Home Movies by Decade Movies - 1960s Expresso Bongo (1960)

Expresso Bongo (1960)

Small-time talent agent Johnny Jackson (Laurence Harvey) tries to hit the big time with a bongo player called Bert Rudge (Cliff Richard) who he spots in a Soho skiffle and coffee bar, backed by The Shadows.

Johnny gives Bert the stage name “Bongo Herbert”, and puts him on the fast track to teenage stardom by persuading his record company and radio connections to come and see Bongo perform at the Tom Tom expresso bar.

Bongo’s first single, Voice in the Wilderness, is a smash hit, but Johnny then decides that a little image adjustment might make him a bigger draw, so his follow-up is a sugary, religious tune, The Shrine on the Second Floor.

The new image hardly fits with Bongo’s new-found fondness for strippers and love-starved American variety star Dixie Collins (Yolande Donlan).

Johnny thinks he has a meal ticket for life, but when record company exec Gus Mayer (Meier Tzelniker) discovers that Bongo’s agent is earning 50% commission he demands the kid is exclusively signed to his record company.

Finally, Dixie decides to outwit Johnny when she discovers that Bongo is really a minor, making his contract null and void.

As a result, Bongo breaks his contract with Johnny and heads to America under contract to Mayer.

Mankowitz’s crackling script is bristling with energy and abrasive period flavour, whilst Val Guest skilfully directs, capturing the fads and fashions of the late 1950s.

Laurence Harvey does a terrific job as the impeccably smarmy would-be impresario, and 19-year-old Cliff Richard is credible in the first half of the film as the bongo-thumping boy pushed to stardom, but he subsequently struggles when the role requires him to portray a more wayward rock star.

Cliff Richard was Britain’s answer to Elvis Presley at the time (although he never quite made it in America).

Like Elvis, Cliff appeared in a number of musical films like The Young Ones (1961), Summer Holiday (1962), Wonderful Life (1964), and Finders Keepers (1966).

Johnny Jackson
Laurence Harvey
Maisie King
Sylvia Syms
Dixie Collins
Yolande Donlan
Bert Rudge / Bongo Herbert
Cliff Richard
Gus Mayer
Meier Tzelniker
Lady Rosemary

Ambrosine Phillpotts

Eric Pohlmann
Reverend Tobias Craven

Reginald Beckwith

Kenneth Griffith
Night club cleaner

Esma Cannon

Susan Hampshire
Mr Rudge

Wilfrid Lawson
Hermione Baddeley

Val Guest