“Sometimes The Clothes Do Not Make The Man.”
I’m a little sad. This is the last narrative episode of season one for me to recap. I’m glad it’s a decent one. “Monkees at the Movies” aired April 17, 1967. It has many points in common with the previous episode, “Monkees in Manhattan.” 1. It was directed by Russ Mayberry and written by Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso. 2. It was shot earlier but aired later (shot #12 but aired #31). 3. The Monkees are involved in a showbiz story. 4. It has a similar structure of story, two romps, interview, and music performance.
The show starts off with the Monkees playing checkers on the beach. Micky tosses a piece away, and they all end up jumping around as the hot sand burns their feet. B-movie film director Kramm and his assistant Philo spot them. Kramm thinks they’re “typical teenagers doing typical dance moves” and wants them as extras in his newest beach movie. We’ve heard them called “typical teenagers” previously in “Monkees a la Mode” and this is a similar instance of the older generation trying to use the Monkees in an attempt to stay relevant. The Monkees aren’t impressed with Kramm’s previous movie, “Beach Party Honeymoon” and aren’t interested until they hear it pays $30 a day [Quite a lot for an alleged “low-budget” production – I think Kramm skims off the top, if you know what I mean]. At this, they scramble around with the red suits and surf boards used in the opening credits of the second season.
The Monkees walk onto the outdoor beach set and the incidental music is a sound-alike to “Hooray for Hollywood” (Johnny Mercer, Richard A. Whiting for the 1937 film Hollywood Hotel). Other episodes used this piece, including: “I’ve Got a Little Song Here,” “Monkees in Manhattan,” and “The Picture Frame.” This episode is where I’m able to most clearly hear the resemblance to the original song.
Kramm is shooting “I Married a Creature from Outta Town.” He explains to cast and crew, “It’s a message picture. And the message is: If we don’t finish it in ten days, we’re in trouble.” The Monkees creative teams are parodying a few different things here. First, Kramm’s film title alludes to the 1958 film I Married a Creature from Outer Space, directed by Gene Fowler Jr. (Fowler Jr. directed I Was a Teenage Werewolf which The Monkees parodied in the episode “I Was a Teenage Monster.”) Second, Kramm’s film is also low budget. The 1960s-70s was the “Golden Age” of the independent, sometimes exploitation b-movies, and drive-in sci-fi movies were part of this. Lastly, the introduction of Kramm’s leading man, Frankie Catalina.
Frankie struts out of his dressing tent with a blond coif. Frankie Catalina’s name is parody of beach party movie star Frankie Avalon, a geographical joke because Avalon is a city on the California island of Catalina. Beach party movies were popular in the 1960s, and Avalon was in six of them, as was Annette Funicello who appeared in Head. One of the last of this genre was called Catalina Caper, and featured Venita Wolf from the episode “I Was a 99-pound Weakling.” So that’s three types of movies being parodied, and possibly more that I’m not catching.
The crew prepares to shoot the volleyball scene. Yes-man Philo tells the Monkees the “versatile” Catalina can’t sing, is afraid of water, and breaks out in a rash around girls. In other words, he’s the perfect teen. (Philo was played by Hamilton Camp, part of folk duo Gibson and Camp and the voice of Greedy Smurf on The Smurfs.) Cramm tells Catalina to dominate the game but the energetic Monkees rule instead. Catalina accuses Davy of upstaging him and wants him fired. Then he insults Peter’s facial expressions, Mike’s hat, and calls Micky a “scarecrow in shorts.”
I had always thought that Bobby Sherman, who plays Frankie Catalina, was already a teen idol by the time this episode was shot and aired, but I was wrong. He recorded songs in the early ’60s and appeared on the show Shindig!, but it wasn’t until he was cast on the series Here Come the Brides in 1968 that he became a big star. His first top forty hit was “Little Woman” (Danny Janssen) in 1969. Sherman has another Monkees connection; in 1998 he was part of the Teen Idol Tour with Peter Noone and Davy Jones. (Micky Dolenz replaced Davy in 1999.)
