The Buddy Holly Story (1978)

PG | 113 mins | Biography | 14 June 1978

Director:

Steve Rash

Producer:

Freddy Bauer

Cinematographer:

Stevan Larner

Editor:

David Blewitt

Production Designer:

Joel Schiller

Production Companies:

Innovisions, ECA
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HISTORY

The film ends with two title cards: "Buddy Holly died later that night along with J. P. 'The Big Bopper' Richardson and Ritchie Valens in the crash of a private plane just outside of Clearlake," followed by "...And the rest is rock 'n roll."
       End credits include the statement: "Filmed on location and at Culver City Studios." The filmmakers offer special thanks to the following individuals: "Jim Afflick, Herman Avrut, Toni Barton, Ave Butensky, Stu Chalfin, Joe Diaz, John Eastman, Lee Eastman, Buddy Epstein, Maggie & Bob Fain, Jeff Franklin, Len Hodes, Sue Lesser, Joe Lipshur, Fred Mancuso, Jan McCormick, Harry McMahan, Frank Mooney, Clifford Neschky, Ralph Peer, Ralph A. Rash, Ralph R. Rash, Norman Rudman, Allen Sanders, Bobby Schiffman, Bobbi Silver, Jon Sirlin, Joe Spadafora, Joe Weiss, and Louise Zuckerman." A dedication appears at the end of the closing credits: "This film is dedicated to those who loved him first. Mr. & Mrs. Lawrence Holley and Maria Elena Holly."
       A 26 Apr 1977 DV news item noted that The Buddy Holly Story would be the first film project produced and financed by the National Independent Theatre Exhibitors (NITE) with a budget of $2 million. The article noted that the film would be co-produced by Charter Financial Group of Houston, TX, Edward Cohen and Associates of Beverly Hills, CA, and Innovisions, based in Philadelphia, PA, with Boston investment group T. S. Enterprises providing $1.6 million of the estimated $2 million budget. In the article. Edward Cohen is cited as claiming that this production had “beat out Universal, Twentieth Century-Fox, and ABC Television, among others” in gaining the rights to Buddy Holly’s life ... More Less

