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La Bamba

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Luis Valdez
Produced by Executive Producer:
Stuart Benjamin
Producers:
Bill Borden
Taylor Hackford
and others.
Written by Luis Valdez
Starring Lou Diamond Phillips
Esai Morales
Rosanna DeSoto
Music by Los Lobos
Miles Goodman
Cinematography Adam Greenberg
Editing by Sheldon Kahn
Don Brochu
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) United States:
July 24, 1987
Running time 108 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Gross revenue $54,215,416

La Bamba (1987) is an American biographical film written and directed by Luis Valdez. The picture features Lou Diamond Phillips, Esai Morales, Rosanna DeSoto, Elizabeth Peña, and others.[1] The drama is based on the real life events that affected the lives of rock star Ritchie Valens, his half-brother Bob Morales, his girlfriend Donna Ludwig and the rest of their families.

Contents

Plot

Richard Steven Valenzuela (Lou Diamond Phillips) is a normal teenage boy who becomes singing super-star Ritchie Valens. He meets and falls in love with Donna Ludwig, for whom he wrote a song that became a number one hit. However, her parents are shown as having problems with their daughter dating a Latino young man, which causes friction between Donna and Ritchie. The movie also has several subplots, such as his relationship with his mother Connie Valenzuela (Rosanna DeSoto) and half-brother Bob Morales (Esai Morales), and how his brother felt that their mother favors Ritchie.

In one scene, Bob won an important art contest that helps promising cartoonists, only to throw away his prize because, in his mind, his mother doesn't seem to care enough. Bob resorts to drinking heavily and, at one point, leads him to end up crying in front of his mother's door yelling "I want to see my daughter!" in reference to the child he sired with Ritchie's ex-girlfriend, Rosie (Elizabeth Peña).

The Valenzuela family (L-R) Esai Morales as Bob Morales, Rosanna DeSoto as Connie Valenzuela and Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens

The film also focuses on Ritchie's fear of flying, and a recurring dream he has on account of a collision of two planes that killed his best friend when he was younger. Eventually, he must conquer his fear when asked to perform his song "Donna" on American Bandstand. His manager Bob Keane (Joe Pantoliano) helps him by giving him a little vodka to calm his nerves during a plane flight.

As Valens becomes famous, his responsibilities change. He has to go on tour with Buddy Holly (Marshall Crenshaw) and The Big Bopper after his hits "La Bamba" and "Donna" reach the top of the Billboard charts.

However, every time they get a chance, Ritchie and Bob sneak out and have fun by going to carnivals. They also take a road trip to Tijuana.

Valens, Holly, and The Bopper take off in an airplane under a snow storm for their fateful flight on February 3, 1959. Before that, Ritchie makes a call to his brother where they patch up their differences. He even asks Bob to fly out to Chicago to join the tour for family support.

As Bob is fixing his mother's car, he hears the news bulletin on the radio that his brother's plane crashed without any survivors. Bob darts out of his driveway in an attempt to get to his mother before she hears the bad news through the radio. Unfortunately, by the time he gets there she stands immobile. The news hits the whole Valenzuela family very hard. In the final scene, we see Bob walking over a bridge and screaming the name of Ritchie, remembering all the good times they had together (in flashback).

We then see Lou Diamond Phillips and the Mexican-American rock band Los Lobos performing Valens' version of "La Bamba."

Cast

Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens.

Also featured are several members of the Valenzuela family and director Luis Valdez's family, including:

  • Concepcion Valenzuela (Ritchie's mother) as the older woman sitting next to Ritchie at a party
  • Daniel Valdez (Luis' brother) as Ritchie's Uncle Lelo

Background

This production had the full support of the Valenzuela family. Bob Morales and Connie Valenzuela came to the set to help the actors portray their characters correctly, and Connie makes an appearance as an older lady sitting next to Ritchie at the family's first party.

Phillips bonded with the Valenzuelas and, at one point, actually became Ritchie to them. This led to an incident involving Ritchie's sister: When the actors began boarding the plane for the final fatal flight, the scene was interrupted by Connie Lemos (Ritchie's real life sister), who was only six years old when her brother's died. She hysterically tried to keep Phillips from boarding the plane. She was heard to shout, "Don't go Ritchie! Please don't get on the plane! Why did you have to die?" Connie admitted to Behind the Music that she realized at that moment that she never fully accepted her brother's death.

