Let’s Have A Ski Party!

I love the winter months but when the temperature starts to drop and the nights get longer I often enjoy relaxing with some lighthearted movies that don’t require a lot from me. SKI PARTY (1965) is the kind of mindless entertainment that fits the bill perfectly. SKI PARTY was one of the first films to team up aging teen idols Frankie Avalon (star of the Beach Party movies) and Dwayne Hickman (star of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis; 1959-1963). The two went on to make How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965), Sergeant Dead Head (1965) and Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965) together but SKI PARTY is one of the best movies of the bunch. That minor distinction might not be enough to hold your interest but SKI PARTY has some other worthwhile attributes that may appeal to viewers with more discriminating tastes than my own.

The movie was produced by Gene Corman (Roger Corman’s brother), along with Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson for AIP (American International Pictures). It’s a low-budget teen comedy that was shot in a few months but it benefits from Alan Rafkin’s direction and Robert Kaufman’s script. Before making SKI PARTY the two men had worked on some of the most popular television shows produced in the early ’60s including The Bob Newhart Show (1961-1962), 77 Sunset Strip (1962), The Dick Van Dyke Show (1962-64), The Patty Duke Show (1964), Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. (1965), I Dream of Jeannie (1965) and The Donna Reed Show (1965). They knew how to generate good-natured laughs from an audience and they used their abilities to inject SKI PARTY with some surprisingly adult humor.

SKI PARTY tells the youthful story of a couple of sexually frustrated college boys (Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman) who are desperately pursuing the affection of two female classmates (Deborah Walley and Yvonne Craig). When their attempts at romance fail they decide to disguise themselves as British schoolgirls during a college ski trip so they can mingle with their unsuspecting classmates and learn what women want from a potential boyfriend. But things don’t exactly go as planned. Frankie Avalon ends up with a broken leg while trying to woo a sexy Swedish ski instructor (Bobbi Shaw) and the school stud (Aron Kincaid) becomes infatuated with Dwayne Hickman’s female persona. This incredibly silly movie takes some of its comedy cues from the Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (1959) with Frankie Avalon in Tony Curtis’ role and Dwayne Hickman doing his best Jack Lemmon impersonation. Unfortunately SKI PARTY isn’t as smart or as funny as that classic film but it does contain some subversive humor and lots of oddball antics.

Like the Beach Party movies that it imitates, the best parts of SKI PARTY are the musical numbers. Frankie Avalon gets to sing a fun rock track called “Lots, Lots More” and the rest of the film’s main cast (Dwayne Hickman, Deborah Walley and Yvonne Craig) join him for “Paintin’ the Town,” which is sung in a sing-along style as the couples take a sleigh ride. Female pop sensation Lesley Gore shows up briefly and belts out a catchy Marvin Hamlisch tune called “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” while the surf band The Hondells perform the movie’s title track and closing number “The Gasser.” But the real musical highlight of SKI PARTY is a great performance by the legendary “Godfather of Soul” himself, James Brown. Brown, along with his backing band The Famous Flames, interact with the rest of the cast in a funny scene and then they break out in a lively version of their incredible hit song “I Got You (I Feel Good).” It’s a totally unexpected moment and really livens up the movie. Afterward James Brown expressed how tough it was to film SKI PARTY in his 1986 autobiography but he also seemed to enjoy working with Frankie Avalon.

SKI PARTY was shot on location at a ski resort in Idaho surrounded by the Sawtooth National Forest. My father worked as a forester in Idaho for a while when I was growing up so I spent some time in the area and it’s a beautiful place. Director Alan Rafkin did a nice job of capturing the natural landscape as well as the action-packed skiing sequences. If you’ve come to expect the static direction that’s commonplace in the Beach Party movies you might be slightly surprised by Alan Rafkin’s directing choices. His camera takes some unexpected chances and he isn’t afraid to focus on the gyrating hips of his actors. He also knows how to frame his female stars and both Deborah Walley & Yvonne Craig look lovely throughout the film.

Deborah Wally was a popular actress in the early ‘60s mainly due to her starring role in Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) but she’s not remembered as much as her co-star Yvonne Craig. Two years after making SKI PARTY Yvonne Craig made TV history as one of the first female superheroes on television playing Batgirl in the popular television series Batman (1967-1968). Craig is terrific here and she manages to steal just about every scene that she appears in with Deborah Wally thanks to her natural performance and wry sense of humor. Another actress that makes a brief but notable appearance in SKI PARTY is Frankie Avalon’s longtime costar Annette Funicello as one of his college proffesors, which is a kick to see if you’re a fan of the Beach Party movies they made together.

SKI PARTY is available on DVD as part of the excellent Frankie & Annette MGM Movie Legends Collection and it can currently be streamed on Netflix instant view if you’re a member. It’s a frivolous winter movie with some exceptional musical numbers. If you’re in the mood for a light-hearted comedy that the whole family can enjoy, SKI PARTY might be a good cure for the winter doldrums

22 Responses Let’s Have A Ski Party!
Posted By Peter Nellhaus : December 30, 2010 4:51 pm

My jaw drops every time I see that little white girl go up to James Brown to tell him she has all his records.

Posted By Peter Nellhaus : December 30, 2010 4:51 pm

My jaw drops every time I see that little white girl go up to James Brown to tell him she has all his records.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : December 30, 2010 5:05 pm

Yvonne Craig was a cool little white girl. I wouldn’t be too surprised if she actually did own a few James Brown records.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : December 30, 2010 5:05 pm

Yvonne Craig was a cool little white girl. I wouldn’t be too surprised if she actually did own a few James Brown records.

