Peter (The Big Valley) Breck stars as a television director who quits his job because he’s tired of kissing his boss’s ass. His boss also happens to be his ex wife, so you really can’t blame him. He takes a drive down south where he runs smack into a hootenanny show and it inspires him to create a live television show based on the fad. (There actually was a Hootenanny TV show around the same time.) He falls in love with the host of the show, but she’s only got eyes for Pete’s lawyer. In the end, he finally gets back together with his old ball and chain, the TV show is a success, and yada, yada, yada.
Hootenanny Hoot! is a lot of fun for about 45 minutes or so until it starts wearing on your nerves. The first couple of songs are great and the plot is kept to a bare minimum. Unfortunately as the film drags on, the musicals numbers get worse and worse and the love rectangle gets more and more convoluted.
Johnny Cash is easily the best thing about the movie. He only sings one song, a variation on Frankie and Johnny, and has more style, charisma and bravado than all of the other acts combined. A lot of the other lesser known bands get to sing more than one song, which is odd because you’d think a star like Cash would be given the most screen time. He disappears about 15 minutes into the picture and it’s a damn shame he didn’t get to sing another tune or two. He obviously had bigger fish to fry.
Director Gene (Kissin’ Cousins) Nelson stages the early numbers nicely although things quickly fall apart by the time the finale rolls around. The climatic Hootenanny circus performances are pathetic and that one number where the folk trio sang while hopping up and down on a trampoline was just straight up goofy. There ARE a handful of good numbers like George Hamilton IV’s
Breck (who is top notch) also starred in the immortal The Crawling Hand the same year.