The original title of this film was, "Let's Go," named for Valens' hit song: "Come on Let's Go!"[2]

All of Ritchie Valens' songs were performed by Los Lobos. The band has a cameo in the movie where they sang in the brothel ballroom in Tijuana. Brian Setzer has a cameo as Eddie Cochran performing "Summertime Blues" onstage, and Marshall Crenshaw plays Buddy Holly performing "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" at the final concert in Clear Lake, Iowa. They and other musicians portraying The Big Bopper and Jackie Wilson also provided recordings for the film.

Ritchie Valens was only seventeen years old when he died, eight months after he signed to Del-Fi Records and produced three songs that hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Don McLean immortalized Ritchie and his friends' deaths as "The Day the Music Died" when he chronicled his reaction to hearing about the plane crash in his song "American Pie."

Distribution

The film opened in wide release in the United States on July 24, 1987. In Australia it opened on September 17, 1987.

In its opening weekend, the film grossed a total of $5,698,884. La Bamba eventually grossed $52,678,820 in the United States in twelve weeks.[3]

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Marketing

The producers used the following taglines to market the film:

  • Born to poverty. Destined for stardom. He Lived the American Dream.
  • Talent made him a star, Fate made him a legend. The true story of Ritchie Valens

Critical reception

Roger Ebert liked the film and the screenplay, writing, "This is a good small movie, sweet and sentimental, about a kid who never really got a chance to show his stuff. The best things in it are the most unexpected things: the portraits of everyday life, of a loving mother, of a brother who loves and resents him, of a kid growing up and tasting fame and leaving everyone standing around at his funeral shocked that his life ended just as it seemed to be beginning."[4]

Janet Maslin, writing for The New York Times, was impressed with Lou Diamond Phillips' performance, and wrote, "A film like this is quite naturally a showcase for its star, and as Valens, Lou Diamond Phillips has a sweetness and sincerity that in no way diminish the toughness of his onstage persona. The role is blandly written, but Mr. Phillips gives Valens backbone."[5]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 95% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on twenty reviews."[6]

Soundtrack

La Bamba CD cover.

Because the movie is a celebration of 1950s rock & roller Ritchie Valens, his music, and the music of his contemporaries play a central part in the film.

An original motion picture soundtrack album was released on June 30, 1987 on Warner Bros. Records. The album contained twelve tracks. The first six songs consist of Los Lobos covers of Ritchie Valens' songs: "La Bamba", "Come On Let's Go", "Ooh My Head", "We Belong Together", "Framed", and "Donna".[7]

Other performers include: Howard Huntsberry, Marshall Crenshaw, Brian Setzer, and Bo Diddley performing a new version of his blues classic "Who Do You Love?"

Some songs like The Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace" were omitted from the release. Other omitted songs were "Oh Boy", "Rip It Up", "The Paddi Wack Song" (written by Valens), and "Sleep Walk".

Preceded by
Whitney by Whitney Houston
Billboard 200 number-one album
September 12 - September 26, 1987
Succeeded by
Bad by Michael Jackson

Awards

Wins

Nominations

References

  1. ^ La Bamba at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ IMDb, ibid.
  3. ^ The Numbers box office data. Last accessed: November 27, 2007.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times, film review, July 24, 1987.
  5. ^ Maslin, Janet. The New York Times, film review, July 24, 1987.
  6. ^ La Bamba at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: November 18, 2008.
  7. ^ Amazon.com web site.

External links


La Bamba
Directed by Luis Valdez
Produced by Executive Producer:
Stuart Benjamin
Producers:
Bill Borden
Taylor Hackford
and others.
Written by Luis Valdez
Starring Lou Diamond Phillips
Esai Morales
Rosanna DeSoto
Music by Los Lobos
Miles Goodman
Carlos Santana
Cinematography Adam Greenberg
Editing by Sheldon Kahn
Don Brochu
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) July 24, 1987 (1987-07-24)
Running time 108 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Gross revenue $54,215,416

La Bamba is a 1987 American biographical film written and directed by Luis Valdez. The picture features Lou Diamond Phillips, Esai Morales, Rosanna DeSoto, Elizabeth Peña, and others.[1] The drama is based on the real life events that affected the lives of rock star Ritchie Valens, his half-brother Bob Morales, his girlfriend Donna Ludwig and the rest of their families.

Contents

Plot

Richard Steven Valenzuela (Lou Diamond Phillips) is a normal teenage boy who becomes singing super-star Ritchie Valens. He meets and falls in love with Donna Ludwig, for whom he wrote a song that became a number one hit. However, her parents are shown as having problems with their daughter dating a Latino young man, which causes friction between Donna and Ritchie. The movie also has several subplots, such as his relationship with his mother Connie Valenzuela (Rosanna DeSoto) and half-brother Bob Morales (Esai Morales), and how his brother felt that their mother favors Ritchie.

