Wonderful Life (1964 film)
Wonderful Life (US: Swingers' Paradise) is a 1964 British film made as a vehicle for pop star Cliff Richard. It is the third in a series of film musicals that also included The Young Ones and Summer Holiday.
|Directed by||Sidney J. Furie|
|Produced by||Kenneth Harper|
|Written by||Peter Myers and Ronald Cass|
|Music by||Stanley Black|
|Edited by||Jack Slade|
Associated British Picture Corporation
|Distributed by||Warner-Pathé (UK)|
American International Pictures (US)
|2 July 1964 (World Premiere, London)|
|113 minutes (UK)|
83 minutes (US)
Written by Peter Myers and Ronald Cass, directed by Sidney J. Furie, choreographed by Gillian Lynne, it also stars Susan Hampshire, Una Stubbs, Melvyn Hayes, Richard O'Sullivan, Gerald Harper and The Shadows. The movie was filmed in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria city in Spain, and the "desert" scenes shot on Maspalomas sand dunes on Gran Canaria island, Canary Islands.
Cliff Richard stars as Jonnie, who works as a waiter on a travelling ferry with his bandmates (The Shadows) and his fellow waiter friends. Through a pyrotechnics accident, the power cuts on the ferry and the group are fired on the spot, stranded on a tiny boat with nothing but their instruments. They float around in the Mediterranean until they reach the Canary Islands, where they spot a young woman wearing tartan clothing, and they try to follow her, accidentally confusing her with a Scottish man wearing a kilt.
The group ends up in a sand dune, miserable and confused, wondering what to do next. They are briefly confused by a mirage of a ferry but then decide to set off again in the direction they were originally heading. Jonnie spots a figure on an out-of-control camel and rushes to save her, but discovers that he had accidentally ruined a scene being filmed for a movie. Despite the disruption, Lloyd Davis the director (Walter Slezak) offers him a job as a stunt double and gives the rest of Jonnie's group jobs as runners.
Later that evening, Jonnie spots a blonde woman sitting at his opposite table reading from a script. Her name is Jenny (Susan Hampshire) and she explains that she was the woman in tartan that he and his group had met earlier, as well as the woman that he tried to "save" on the camel, wearing a dark wig to portray the daughter of a sultan. She is very nervous because she doesn't believe that she is a good enough actress to be the leading lady but Jonnie tells her to ignore the cameras and the crew watching her, and imagine that she isn't acting, as if she really was a princess. However, the advice does not help her and she continues to irritate Lloyd, who rants behind the scenes to the leading man (Gerald Harper) about his regret of hiring her.
Between filming scenes, Jonnie's band perform for the bored cast, realising that they could cheer everyone up by making the movie a musical, disguising their spare camera behind various objects, such as a crate of tea, a touring cart, and a wooden box buried in the ground, inspired by the Trojan horse. They decide not to tell Jenny, fearing it will pressurise her, filming much of their scenes when the official cameras are rolling, or when the original crew had finished for the day, but Jonnie's uptight friend Edward (Richard O'Sullivan) scalds them for their ignorance of filmmaking and their beliefs that it is easy to make one that would be successful. As Edward talks about significant moments in film history, a montage is shown of the characters impersonating movie actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood, including Al Jolson's famous blackface scene in The Jazz Singer, Charlie Chaplin outwitting a group of policemen, a satire of Errol Flynn's Objective Burma, a scene from West Side Story, the Ursula Andress bikini scene from Dr. No, and a running gag with Greta Garbo, Harpo and Groucho Marx gate crashing a scene.
The group successfully race through the filming under Lloyd and Jenny's noses, filming a musical number by telling Jenny to sing her script along with the music secretly played by Jonnie's band hiding behind a wall. They are caught by an eavesdropping Lloyd who threatens to fire them, but Jonnie convinces him not to. Lloyd smugly tells him that he will allow them to continue but not with any of his equipment. Jonnie and his friends decide to film when the actual team is not around to witness, and borrow a camera from Miguel, a Spanish photographer that they met in a restaurant when they first arrived on the Islands, but worry about filming the finale without Jenny's knowledge. They discuss a plan in a restaurant about secretly filming before Lloyd, who is frequently late, arrives on the set, and Jonnie's friends joke about how deceiving he is, unaware that Lloyd and Jenny are on an adjacent table. It is then revealed that Lloyd is Jenny's father and he hired her through nepotism, and vows to hinder their work as he comforts her, ordering her not to go to the set on the day.
The next day, Jonnie finds Jenny at the nearest swimming pool and begs her to help them, and she agrees, snapping that she never wants to see him again. When filming is over, the mood is melancholy, surprisingly in both camps; Lloyd is disappointed that his final cut for the film isn't up to his standard and Jonnie isn't happy about the musical adaptation either. They decide to join forces and combine their movies, rewriting the tale as a story about two brothers and a princess. It is shown at the movie premiere and the audience's reception is positive. Lloyd expresses his gratitude to Jonnie during the applause and tells him that Jenny wants to marry him. Jonnie is confused, but then remembers that he and Jenny agreed to marry after filming during one of their rehearsal breaks.
- Cliff Richard as Johnnie
- Walter Slezak as Lloyd Davis
- Susan Hampshire as Jenny Taylor
- Hank Marvin as Hank (The Shadows)
- Bruce Welch as Bruce (The Shadows)
- Brian Bennett as Brian (The Shadows)
- John Rostill as John (The Shadows)
- Melvyn Hayes as Jerry
- Richard O'Sullivan as Edward
- Una Stubbs as Barbara Tate the screenwriter
- Derek Bond as Douglas Leslie
- Gerald Harper as Sheik / Scotsman / Harold
- Joseph Cuby as Miguel [credited as Joe Cuby]
- John Walker (ed.) Halliwell's Film and Video Guide 2000, London: Harper Collins, 1999, p.922
- Overview for Swingers' Paradise (1965)", Turner Classic Movies page