Posted By ratzkywatzky : December 30, 2010 5:20 pm

I remember watching this on tv while talking on the telephone with my best friend in middle school. At one point, he asked me to look it up in my movie guide. (I don’t remember if it was Maltin’s Movies on TV, or Steven H. Schuerer’s TV Movies. The movie guide was a new and novel concept at the time.) Whoever it was, their summation of the movie included the line (I’m paraphrasing): “Ski Party is for teenagers who can carry on a telephone conversation while watching a movie.”

Posted By ratzkywatzky : December 30, 2010 5:20 pm

I remember watching this on tv while talking on the telephone with my best friend in middle school. At one point, he asked me to look it up in my movie guide. (I don’t remember if it was Maltin’s Movies on TV, or Steven H. Schuerer’s TV Movies. The movie guide was a new and novel concept at the time.) Whoever it was, their summation of the movie included the line (I’m paraphrasing): “Ski Party is for teenagers who can carry on a telephone conversation while watching a movie.”

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : December 30, 2010 5:35 pm

Obviously you were the perfect viewer for it, ratzkywatzky!

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : December 30, 2010 5:35 pm

Obviously you were the perfect viewer for it, ratzkywatzky!

Posted By dukeroberts : December 30, 2010 7:56 pm

Deborah Walley, Yvonne Craig AND James Brown? I am so there!

Posted By dukeroberts : December 30, 2010 7:56 pm

Deborah Walley, Yvonne Craig AND James Brown? I am so there!

Posted By suzidoll : December 30, 2010 8:32 pm

I love this movie. One of my favorite genres is the teen musical from the 1960s. I love the part where James Brown just shows up at the door to the lodge and he starts singing with the Famous Flames. It’s so incongruous and fun. When I was a kid watching these movies on tv, I wanted to be Deborah Walley. So energetic and fun–at least onscreen.

Walley was also in an Elvis movie–Spinout, I think. Both of them were struggling with being cast in these kind of lightweight movies so they had something in common. She introduced Elvis to Eastern religions, and the two used to talk about different religions and spirituality. Totally at odds with what was going on onscreen.

Thanks for a fun post that made me smile.

Posted By suzidoll : December 30, 2010 8:32 pm

I love this movie. One of my favorite genres is the teen musical from the 1960s. I love the part where James Brown just shows up at the door to the lodge and he starts singing with the Famous Flames. It’s so incongruous and fun. When I was a kid watching these movies on tv, I wanted to be Deborah Walley. So energetic and fun–at least onscreen.

Walley was also in an Elvis movie–Spinout, I think. Both of them were struggling with being cast in these kind of lightweight movies so they had something in common. She introduced Elvis to Eastern religions, and the two used to talk about different religions and spirituality. Totally at odds with what was going on onscreen.

Thanks for a fun post that made me smile.

Posted By dukeroberts : December 30, 2010 9:02 pm

Yes, Deborah Walley co-starred with Elvis in Spinout while Yvonne Craig co-starred with Elvis in It Happened at the World’s Fair and Kissin’ Cousins. Sadly, the adorable Deborah Walley passed away in 2001.

Posted By dukeroberts : December 30, 2010 9:02 pm

Yes, Deborah Walley co-starred with Elvis in Spinout while Yvonne Craig co-starred with Elvis in It Happened at the World’s Fair and Kissin’ Cousins. Sadly, the adorable Deborah Walley passed away in 2001.

Posted By DBenson : January 3, 2011 3:08 pm

I’m amazed they got away with the Annette cameo: They establish her as a college professor, then we see her necking with one of her students.

What really stays with me is the skiing polar bear — the yodeling makes his scenes. It’s just there, not really explained or milked.

Posted By DBenson : January 3, 2011 3:08 pm

I’m amazed they got away with the Annette cameo: They establish her as a college professor, then we see her necking with one of her students.

What really stays with me is the skiing polar bear — the yodeling makes his scenes. It’s just there, not really explained or milked.

Posted By suzidoll : January 16, 2011 9:49 pm

Kim: Alec Baldwin just mentioned SKI PARTY in his introduction on the Golden Globes for Best Song. He quoted lyrics from “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows.” I wonder if he read your blog piece?

Posted By suzidoll : January 16, 2011 9:49 pm

Kim: Alec Baldwin just mentioned SKI PARTY in his introduction on the Golden Globes for Best Song. He quoted lyrics from “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows.” I wonder if he read your blog piece?

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : January 17, 2011 1:16 pm

DBenson – I really liked the wandering yodeling polar bear. He added a level of surrealism and absurdity to the movie that I appreciate.

Suzi – I saw that too. I appreciated the joke because only a handful of people (including TCM blog readers) would have gotten the reference. I’m sure most of the audience was scratching their heads in confusion. Funny stuff!

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : January 17, 2011 1:16 pm

DBenson – I really liked the wandering yodeling polar bear. He added a level of surrealism and absurdity to the movie that I appreciate.

Suzi – I saw that too. I appreciated the joke because only a handful of people (including TCM blog readers) would have gotten the reference. I’m sure most of the audience was scratching their heads in confusion. Funny stuff!

Posted By MovieMorlocks.com – “Ski Buffs and Ski Babes on the Go-Go in the Snow-Snow!” : January 19, 2012 2:07 pm

[...] and AIP tried to milk it for all it was worth. After the success of the beach movies AIP released SKI PARTY in 1965, which followed the BEACH PARTY blueprint but the idea of a winter-themed bikini party apparently [...]

Posted By MovieMorlocks.com – “Ski Buffs and Ski Babes on the Go-Go in the Snow-Snow!” : January 19, 2012 2:07 pm

[...] and AIP tried to milk it for all it was worth. After the success of the beach movies AIP released SKI PARTY in 1965, which followed the BEACH PARTY blueprint but the idea of a winter-themed bikini party apparently [...]

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