The film ends with two title cards: "Buddy Holly died later that night along with J. P. 'The Big Bopper' Richardson and Ritchie Valens in the crash of a private plane just outside of Clearlake," followed by "...And the rest is rock 'n roll."
       End credits include the statement: "Filmed on location and at Culver City Studios." The filmmakers offer special thanks to the following individuals: "Jim Afflick, Herman Avrut, Toni Barton, Ave Butensky, Stu Chalfin, Joe Diaz, John Eastman, Lee Eastman, Buddy Epstein, Maggie & Bob Fain, Jeff Franklin, Len Hodes, Sue Lesser, Joe Lipshur, Fred Mancuso, Jan McCormick, Harry McMahan, Frank Mooney, Clifford Neschky, Ralph Peer, Ralph A. Rash, Ralph R. Rash, Norman Rudman, Allen Sanders, Bobby Schiffman, Bobbi Silver, Jon Sirlin, Joe Spadafora, Joe Weiss, and Louise Zuckerman." A dedication appears at the end of the closing credits: "This film is dedicated to those who loved him first. Mr. & Mrs. Lawrence Holley and Maria Elena Holly."
       A 26 Apr 1977 DV news item noted that The Buddy Holly Story would be the first film project produced and financed by the National Independent Theatre Exhibitors (NITE) with a budget of $2 million. The article noted that the film would be co-produced by Charter Financial Group of Houston, TX, Edward Cohen and Associates of Beverly Hills, CA, and Innovisions, based in Philadelphia, PA, with Boston investment group T. S. Enterprises providing $1.6 million of the estimated $2 million budget. In the article. Edward Cohen is cited as claiming that this production had “beat out Universal, Twentieth Century-Fox, and ABC Television, among others” in gaining the rights to Buddy Holly’s life story. A 28 Apr 1977 DV follow-up article stated that the project had been around for several years, noting that the rights acquisition had first been announced in DV on 28 Oct 1975. This article also noted a separate and unrelated attempt by Twentieth Century-Fox to bring Holly’s life story to the screen in the abortive 1975 production Not Fade Away, based on a revised shooting script dated 8 Sep 1975 by writer T. Y. Drake. According to studio records filming on Not Fade Away got under way 30 Sep 1975 with Don Kanzy as producer, Jerry Freedman directing, and Larry Kostroff and Jack Burnstein as production managers. DV stated that shooting was suspended on Not Fade Away after three weeks due to “Artistic differences and dissatisfaction with the rushes . . . ” However, in his 27 Dec 1977 HR “On Location” column, Robert Osborne stated that the studio had to shut down production and write off the loss “when the legal department realized the studio didn’t have the proper signature to green-light such a venture.” Osborne wrote that Not Fade Away had only been shooting for two weeks when production shuttered. In a 21 Jun 1978 LAT interview, Maria Elena Holly Diaz, Holly’s widow, stated that she had rejected Fox’s project because the studio had only “offered me $1.” Gary Busey had a supporting role as Holly's drummer in Not Fade Away.
       On 12 Nov 1976 DV announced that the Charter Financial Group-Edward Cohen Associates-Innovisions film was set to begin principal photography 12 Dec 1976, while a 29 Nov 1976 LAT article stated the principal photography would begin 27 Dec 1976 in TX, under the title, The Buddy Holly Story: The Day the Music Died .
       According to the studio press kit found at AMPAS library, director Steve Rash and producer Freddy Bauer obtained the rights to Holly’s story from his widow Maria Elena, who embraced the concept of having her late husband’s music filmed live instead of using the practice of lip-synching. The actors chosen to play Holly and his band were selected for their musical abilities. Gary Busey had toured as a drummer for Leon Russell, Don Stroud boned up on his drumming skills, and Charles Martin Smith, who was skilled at piano, guitar and composing music, played the bass on screen.
       According to the press kit biography of screen writer Robert Gittler, he was a longtime friend of Rash and did nine rewrites to achieve the final shooting script. The Buddy Holly Story was Gittler’s first and only screenplay. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot on 16 May 1978, only days before the film was released.
       The 27 Dec 1977 HR story stated that Lubbock, TX, no longer looked as it did when Holly lived there, so Newhall and Palmdale, CA, were substituted. A portion of Grand Avenue between 8th and 9th Streets in downtown Los Angeles was used to recreate New York City in the 1950s. The Lubbock bus station and the roller rink were filmed in Glendale, CA.
