AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Go, Johnny, Go!
Alternate Title: Johnny Melody
Director: Paul Landres (Dir)
Release Date:   Oct 1959
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles opening: 7 Oct 1959
Production Date:   began mid-Jan 1959
Duration (in mins):   75
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Cast:   Alan Freed (Himself)  
    Jimmy Clanton (Johnny Melody)  
    Sandy Stewart (Julie Arnold)  
    Chuck Berry (Himself)  
  And the Million-Record Recording Stars: Jackie Wilson (Himself)  
    Ritchie Valens (Himself)  
    The Cadillacs (Themselves)  
    Jo-Ann Campbell (Herself)  
    The Flamingos (Themselves)  
    Harvey (Himself)  
  And Special Guest Star Eddie Cochran (Himself)  
    Herb Vigran (Bill Barnett)  
    Frank Wilcox (Mr. Arnold)  
    Barbara Wooddell (Mrs. Arnold)  
    Milton Frome (Mr. Martin)  
    Joe Cranston (Band leader)  
    Martha Wentworth (Mrs. McGillacudy, Johnny's landlady)  
    Robert Foulk (Policeman at jewelry store)  
    Phil Arnold (Stagehand)  
    William Fawcett (Janitor at radio station)  
    Dick Elliott (Man waiting for the telephone)  
    Inga Boling (Secretary)  
    Joe Flynn (Usher who fires Johnny)  

Summary: At Christmastime, disk jockey and record promoter Alan Freed's show at New York City’s Loews State Theater is a huge success, especially for his new young star, Johnny Melody. Backstage, rock and roll star Chuck Berry convinces Alan to tell him the real story of Johnny, whose success, some people say, rested on the toss of a coin: As an orphaned teenager, Johnny is accepted into Mr. Morton's choir, but is soon fired for singing a rock and roll song as another choir member accompanies him on the organ. Johnny decides not to go back to the orphanage, and sometime later is hired as an usher at Loews State. On his first night, when an older usher sees him dancing to the music, he fires Johnny, but allows him to stay for the show, which ends with Alan announcing that he is now searching for a new singing star, whom he intends to name "Johnny Melody." Outside the theater, Julie Arnold, who lived at the same orphanage as Johnny but has not seen him in years, calls out to him. She tells him that she was fortunate to be adopted by wonderful parents and is saddened that Johnny was never adopted. She asks him if he wants her phone number but he declines, saying that he has to save all of his money for a record demo. Just then Alan leaves the theater and is surrounded by fans. Johnny approaches him, saying he wants to be Johnny Melody, but Alan dismisses him, saying that idea was merely a stunt dreamed up by his press agent. Not long after this, Julie, who is also an aspiring singer, completes her record demo in a hired studio. Just as she is leaving, Johnny arrives, with barely enough money for his demo. Because he could not afford to hire a girl to sing with him, Julie happily volunteers to be his female backup singer. When Johnny’s song, "My Love Is Strong," arrives in Alan's office, Alan listens to it but is tired of hearing from all of the singers who want to be Johnny Melody. Chuck and Alan's press agent, Bill Barnett, like the song though, and encourage Alan to select Johnny as his new star. Alan promises to think about the record as the three men leave for the television station where Chuck will be performing that night. Moments later, Johnny and Julie telephone Alan, but when his secretary tells them that Alan is not in, Johnny thinks Alan did not like the record and is upset. After watching Chuck’s performance on television at Julie’s apartment, Johnny plays his trumpet and sings while Julie accompanies him on the piano. When her parents come home, Mr. Arnold offers to speak with Alan, with whom his company advertises, but Johnny declines the offer. Mr. and Mrs. Arnold then invite Johnny and Julie to join them at The Krazy Koffee Kup club, where they watch rock and roll acts. Unknown to them, Alan, Chuck and Bill are also there, talking about "Johnny Melody." Bill and Chuck finally convince Alan to try to find him, even though there was no telephone number or address sent with the demo. After Julie and Johnny dance to Jackie Wilson's song "You'd Better Know It," she sees Alan and convinces Johnny to go to his table. Just as they approach, though, Alan and the others leave, further frustrating Johnny. At 10:00 p.m., when Alan starts his popular radio program, he announces that he has found "Johnny Melody" and wants him to call the radio station so that he can sing on the Christmas program at Loews State. While "My Love Is Strong" is playing, the station is inundated with calls from fans, but not from Johnny, who is in Julie's car and has turned off Alan’s program. Johnny then accompanies Julie back to her apartment, where he asks her what she wants for Christmas. She says she only wants a hit record for him, but when he insists that she ask for something else, she tells him about a pin she saw in a jewelry store that has a musical note with two hearts and reminds her of them. As Julie gets into bed that night, she listens to Alan’s show and hears Johnny's song, which Alan has played every fifteen minutes. She then calls Johnny's boardinghouse, but his landlady, Mrs. McGillacudy, tells her that Johnny left carrying his trumpet after asking her for a good pawnshop, saying "I've got to get that pin, one way or another." Julie then rushes to the radio station, but the show has ended. After a kind janitor tells Julie the name of the club where Alan has gone, she follows him there and introduces herself as Johnny's girl friend and says she thinks she knows where Johnny is. Meanwhile, Johnny, who has been unable to pawn his trumpet, looks despondently at the window of the jewelry shop that is selling the pin Julie likes. When he sees a pile of bricks nearby, he grabs one and thinks about throwing it through the window. A few blocks away, Julie tells Alan, who is frustrated that Johnny was not at the pawnshop, that she is sure he has gone to the jewelry store that is selling the pin she wanted, but she cannot remember if the jewelry store is on 54th or 55th street. Not knowing what else to do, Alan flips a coin to decide which street to try first. They arrive at the jewelry store just after Johnny has thrown a brick through the window and set off the alarm. As they hear a police car approaching, Alan tells Johnny to get into his car with Julie. When the policemen arrive, they see Alan holding the brick and pretending to be drunk, claiming that he threw it out of anger at the jeweler, who sold his wife too much jewelry. The police then arrest Alan but let Julie and Johnny go, thinking they were only bystanders. Johnny is worried about Alan, but Julie assures him that he will be fine. Onstage at Loews State, Alan announces to the audience that that is the story of Johnny Melody. He then introduces Johnny, who sings another song as Julie proudly displays her engagement ring. 