At the Monkees place, they complain about Catalina. Micky busts out a different type of showbiz parody: Hamlet. Like they did to Ronnie in “One Man Shy,” they plan to make a fool of Frankie. They could have just quit the film. But let’s see what kind of havoc they shall create!
First, Davy replaces the makeup man at Catalina’s beachside dressing table. He makes up Catalina to look like the werewolf and causes all the girls scream. Next, Micky messes with his cue cards, so Frankie’s speech to a girl that probably should have ended with, “I love you” ends with, “You’re under arrest.” Micky trashes Frankie to the press, implying he tried to proposition and shack up with Micky’s sister. Then, when Catalina has to lip sync to the movie’s big song, Mike messes with the record speed, making Frankie have to move impossibly fast, then slow, then fast etc. Kramm furiously yells, “Cut!”
During these scenes, Kramm wears some familiar clothes. For example, we see him wear a blue/white shirt that Peter wore in “One Man Shy,” and a red checked shirt that Davy wore at the end of “The Prince and the Pauper.” He wears other things that appear on the Monkees in other episodes, but I won’t list them all. I bring this up because clearly they’re trying to convey that middle-aged Kramm is wearing these clothes to appear hip like the kids. Technically, since this episode was shot earlier Jerry Lester would have worn these first, but I think the point remains valid: Kramm is desperately clinging to youth.
Catalina, Kramm, and Philo watch the dailies, or actually a romp to “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” (Neil Diamond). There’s the footage of the Monkees ruining his scenes and footage of Catalina dancing ridiculously fast, and the Monkees in red-suspendered suits from the 2nd season opening. I’m not sold on their motivation (though I am wildly entertained). They only took the job for the $30 bucks a day. There’s no moral imperative here. Sure Kramm’s full of crap and Catalina’s an egomaniac, but if the Monkees shut the film down, the whole crew will be out of jobs [Editor’s note – Hey, hey! We’re here to destroy the local economy!]. When the romp ends, Frankie Catalina gets mad and accuses Kramm of “conspiracy” to ruin him. He quits and says he can “do a mystery at Mammoth Studios.” This confuses Philo and Cramm. Philo: “Mammoth Studios has been out of business for years!” Cramm: “That must be the mystery.”
Fictional studio Mammoth Studios seemed active during episode 12, “I’ve Got a Little Song Here,” but is abandoned when the crooks use it to lure the Monkees in the season 2 episode, “The Picture Frame.” I also learned that “Mammoth Studios” has been used in other film/television shows and books.
Monkees are at home. Peter makes an uncharacteristically cutting observation, “You know it’s going to be tough to replace a man like Frankie. After all where do you find a guy that can’t sing, act or surf?” Mike suggests Davy go out for the part. That’s a bit unfair since Davy can sing and act.
There’s another romp, this time to Boyce/Hart’s “Last Train to Clarksville.” Micky is a mustache twirling villain (wearing Babbitt’s cape and hat from “Monkee Mother”) and Mike is his somewhat reluctant assistant. Micky and Mike tie Peter to the railroad track. They’re hilariously incompetent at tying Peter and at one point, hand him the gun. Mike engineers the train to run Peter over. Here comes Davy to the rescue. Davy fights Mike and Micky, stops the train with his bare hands, and unties Peter. In an ironic “twist,” Peter punches Davy out, ties him to the track, and twirls his own evil mustache. It’s a cute filler romp that parodies silent films and has its own narrative.
Davy does NOT want to take over for Frankie. Mike concedes they can draw straws for it. But watch Mike and Micky’s faces, they’ve already decided Davy’s doing this. They literally draw straws and …
Now they have to sell the idea of Davy to Kramm. Mike and Peter are on the beach pretending to trade records. Peter trades all his precious records for the Davy Jones solo record. They use the real 1965 David Jones solo album, released by Colpix. Next, Micky, Mike, and Peter wear the gray suits and pose as the press, questioning Kramm about his replacement star. With every star Kramm and Philo mention, the Monkees say “he’s no Davy Jones.” All of this is a satirical comment on the making of a star. Simply puffing someone up using the media [Editor’s note – Brilliant, actually]. By the end of this scene, they’ve got Kramm saying “he’s no Davy Jones.”
