Eleven years after I first watched it at the cinema, I still went ‘Wow!’ from the start to the end of this movie when I decided to watch it again.
Directed, co-written and produced by Kevin Spacey, who plays the lead role of Bobby Darin, the story begins with him singing ‘Mack the Knife‘ at the show to commemorate his 10th anniversary in show business.
A very sickly child who was not expected to live beyond 15 years, Bobby had always been fascinated by the piano, and his mother was the most important person in his life. Both of them practised and practised until they perfected what she called “The Plan” (to sing at the Copacabana, like Frank Sinatra). To get a big start, and to be the best, talent is obviously needed, but so are being tenacious and charismatic.
‘Splish Spash’, which was written in 20 minutes, drove the audiences wild and Mum predicted that he was going to be the biggest star in show business. He became a teen idol, but he didn’t want to be just that. So he went to Hollywood to take up acting, hoping to work with Rock Hudson.
At this point, my favourite Bobby Darin song, ‘Beyond the Sea’ or ‘La Mer’ was featured. Bobby Darin met Sandra Dee on a Hollywood set, and he won her over through her mother. One ploy he used was to send 18 roses to her hotel suite every day with no card. (Bobby Darin was inspired to write a song called ‘Eighteen Yellow Roses’.) Another was to hatch up a publicity deal for the movie they were making when his real intention was to take her on a date.
Mum was so infatuated with Bobby that she was furious and stomped off when Sandra announced that she was marrying him because she loved him and that he’s smart and funny. They got married but little cracks appeared over the years, starting from simple rivalry like Sandra being on the Cosmopolitan cover and Bobby on in the Life centrefold. Things got more complicated with the arrival of a baby and Bobby insisted going on tour, especially after not winning the Oscar for which he was nominated.
There were also many touching scenes, like when it was revealed to Bobby that his sister Nina was really his mother and when Bobby insisted on going back to perform in Vegas though he was sick and had to have both valves replaced and when he gave his young son a luggage to be opened only when he was gone. At these scenes, there was always the full orchestra playing Bobby’s music.
Bobby sang his ‘Simple Song of Freedom’ to loud cheers and was given a standing ovation at the Flamingo at Vegas though he was suffering from blood poisoning and had erratic heartbeats. There was a doctor backstage and he had to be put on a neubuliser between songs. He even managed to tell his audience that he may not be performing for a while as he needed to take a little break and as a result he may not have the opportunity to introduce the woman who raised him. After this, and a song (for which he changed the lyrics for this special dedication to Nina), he was rushed to hospital where he succumbed.
But Bobby Darin doesn’t die. His music and his legacy lives on. His wife, Sandra Dee, never remarried and remained in love with him.
What I love most about this movie is of course the music. All the songs and music were performed by Kevin Spacey (very impressive, indeed) and The John Wilson Orchestra. I counted 23 songs performed, like Dream Lover (written by Bobby Darin), That’s All, Charade (written by Henry Mancini & Johnny Mercer), Hello, Young Lovers (written by Rodgers & Hammerstein), Let It Loose (by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards) and the very touching When The Curtain Falls.