Production Company: Valiant Films  
  Hal Roach Studios  
Distribution Company: Hal Roach Distributing Corp.  
Director: Paul Landres (Dir)
  Maurie M. Suess (Asst dir)
Producer: Hal Roach Jr. (Exec prod)
  Alan Freed (Prod)
  Jack Hooke (Assoc prod)
Writer: Gary Alexander (Wrt)
Photography: Ed Fitzgerald (Dir of photog)
  Jack Etra (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: McClure Capps (Art dir)
Film Editor: Walter Hannemann (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Rudy Butler (Set dec)
Costumes: Wally Harton (Cost supv)
  Fay Moore (Cost)
Music: Leon Klatzkin (Mus)
Sound: Charles Althouse (Sd)
  Joel Moss (Sd)
Special Effects: Jack Glass (Photog eff)
Make Up: Tom Case (Makeup)
  Shirley Madden (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: D'Estell Iszard (Prod mgr)
  Maurie M. Suess (Prod supv)
  Maggie Lawrence (Scr supv)
  Ruth Burch (Casting)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs: Jimmy Clanton's recordings of "My Love Is Strong," music and lyrics by Jimmy Clanton, Hazel Imbregulio, Earl King and Cosimo V. Matassa, "It Takes a Long Time," music and lyrics by Jimmy Clanton and Cosimo V. Matassa, "Ship on a Stormy Sea," music and lyrics by Jimmy Clanton, Cosimo V. Matassa and David Rebennack, "Angel Face," music and lyrics by Jimmy Clanton, Earl King, Cosimo V. Matassa and John Vincent, courtesy of Ace Records; Chuck Berry's recordings of "Little Queenie," "Memphis Tennessee" and "Johnny B. Goode," music and lyrics by Chuck Berry, courtesy of Chess Records; Sandy Stewart's recordings of "Playmates," music and lyics by Saxie Dowell,; "Heavenly Father," music and lyrics by Edna McGriff, courtesy of East-West Records; Ritchie Valens' recording of "Ooh My Head," music and lyrics by Ritchie Valens, courtesy of Del-Fi Records; Jackie Wilson's recording of "You'd Better Know It," music and lyrics by Jackie Wilson, courtesy of Coral Records; Eddie Cochran's recording of "Teenage Heaven," music and lyrics by Eddie Cochran and Jerry N. Capehart, courtesy of Liberty Records; The Cadillacs' recording of "Jay Walker," music and lyrics by Robert Spencer; "Please, Mr. Johnson," music and lyrics by Esther Navarro and Robert Spencer, courtesy of Jubilee Records; The Flamingos' recording of "Jump, Children," music and lyrics by Dave Bartholomew and Antoine "Fats" Domino, courtesy of End Records; Jo-Ann Campbell's recording of "Momma, Can I Go Out," music and lyrics by Bo Diddley, courtesy of Gone Records; Harvey's recording of "Don't Be Afraid to Love," music and lyrics by Harvey Fuqua, Berry Gordy, Jr., and Billy Davis, courtesy of Chess Records; "Now the Day Is Over," traditional.
Source Text:
Authors: Chuck Berry
  Jackie Wilson
  Ritchie Valens
  Esther Novarro
  Robert Spencer
  Bo Diddley
  Jimmy Clanton
  Cosimo V. Matassa
  Hazel Imbregulio
  Earl King
  John Vincent
  Eddie Cochran
  Jerry N. Capehart
  Dave Bartholomew
  Antoine "Fats" Domino
  David Rebennack
  Saxie Dowell
  Edna McGriff
  Harvey Fuqua
  Berry Gordy, Jr.
  Billy Davis