Next, Micky takes over Kramm’s radio and becomes “DJ Micky the D.” All the “hit songs” Micky plays are Davy singing “Baby I love you” over and over. Funny comment on the banality of a lot of pop songs. These shenanigans have convinced Kramm he needs Davy to star in the movie. We find out that Philo is also Kramm’s nephew.
In a scene paralleling his intro of Frankie Catalina, Kramm now introduces Davy to the set. Davy comes out of the little tent with the same blonde hair and beach costume that Frankie had. He proceeds to behave the way Frankie did, showing off, shoving Micky and telling him to “watch it,” hamming it up for the cameras and so on. The Monkees look on incredulously as Davy asks Kramm, “did you get my good side?” Before the reshoot of the volleyball scene, Micky, Mike and Peter watch Davy arrogantly dismiss Philo and fuss with this hair. They agree that it’s gone to his head, and they need to save him from himself. The other Monkees keep the ball away from Davy easily as they play. As Kramm shouts, “Cut!,” Mike, Micky, and Peter grab Davy and wind him up in the volleyball net, burying his lower half in the sand.
Davy tells Kramm he quits; he’s a musician and the film business is spoiling his character. The editors echo him saying “character” to accompany a series of clips of Davy in various costumes: as a painter from “Monkees Get Out More Dirt,” a chef from “Monkees a la Cart,” the prince from “The Prince and the Paupers,” as a boxer from “Monkees in the Ring,” Whistler’s Mother” from “Monkee See, Monkee Die” and “One Man Shy,” and more.
There’s no story end on what happened to the production. I’m okay with that, I like leaving things to the imagination. Presumably they found a new star or shut down. It’s hard to tell from the sequence of events how many of Kramm’s ten days of filming the Monkees wasted, between antagonizing Frankie, and Davy leaving the production without a star. I almost feel bad for Kramm. While he is probably guilty of bad taste and trying to make a quick buck from teenage moviegoers, he didn’t do anything to actively harm or take advantage of the Monkees. They had nothing to lose or gain. It was entertaining to see how easily they were able to sabotage an independent film shoot. It’s one of those episodes where the Monkees are more bad boys than heroes. I can dig it.
After Davy quits, they go straight into the “Valleri” (Boyce/Hart) performance that they used in “Captain Crocodile.” Here, you can see the two of the shirts that Kramm wore in the episode. This time Peter is wearing the red checkered shirt and Davy the blue one. Mike wears the jean jacket and jeans that he wore in the earlier “Clarksville” romp. The jeans suit was Mike’s own clothing, and he also wore them in “The Pilot,” “Captain Crocodile,” and various interview segments.
“Valleri” is followed by an interview segment with Bob. The significant moment is when they address the comment that people say they don’t play their own instruments. Mike says a reporter asked this just as he was about to walk out on stage. “Wait a minute, I’m fixin’ to walk out there in front of 15,000 people. Man, If I don’t play my own instruments, I’m in a lot of trouble.” It’s a well-placed topic since the next episode was “Monkees on Tour.”
I mentioned in the intro that this was similar to “Monkees in Manhattan,” but “Monkees at the Movies” is the much stronger episode. The romps, the sight gags, and the satire were all right on the money. The guest cast was perfect in their roles. The Monkees writers and producers are exceptional at satirizing Hollywood. I’m pretty sure you have to know something well to make fun of it. While “Monkees in Manhattan” was mild, here we see the Monkees attacking the star system, the press, exploitative filmmakers, and the concept of adults capitalizing on the young. It’s also a meta-statement because they mock a Hollywood system that made the Monkees themselves stars. As short as this actually is, with the two romps, interview and music performance, The Monkees did a lot with a little.
If you are interested in seeing more of the Monkees shared wardrobe or more about who wore what when, the Facebook Group Monkee Magic has photo galleries organized on these topics.
Happy New Year!
by Bronwyn Knox
Every couple of weeks, “Monkees vs. Macheen” examines the crazy, spirited, Ben Franks-type world of the Pre-Fab Four: David Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork alias The Monkees.