Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Movie Memories: The Idolmaker

"I got a story to tell...!" Sorry, but I cannot get that song (called "Baby") out of my head. If you're like me and spent many hours watching HBO/Cinemax in the early 1980's, you too may have caught the movie that contains that song... "The Idolmaker". Based on a true story, the 1980 drama stars Ray Sharkey as Vinnie, a hotshot with plenty of musical talent... but not the right "look" to make it as a teen idol. During the course of the film, he takes two guys with the "look" (played by Paul Land and Peter Gallagher) and molds them into pop superstars. The movie does a really good job of recreating the rock 'n' roll world of the late 50s/early 60s... the "Army Elvis" years, before the British Invasion and Motown dominated the charts.

Ray Sharkey is superb in the title role (he received a Golden Globe for Best Actor In A Comedy or Musical for his efforts). He really draws you into his performance of the New York hustler whose control freak-ishness eventually gets the best of him. The movie also features Peter Gallagher's film debut as Guido, the shy busboy who is transformed by Vinnie into "Caesare". He even does his own singing, performing "Baby" and "However Dark The Night". "The Idolmaker" also includes supporting performances by Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis, Joe Pantoliano, Deney (Dance Fever) Terio, and "Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!" herself... Maureen McCormick.

Along with the strong acting, "The Idolmaker" has a soundtrack that'll get your head bobbing and your feet tapping! In addition to the songs performed by Peter Gallagher, the movie also includes such tunes as "Sweet Little Lover" and "Here Is My Love". Paul Land (as Tommy Dee) lip synchs these two songs, but they are actually sung by Jesse Frederick. There's a good chance that you've heard Jesse's voice before because he sings the themes to such TGIF sitcoms as "Full House", "Family Matters", and "Step By Step". The closing theme to "The Idolmaker" (titled "Ooh-Wee Baby") is peformed by girl group legend Darlene Love (who should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame... but that's a topic for another post). If they ever release the soundtrack on CD, I'm all over it!

I can't tell you how many times I watched "The Idolmaker" on cable during my early teen years. Over the past month or so, the pay channels TMC and Flix have been airing it on a regular basis. I hadn't seen it since those days in the basement watching cable as a kid, but I remembered most of it as if it were yesterday. If you haven't seen it and you're a fan of such movies as "Eddie and the Cruisers", "The Five Hearbeats", and "Hairspray", you should give "The Idolmaker" a spin.

Scenes from the "Idolmaker":

Here Is My Love- Tommy Dee (Paul Land)

Sweet Little Lover- Tommy Dee (Paul Land)

Baby- Caesare (Peter Gallagher)

However Dark the Night- Caesare (Peter Gallagher)


Taj said...

This made my day Malcolm!! Every time I mention this movie to people, they look at me like I've lost my mind.

It was this role that caused me to follow Gallagher through out his career (I drew the line at the OC)! And Ray Sharkey, how great was he! I absolutely loved him as Sonny Steelgrave on Wiseguy. A great actor with a tragic life.

The scene that sticks in my head the most is Caesare on stage all in white and Vinnie standing at the back, watching the crowd scream, with this look of joy, jealousy and sadness.

Ah, memories.

Malcolm said...

Thanks Taj! Reading comments like yours really help to make blog writing worthwhile.

After all these years, "Caesare" is still the role that I most associate with Peter Gallagher. When I saw "Sex, Lies, and Videotape", I said to myself, "Hey, that's Caesare from The Idolmaker!"

Good call on Ray Sharkey. My best friend was a huge fan of "Wiseguy". Unfortunately, I only caught bits and pieces of the Sonny Steelgrave episodes.

Earlier this evening, I thought to myself "I wonder if there are any clips of The Idolmaker on You Tube." I checked and was elated to find the 4 main music performances from the movie! I posted the links towards the bottom of the post. Unfortunately, the "However Dark the Night" clip ends right at the beginning of the Ray Sharkey shot you talked about.

I seem to recall that there was talk several years ago about Babyface producing a remake of "The Idolmaker". I haven't heard anything as of late. That's probably for the best.

