Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1978. Innovisions, ECA. Story by Alan Swyer, Screenplay by Robert Gittler, based on Buddy Holly His Life And Music by John Goldrosen. Cinematography by Stevan Larner. Produced by Fred Bauer. Music by Joe Renzetti. Production Design by Joel Schiller. Costume Design by Michael Butler, Thalia Phillips. Film Editing by David E. Blewitt. Academy Awards 1978. Golden Globe Awards 1978. New York Film Critics Awards 1978.
The story of Buddy Holly’s overnight, runaway success and premature death are put on the screen with marvelous energy and efficiency in this bouncy biopic by Steve Rash. Gary Busey is terrific in the title role, a music-minded teenager who ignores the prudish reactions to his gyration-inducing music by conservative listeners, and gives all the screaming teenagers the danceable rhythms they are looking for. The film covers the key points of his life with admiration without either mythologising his accomplishments or greedily seeking out scandalous details: he takes charge in recording booths, always pushes himself to make his music better, does his best in marriage, and then has his life tragically cut short by a plane crash that also takes the lives of the Big Bopper and Richie Valens (whose life was covered nine years later in La Bamba). What the film does that really puts it over the top, however, is include lots and lots of Holly’s wonderful music, which Busey sings himself and does a more than admirable job of. Period details don’t always ring true, but the spirit of rock and roll is alive and well here.