       Holly’s family claimed they were never shown a script, and the filmmakers had taken great dramatic license to tell Buddy’s story. A 21 Sep 1978 Rolling Stone article described several inaccuracies in the film. Holly and the Crickets toured extensively with black groups because bookers originally thought the group was black. Racial tensions arose during the touring but those conflicts were ignored in the screenplay. According to Holly’s parents, their pastor never condemned their son’s music from the pulpit. Buddy had a good relationship with his pastor and tithed ten percent of his earnings to the church. His mother mentioned that she wrote “Maybe Baby” as an antidote to Buddy’s serious songs and gave it to her son. The next thing she knew he had recorded it.
       Director Steve Rash told AFI Catalog that the character of Buddy Holly's producer, Norman Petty, was eliminated from the script because he demanded final approval.
       The film repeated the canard that Holly was hired to play the Apollo Theater in Harlem because he and his band sounded "black" on "That'll Be the Day." In fact, the song was released as by "The Crickets," without Holly's name, on Brunswick Records. Since Brunswick was a traditionally black music label, and The Crickets had previously been the name of an African American doo-wop group, the mistake had little to do with the band's sound.
       On 25 Jan 1978, Var announced that Columbia Pictures had acquired distribution rights to the film for an advance reputed to be “$2,000,000 plus.” A 27 Jan 1978 HR article by Roger Cels revealed that a dispute had arisen between Columbia and NITE over distribution rights. NITE president Tom Patterson claimed that more than one hundred of its affiliated theater owners had contracted to play the film through the then-defunct NITE distribution program. However, producer Edward Cohen contested any claim by Patterson and NITE, asserting that no signed agreements existed between the producers and NITE.
       According to a 19 Dec 1978 HR news item, NITE filed a $220 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, GA, citing that Columbia’s distribution deal with the film’s producers had caused the dissolution of its organization and resulted in discriminatory exhibition terms and hardship to its membership of small theater owners. An 8 Oct 1982 HR story reported that NITE had lost its suit after five years. Former NITE president Patterson stated that he would file an appeal. The outcome of the appeal, if any, has not been determined.
       A 27 Feb 1978 HR article noted that Barbara Cooke Preston, widow of singer Sam Cooke, filed a lawsuit asking to stop the release of the film because she had not been compensated for the use of her late husband’s image. The suit also alleged that the singer was portrayed falsely in the film.
       A 4 Jul 1978 LAT article reported a suit filed by writer Alan Swyer for breach of contract against Innovisions, Inc. Swyer contended that in a 1975 oral agreement he was promised $35,000 in four installments for an original screenplay, two and a half percent of the company’s gross profits and $12,500 upon receiving a screen credit in the finished movie and all rights to create and publish a novel based on the movie. Swyer charged that he had not received his $35,000 fee in a timely fashion and never received other due payments and had been denied co-credit as screenwriter. In addition, Innovisions made a deal with Ballantine Books to publish a novelized form of the movie without his participation. Swyer’s litigation asked for damages “in excess of $100,000.” The outcome of the lawsuit has not been determined.
       A 13 Nov 1985 Var news story stated that The Buddy Holly Production Co. sued Columbia for withholding profits from the film. The complaint noted that $1.2 million was being withheld. The producers claimed that Columbia’s excuse for the delayed payment was a pending federal antitrust lawsuit, but noted the litigation had been resolved in 1984. The complaint stated the company was seeking damages in the amount of $2 million to its reputation, $5 million in punitive damages and a portion of the $1.5 million Columbia had received from selling the television rights of the film.
       Gary Busey was nominated for an Academy Award for the category “Actor in a Leading Role” and was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for “Best Motion Picture Actor – Musical/Comedy.” He won a Los Angeles Film Critics Association New Generation Award. Joe Renzetti received an Academy Award for “Music (Adaptation Score).” Tex Rudloff, Joel Fein, Curly Thirlwell and Willie Burton were nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Sound.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
28 Oct 1975.
---
Daily Variety
12 Nov 1976.
---
Daily Variety
26 Apr 1977.
---
Daily Variety
28 Apr 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Dec 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jan 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Feb 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 May 1978.
p. 3, 13.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 1978
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Dec 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Oct 1982.
---
Los Angeles Times
29 Nov 1976.
