The Buddy Holly Story
Bio of '50s music icon has great music, positive values.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Buddy Holly Story is a good-hearted look at a rock 'n' roll pioneer that contains lots of great music and none of the melodramatic excesses of many musical biopics (no drugs, no overt sexuality, no self-destructive behavior). Only the credits at the end of the film reveal that Buddy Holly died in a plane crash on the night after the final performance in the film. There's occasional swearing, with repeated use of some expletives: "hell," "sh--t," "bastard," "damn," "ass," and more. When a bigot utters a racial slur, Buddy Holly counters with slurs of his own to embarrass the offender. Alcohol is consumed in several scenes; one character drinks too much and gets drunk. Some cigar and cigarette smoking consistent with the time period.
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What's the Story?
There's a new musical sound emerging in the late 1950s: rock 'n' roll. In a very short time, Buddy Holly and The Crickets go from playing at a roller rink in their hometown to radio stations, TV shows, and sold-out concerts all over the United States. THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY is a showcase for the infectious, high energy music of this rock 'n' roll hero. The film traces the group's meteoric rise and short-lived career, Buddy's head-over-heels romance with the young woman who would become his wife, and loosely covers some bumps in the road on the way to stardom. Gary Busey sang his way to an Oscar nomination for his wonderful portrayal of Buddy. The singer-songwriter's untimely death in an airplane crash is mentioned only in the credits at the end of the film.
Is It Any Good?
The music's wonderful. All the great, memorable Buddy Holly songs -- and there are many -- are performed with gusto and an earnest attempt to recreate those moments when the world caught wind of a sparkling and infectious new talent. What little story there is, is predictable, safe, and does nothing to tarnish Holly's squeaky clean reputation.
The film's not perfect, by any means. The scenes that show the Crickets as the first white group to perform at the Apollo Theater are corny, but give a shout-out to music's role in anticipating what was to come later in America's fight for racial integration. Except for the occasional coarse language, the film is family fare: a fun, old-time look at a well-loved and influential phenom.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how Buddy Holly is considered one of the most influential creative forces in early rock 'n' roll. What do you think there was in his music that inspired such artists as the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones?
How did parents and society in general react to early rock 'n' roll music? Are there parallels to more current music (rap, Lady Gaga, heavy metal)? What does this say about the challenges that occur in a changing culture?
How does this movie deal with race? What did you learn about music's role in race relations in this time period? What kinds of stereotypes are challenged or reinforced in The Buddy Holly Story?
- In theaters: May 18, 1978
- On DVD or streaming: September 7, 1999
- Cast: Charles Martin Smith, Gary Busey
- Director: Steve Rash
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Musical
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Award: Academy Award
- Last updated: February 3, 2023
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