Taj said...

I partook in every clip you posted. And I agree,a remake would be a bad idea.

Btw, Eddie And The Cruisers is another of those movies that people look at me strange about. It baffles me how so few people I've come across have ever seen it.

I fell completely in love with Michael Pare' and discovered a lifelong appreciation for Joe Pantoliano. I also discovered John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band which was an added bonus!

As I grew older and rewatched it many times, I realized that other than Tom Berenger, Ellen Barkin and Joey Pants, the acting was not so great. But it didn't take away my love of the movie it just made it more endearing to me.

pjazzypar said...

I am almost embarrassed to admit that I have never seen "The Idolmaker". I have Showtime and I know it comes on all the time, so I can't fathom why I haven't given it a look in all these years. I have seen all of the films that you categorized with "The Idolmaker" and enjoyed them immensely. I will definitely check it out now that it comes so highly rated.

Malcolm said...

Taj: I'm also baffled by the strange looks you get when you mention "Eddie and the Cruisers". Because of "On the Dark Side" and the fact that they made a sequel, I think that the cult for "Eddie and the Cruisers" is even bigger than that of "The Idolmaker". I picked up the CD for the soundtrack to "Eddie..." at a tent sale a few years ago. My favorite song is "Down On My Knees". Do you remember that one? They perform it during their concert on the college campus. I like when Michael Pare does the monologue that ends "... and you got the Cruisers for the nasty stuff." The monologue is actually on the CD!

Hey pjazzypar:

There are alot of movies like that for me (ones that come on all the time, but I have never taken the time to watch them). Hopefully Showtime won't stop playing "The Idolmaker" now that I have talked it up.

Anonymous said...

I remember watching this movie every single time it was on cable when I was a little girl. VCR's were not in houses yet, so everytime it aired I would watch it. Even when it was on at 2:00am. After watching the movie a few times, I ran out to TSS, remember that store? But I had no luck, then I ran to Alexander's Dept. Store and got the last LP Album. I remember it was $6.99. As a little girl, I thought it was a lot, but obviously at the same time, the best money ever spent. Thanks, Malcolm, for bringing back my childhood memories.

JB said...

I was one of those people watching HBO in the early 80s, just waiting for another showing of the Idolmaker. What a film! Thanks for giving it new life.


Malcolm said...

JB: Thanks for stopping by. "The Idolmaker" is one of the more underrated movies from the 1980s. There has been talk over the years of Hollywood doing a remake. About the only good thing I see coming from that is the possibility of the original movie gaining a new audience.

Anonymous said...

Hi Malcolm,

I grew up in the 80's and this movie,' The Idolmaker' was among my favorites. I watched it eveytime it came on! It has recently played on MGMHD or some channel like that (I apologize for not knowing the channel call letters). Anyhow, as I was watching, my brother told me that Ray Sharkey had passed away, which I knew about, however, he told me that Paul Land had passed away as well, which I did not know. I decided to do a search on Paul Land and, of course, I could not find any confirmation. I know he stopped acting in the early 90's and started his own construction company back in NJ company. I have read some postings claiming that he passed away from a traffic collision and some state from liver disease. Also, I had heard that Ray Sharkey had passed from AIDS due to needles from drug abuse but then I had read a posting he contracted it through a blood transfusion. Have you heard anything on Paul and his death and cause and about what was posted about Ray's blood tranfusion?

Thanks so much!

Malcolm Bondon said...

Anon: Thanks for visiting. I had no idea that Paul Land had died. The only info I could find is that he died in 2007. Neither imdb.com or Wikipedia had details on the cause of death.

It appears that Ray contracted the AIDS virus from sharing needles used to shoot up drugs. However, that hasn't been confirmed or denied.

Anonymous said...

This great movie has finally been released in Blu-ray. It looks and sounds great in high definition and DTS. Unfortunately one of the most underrated movies of all time. Just watched it. Still modern. Like it was shot last year. Precise directing (Hackford's big screen debut), great performances (as already mentioned), unforgettable songs ...

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