Section E, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
14 Jun 1978
p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
21 Jun 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
4 Jul 1978
Section II, p. 6.
New York Times
21 Jul 1978
p. 14.
Rolling Stone
21 Sep 1978.
p. 49, 51.
Variety
17 May 1978.
p. 54.
Variety
25 Jan 1978.
---
Variety
13 Nov 1985.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures Presents
An Innovisions-ECA Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Co-exec prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Steadicam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
Still photog
Gaffer
Best boy
Lamp op
Key grip
Grip best boy
Dir of photog, 2d unit
Gaffer, 2d unit
Grip, 2d unit
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
Negative cutter
Apprentice film ed
Video coord
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Asst prop master
Set dec
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Const coord
Const foreman
Const foreman
Labor foreman
Standby painter
Standby painter
Marquee coord, 2d unit
COSTUMES
Male cost
MUSIC
Scored & cond
Mus ed
Scoring mixer
Mus contractor
Mus res
SOUND
Special audio
Dial ed
Sd eff ed
Sd mixer
Sd asst
Sd asst
Spec audio asst
Re-rec
Re-rec
Re-rec
Loc rec facilities
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles by
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Project coord
Asst to the prod
Unit coord
Loc mgr
Scr supv
Unit asst
Unit asst
Unit asst
Unit asst
Unit asst
Unit asst
Secy to the prod
Ensemble talent
Craft service
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
2d unit asst
2d unit asst
Financial services
Financial services
Financial services
Financial services
Financial services
Financial services
Financial services
STAND INS
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Laboratory
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Buddy Holly: His Life and Music by John Goldrosen (Bowling Green, 1975).
SONGS
All musical selections: MPL Communications. Except: "Everyday," vocals by Gary Busey, written by Buddy Charles Holly and Norman Petty, Peer International Corporation
"Rock Around With Ollie Vee," vocals by Gary Busey, written by Sonny Curtis, Belinda Music/ Unichappell Music Inc.
"You Send Me," written by Sam Cooke, Kags Music
+
SONGS
All musical selections: MPL Communications. Except: "Everyday," vocals by Gary Busey, written by Buddy Charles Holly and Norman Petty, Peer International Corporation
"Rock Around With Ollie Vee," vocals by Gary Busey, written by Sonny Curtis, Belinda Music/ Unichappell Music Inc.
"You Send Me," written by Sam Cooke, Kags Music
"Chantilly Lace," written by J.P. Richardson, Glad Music
"Corina Corina," performed by Joe Turner under the title "Corinne Corrina," Unichappell Music Inc, courtesy of Atlantic Records.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Buddy Holly Story: The Day the Music Died
The Life Story of Buddy Holly
Release Date:
14 June 1978
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 14 June 1978
New York opening: 21 July 1978
Production Date:
began 27 December 1976 in Texas
Copyright Claimant:
Innovisions, Inc. & Edward Cohen Associates Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
26 April 1979
Copyright Number:
PA29529
Physical Properties:
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® Camera by Panavision
Prints
Prints by MGM
Duration(in mins):
113
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1956, Buddy Holly’s band sets up their equipment for a performance at the Parkers roller rink. Riley, the KDAV disc jockey in Lubbock, Texas, introduces the group, and they play a cover song. Buddy picks up the tempo by playing one of his own songs, "Rock Around With Ollie Vee, which gets the kids dancing in the rink. The deejay gets an irate call from one of the station’s sponsors, telling him he will stop advertising if Buddy does not quit playing be bop. At church, Buddy, his girlfriend, Cindy Lou, and his parents listen as the minister’s sermon rails against “jungle music” threatening the morals of society and the town’s children. At Sunday dinner, Buddy’s parents want to know what he plans to do if his music career fails since Buddy has deferred college for a year. At night, Buddy and Cindy Lou sit in his truck and she reveals that his fledgling music career makes her uneasy. As she kisses him and wishes that their life could be more normal, Buddy's band members, Jesse and Ray Bob, alert Buddy that Riley has some news for him. The disk jockey tells Buddy that Wilson, vice president of World Records, heard his music on the radio and wants the band to come to Nashville to make a record. During the World recording session, Buddy sings “That’ll Be the Day” in a slow tempo, while Jesse and Ray Bob sing backup harmonies without their instruments. On the seventh take, T. J., the producer, asks a frazzled Buddy to sing without playing his guitar. Jesse and Ray Bob ruin the song by substituting religious hymn lyrics for ... +


