing and popularizing rock and roll in the 1950s. Freed is often credited with coining the term "Rock 'n' Roll." The film starred Tim McIntire as Freed, Fran Drescher as Freed's feisty secretary, Laraine Newman as a young aspiring songwriter (based on Carole King), Melanie Chartoff as a young singer, Jeff Altman as a sleazy record promoter who is told off by everybody he approaches, Jay Leno as Freed's mischievous limousine driver, Moosie Drier in a warmly reviewed performance as the head of a Buddy Holly fan club with at least 5,000 members, and a bit part by a 21-year-old Cameron Crowe. It also featured performances by Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Ford, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and the Brooklyn Dreams as "Professor La Plano and The Planotones". The film was not a box-office success.

American Hot Wax
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFloyd Mutrux
Produced byArt Linson
Screenplay byJohn Kaye
Story byArt Linson
StarringTim McIntire
Fran Drescher
Jay Leno
Laraine Newman
Moosie Drier
Jeff Altman
John Lehne
Richard Perry
Chuck Berry
Jerry Lee Lewis
Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Frankie Ford
Charles Greene
Music byKenny Vance
CinematographyWilliam A. Fraker
Edited byRonald J. Fagan
Melvin Shapiro
Danford B. Greene (sup)
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • March 17, 1978 (1978-03-17)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$11,000,000[1]

A&M Records released a two-record soundtrack album featuring the Brooklyn Paramount performances from the movie on record one (in stereo) and original recordings used throughout the film on record two (all in mono). The soundtrack reached number 31 on the Billboard charts, leaving some to wonder just how that was possible with such meager public exposure.

Producer Art Linson discusses the movie's production and failure at the box office in his book What Just Happened? Bitter Hollywood Tales from the Front Line.



The Chesterfields

The Delights

Timmy and The Tulips (erroneously shown as "Timmy and The Tangerines" in the end credits)

The Planotones


The film was a box office bomb. However, head of Paramount Michael Eisner loved the movie and saw it nearly a dozen times.[2] Critic Pauline Kael praised the performances and approvingly called the film "a super B-movie" and "trashily enjoyable".[3] Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that "'American Hot Wax,' which as a plot so thin you could thread a needle with it, chooses to see the era strictly in terms of the B-movie melodramas it produced."[4] Arthur D. Murphy of Variety called the film "unpretentious and enjoyable."[5] Gene Siskel gave the film three stars out of four and wrote, "At its worst, 'Hot Wax' comes off as a 92-minute, 'blasts-from-the-past,' TV record offer ... At its best, the film does manage to suggest some of the frenzied innocence of rock's early days, before rock became a multibillion-dollar industry."[6] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times found the film "enjoyable and at times poignant," although he noted the film seemed "evasive" on the issue of "Freed's involvement with payola (a word, incidentally, never heard in the film)."[7] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote, "Director Floyd Mutrux and screenwriter John Kaye evidently fail to perceive that the liveliest elements in their movie contradict their admiring view of Freed as a pop-culture hero and martyr ... the filmmakers insist on looking at their subject matter through rose-colored glasses."[8]


  1. Box Office Information for American Hot Wax. The Numbers. Retrieved July 18, 2014.
  2. What to Do for an Encore: CRITIC AT LARGE Champlin, Charles. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 07 July 1978: h1.
  3. Kael, Pauline (2011) [1991]. 5001 Nights at the Movies. New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-250-03357-4.
  4. Maslin, Janet (March 17, 1978). "Screen: 'American Hot Wax'". The New York Times. C13.
  5. Murphy, Arthur D. (March 15, 1978). "Film Reviews: American Hot Wax". Variety. 21.
  6. Siskel, Gene (March 21, 1978). "Phonographic memory blurs the 'Hot Wax' facts". Chicago Tribune. Section 4, p. 5.
  7. Thomas, Kevin (March 17, 1978). "Freed as a Hero in 'Hot Wax'". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 30.
  8. Arnold, Gary (March 18, 1978). "'Hot Wax' Waxes Nostalgic". The Washington Post. C7.
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