Gerry On The Mersey

The Merseyside Movie
By Bill Harry

Jim Gretty at Hessy'sThe Daily Cinema reviewed the film in December 1964:

Stars: Gerry & the Pacemakers, Cilla Black, Julie Samuel.

Prod: Michael Holden. Dir: Jeremy Summers. Original Idea: Tony Warren.

Story Outline: Happy-go-lucky art student Gerry lives across the water from Liverpool with his Aunt Lil and her boarders, undertaker Lumsden and Miss Kneave. He forms a beat group with fellow students and they play regularly at Liverpool's Cavern. Gerry's wealthy girlfriend Dodie persuades impresario Hanson to hear them. Impressed, he agrees to manage them. Gerry and the boys enter a beat competition. After a crisis over their instruments, which were taken by mistake to the airport, they are triumphantly cheered on stage and win the contest.

Rating: Dizzy, driving tribute to the Mersey beat, centred on the exuberant personalities of Gerry & the Pacemakers: style artless, pace hectic, comedy broad and pop song programme packed. Inevitable teenage box-office winner in the modern idiom.

Critic's View: Any similarity between this film and 'A Hard Day's Night' cannot possibly be coincidental! Gerry & the Pacemakers are managed by the same man, Brian Epstein, come from the same city and 'arrived' on the same new soundwave as the Beatles. Added to which, the director of photography on the Beatles film, Gilbert Taylor, does the same kind of dazzling job on the Liverpool backgrounds here.

Admittedly the celebrated spontaneous high spirits of the Northern pop boys and girls tend to look like carefully nurtured cuteness. Admittedly, the idea of screen-filming close-ups of sweaty pop singers in full cry sounds more attractive in theory than it looks in practice. But they've obviously got what the youngsters love - and this film has the screams to prove it!

The plot exuberantly mixes fact and fiction. And the driving, almost documentary approach to the everyday life of Gerry is interspersed with the music-hall type of humour (of George A. Cooper as the undertaker-lodger and Mona Washbourne as Aunt Lil) and speeded-up foolery, which harks back to Mack Sennett and the Keystone Cops. The music is marvelous, if you like it, and there's masses of it here to like (Every number, inevitably, a winner) Gerry & the Pacemakers are an agreeable bunch of boys, with a characteristic intolerance towards anything remotely un-with-it.

Cilla Black, the Fourmost and a big bill of pop artists wade in enthusiastically: though the reverence accorded Cilla Black might more suitably be lavished on Garbo, Dietrich and all three Beverley Sisters combined. Julie Samuel is an appealing pretty Dodie. It's got the beat, the style, the stars and it's infallibly aimed at the teenage trade. It can't miss.

There was also a review in the American trade publication Variety, dated December 9 1964:

Another routine musical which will satisfy pop youngsters. Fair support to topliner pic with certain audiences.

Gerry and the Pacemakers in stage at the CavernThe Mersey sound which put pop music on the map in this country gets a fair belting in this modest, routine picture designed to exploit Gerry & the Pacemakers, one of Britain's top pop groups. It will have useful support in UK but though the group is known in America for its disks and a fairly successful tour 'Ferry Cross The Mersey' is unlikely to have much export appeal. It is noisy, corny and full of clichés but Jeremy Summers has directed with zest and some vitality and the pic goes at a reasonable lick. The Liverpool scene shows up well with some adroitly picked-up location work, and two or three unoriginal, but sprightly 'Keystone Cop' sequences add considerably to its comedy content.

As so often, however, this kind of pic falls down because of the laxness of the script, which is used mainly as a framework for putting over pop numbers. It is based on an idea by Tony Warren but the loose screenplay is uncredited, which is significant. Opening shows Gerry & the Pacemakers returning from a US trip. In flashback it shows how the group was formed, helped by a local chick who introduces the boys to a go-getting manager, and despite a last-minute mishap when they nearly lose their instruments and costumes, the lads win the European Beat Group Contest. Undoubtedly stronger material is needed if this type of film is ever to get out of a well-ploughed rut.

"The thick local accent and idiom do not help for general consumption and there is a kind of noisy, frenetic, pumped-up hysteria and lack of discipline about the proceedings which palls, even with its modest limits of 88 minutes. Gerry Marsden, as well as writing the songs, leads the group with his ebullience but shows little signs of being an actor. As his rich girlfriend Julie Samuel makes her debut. She is pretty, young, blonde, but her inexperience also shows up starkly. Jimmy Saville, a zany disk jockey, appears as himself, as does Cilla Black, a top British thrush, who sings one song and utters a few lines with a pallid personality and dubious success. T.P. McKenna scores as the manager and Mona Washbourne, Eric Baker, Deryck Guyler, Patricia Lawrence and George A. Cooper bring a little of their professional experience to bear on unrewarding roles.

Most of the humour is naive in the extreme but director Summers gives the events as much pep as possible and has extracted some good fun from the frantic car chase sequences. Gilbert Taylor's lensing is vivid and effective and sound mixer Kevin Sutton has done a valiant, if not altogether successful job in trying to discipline the sound when the Pacemakers and other groups are on a no holds barred beat wingrading.

The soundtrack album was issued in Britain on Columbia and in America on United Artists.

The tracks were: 'Is It Love?' Cilla Black; 'I Got A Woman' the Black Knights; 'Why Don't You Love Me?' the Blackwells; 'I Love You Too', the Fourmost; 'Baby You're So Good To Me', 'Fall In Love', 'Ferry Cross The Mersey', 'I'll Wait For You', 'It's Gonna Be All Right', 'She's The Only Girl For Me', 'This Thing Called Love', 'Why Oh Why' Gerry & the Pacemakers; 'Shake A Tail Feather!' Earl Royce & the Olympics.

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