In 1956, Buddy Holly’s band sets up their equipment for a performance at the Parkers roller rink. Riley, the KDAV disc jockey in Lubbock, Texas, introduces the group, and they play a cover song. Buddy picks up the tempo by playing one of his own songs, "Rock Around With Ollie Vee, which gets the kids dancing in the rink. The deejay gets an irate call from one of the station’s sponsors, telling him he will stop advertising if Buddy does not quit playing be bop. At church, Buddy, his girlfriend, Cindy Lou, and his parents listen as the minister’s sermon rails against “jungle music” threatening the morals of society and the town’s children. At Sunday dinner, Buddy’s parents want to know what he plans to do if his music career fails since Buddy has deferred college for a year. At night, Buddy and Cindy Lou sit in his truck and she reveals that his fledgling music career makes her uneasy. As she kisses him and wishes that their life could be more normal, Buddy's band members, Jesse and Ray Bob, alert Buddy that Riley has some news for him. The disk jockey tells Buddy that Wilson, vice president of World Records, heard his music on the radio and wants the band to come to Nashville to make a record. During the World recording session, Buddy sings “That’ll Be the Day” in a slow tempo, while Jesse and Ray Bob sing backup harmonies without their instruments. On the seventh take, T. J., the producer, asks a frazzled Buddy to sing without playing his guitar. Jesse and Ray Bob ruin the song by substituting religious hymn lyrics for the real lyrics. Buddy explains to Wilson that things are going poorly because T.J. demands that the band sing hillbilly and they do not play that kind of music. While T. J. announces he is not interested in recording Negro music, Buddy retorts he does not want to become another Elvis or record with a country band doing back up. The executive agrees that the recording session is a mistake, while T. J. tells Buddy to get back to the microphone. Buddy punches T. J. and the band returns to Lubbock. There, Riley informs Buddy that he is losing too many sponsors who dislike Buddy’s music, and he has no choice but to fire Buddy. However, Riley sends a recording of Buddy’s roller rink show to a record company in New York. As Buddy drives Cindy Lou to the bus station, she suggests it is time for his childhood hobby to end because he will never be a professional musician. As she boards the bus, Buddy informs her that college is not in his plans. In New York City, Ross Turner, president of Coral Records, alerts Eddie, his artists and repertoire man, he wants to sign Buddy Holly. However, Eddie has already had Buddy’s record pressed and it is doing brisk business. As Buddy’s band practices in his parents’ garage he discovers the sound of a cricket keeps ruining the tape they are making when he receives a long distance phone call from a Buffalo, N.Y., disc jockey, Madman Mancuso, who divulges that he has been playing “That’ll Be the Day” for twenty-four hours to introduce listeners to the tune. When Madman asks him details about his band, Buddy jokes that it is just three musicians and the odd cricket, and so Madman anoints the band “Buddy Holly and the Crickets.” At Coral Records, Buddy flirts with Maria, the receptionist, and meets Ross who tells the band that they have the potential to sell a lot of records. Ross wants to assign them a producer for the recording session, but Buddy insists on producing his own records. When Ross refuses to put him in charge, Buddy storms out of the office until Ross relents. Later, the band shows up at the Apollo Theater and promoter Sol Gitler wants to cancel their act when he realizes he has booked a white act in an all-black club, but Buddy’s charm wins him over. With each musical number, an enthusiastic audience cheers for more. Sol signs them to tour with the rest of the Apollo’s African American musicians. Back at the record company, Buddy pursues Maria but despite all his charm, she announces they cannot date because her guardian and aunt, Mrs. Santiago, does not think that musicians make good husbands. When Buddy persuades Maria’s aunt, she condones the relationship, but Maria still worries that society will judge them for being a mixed couple. She is a Catholic Puerto Rican while he is a white Christian, but Buddy reassures her. On tour, Eddy Cochran is the next act but the crowd wants more Buddy. Cochran invites Buddy to join his set. Ray Bob watches from the wings but Jesse walks off. Tensions surface between Buddy and his band when Jesse and Ray Bob want time off from touring to return to Texas, while Buddy thinks it makes more sense to live close to the music and entertainment industry. After the Crickets appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, Buddy severs his relationship with the band and has a lawyer handle the details. For a while, Buddy works as a producer for Coral Records until Ross insists that Buddy tour to support his music. Maria is pregnant and Buddy refuses, but he confesses that he is afraid of failing without the Crickets. With a pep talk from Maria, he goes back on the road with the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and Dion and the Belmonts. During a medley of his songs at a concert in Clear Lake, Iowa, the Big Bopper joins him. Holly, the Big Bopper and Valens are later killed when their private plane crashes in Mason City, Iowa, on the way to their next concert date. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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