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Hal Roach Studios 12/3/1959 dd/mm/yyyy LP14169

PCA NO: 19262
Physical Properties: Sd: Westrex Recording Process
  b&w:

 
Genre: Musical
  Musical
Sub-Genre: Show business
  Teenage
 
Subjects (Major): Disc jockeys
  Orphans
  Publicity stunts
  Rock and roll music
  Romance
  Singers
 
Subjects (Minor): Adoption
  Choirmasters
  Engagements
  Janitors
  Jewelry stores
  Landladies
  Loews State Theater (New York City)
  New York City
  Nightclubs
  Parentage
  Pawnshops
  Press agents
  Recordings
  Robbery
  Trumpets

Note: The film's working titles were Johnny Melody , The Swinging Story of Johnny Melody and The Swinging Story . Some sources list the title as Go Johnny Go , without punctuation. Actress Barbara Wooddell's surname is misspelled "Woodell" in the cast credits. The title was inspired by Jimmy Clanton's popular single "Go, Jimmy, Go" as well as the refrain from Chuck Berry's hit song "Johnny B. Goode," which is listed as "Johnny Be Good" in the onscreen credits. The song is sung by Berry over the opening and closing credits. The song "Once Again," which a press fact sheet included in the AMPAS Library file on the film states was sung by Clanton and Sandy Stewart, was not heard in the print viewed. Berry, Clanton and Stewart are the only rock and roll stars to act as well as sing in the film. The others only sing their musical numbers, most in a stage performance setting.
       Go, Johnny, Go! marked the motion picture debuts of Clanton and Stewart. Clanton made only one other film, the 1961 release Teenage Millionaire (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ). Go, Johnny, Go! also marked the final screen appearance of "rockabilly" performer Eddie Cochran (1938--1960), who died in an automobile crash on 17 Apr 1960, and the only screen appearance of popular teenage idol Ritchie Valens (1941--1959), who died in a plane crash on 3 Feb 1959, along with fellow rock and rollers Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper, shortly after filming his song for the picture.
       Go, Johnny, Go! was also the final film of disc jockey and producer Alan Freed (1921--1965), who had previously appeared in several rock and roll-themed films. Not long after the film's release, Freed became the center of the radio "Payola" scandal that ended his career. He was the subject of the 1978 biographical musical American Hot Wax , directed by Flooyd Mutrux and starring Tim McIntire as Freed. For additional information on Payola and Freed's early career, please consult the entry below for the 1956 film Rock Around the Clock

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   6 Apr 1959.   
Film Daily   30 Mar 1959   p. 8.
Filmfacts   1959   p. 347.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Jan 1959   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Jan 1959   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Jan 1959   p. 4.
Los Angeles Times   9 Oct 1959.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   11 Jul 1959   p. 333.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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