In one scene, Bob won an important art contest that helps promising cartoonists, only to throw away his prize because, in his mind, his mother doesn't seem to care enough. Bob resorts to drinking heavily and, at one point, leads him to end up crying in front of his mother's door yelling "I want to see my daughter!" in reference to the child he sired with Ritchie's ex-girlfriend, Rosie (Elizabeth Peña).


The film also focuses on Ritchie's fear of flying, and a recurring dream he has as a result of a collision of two planes that killed his best friend when he was younger. Eventually, he must conquer his fear when asked to perform his song "Donna" on American Bandstand. His manager Bob Keane (Joe Pantoliano) helps him by giving him a little vodka to calm his nerves during a plane flight.

As Valens becomes famous, his responsibilities change. He has to go on tour with Buddy Holly (Marshall Crenshaw) and The Big Bopper after his hits "La Bamba" and "Donna" reach the top of the Billboard charts.

However, every time they get a chance, Ritchie and Bob sneak out and have fun by going to carnivals. They also take a road trip to Tijuana.

Valens, Holly, and The Bopper take off in an airplane under a snow storm for their fateful flight on February 3, 1959. Before that, Ritchie makes a call to his brother where they patch up their differences. He even asks Bob to fly out to Chicago to join the tour for family support.

As Bob is fixing his mother's car, he hears the news bulletin on the radio that his brother's plane crashed without any survivors. Bob darts out of his driveway in an attempt to get to his mother before she hears the bad news through the radio. Unfortunately, by the time he gets there she stands immobile. The news hits the whole Valenzuela family very hard. In the final scene, Bob is walking over a bridge and screaming the name of Ritchie, remembering all the good times they had together (in flashback).

We then see Lou Diamond Phillips and the Mexican-American rock band Los Lobos performing Valens' version of "La Bamba."

Cast

Also featured are several members of the Valenzuela family and director Luis Valdez's family, including:

  • Concepcion Valenzuela (Ritchie's mother) as the older woman sitting next to Ritchie at a party
  • Daniel Valdez (Luis' brother) as Ritchie's Uncle Lelo

Background

This production had the full support of the Valenzuela family. Bob Morales and Connie Valenzuela came to the set to help the actors portray their characters correctly, and Connie makes an appearance as an older lady sitting next to Ritchie at the family's first party.

Phillips bonded with the Valenzuelas and, at one point, actually became Ritchie to them. This led to an incident involving Ritchie's sister: When the actors began boarding the plane for the final fatal flight, the scene was interrupted by Connie Lemos (Ritchie's real life sister), who was only six years old when her brother died. She hysterically tried to keep Phillips from boarding the plane. She was heard to shout, "Don't go Ritchie! Please don't get on the plane! Why did you have to die?" Connie admitted to Behind the Music that she realized at that moment that she never fully accepted her brother's death.

The original title of this film was, "Let's Go," named for Valens' hit song: "Come on Let's Go!"[2]

All of Ritchie Valens' songs were performed by Los Lobos. The band has a cameo in the movie where they sang in the brothel ballroom in Tijuana. Brian Setzer has a cameo as Eddie Cochran performing "Summertime Blues" onstage, and Marshall Crenshaw plays Buddy Holly performing "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" at the final concert in Clear Lake, Iowa. They and other musicians portraying The Big Bopper and Jackie Wilson also provided recordings for the film.

Ritchie Valens was only seventeen years old when he died, eight months after he signed to Del-Fi Records and produced three songs that hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Don McLean immortalized Ritchie and his friends' deaths as "The Day the Music Died" when he chronicled his reaction to hearing about the plane crash in his song "American Pie."

Distribution

The film opened in wide release in the United States on July 24, 1987. In Australia it opened on September 17, 1987.

In its opening weekend, the film grossed a total of $5,698,884. La Bamba eventually grossed $52,678,820 in the United States in 12 weeks.[3]

Marketing

The producers used the following taglines to market the film:

  • Born to poverty. Destined for stardom. He Lived the American Dream.
  • Talent made him a star, Fate made him a legend. The true story of Ritchie Valens

Critical reception

Roger Ebert liked the film and the screenplay, writing, "This is a good small movie, sweet and sentimental, about a kid who never really got a chance to show his stuff. The best things in it are the most unexpected things: the portraits of everyday life, of a loving mother, of a brother who loves and resents him, of a kid growing up and tasting fame and leaving everyone standing around at his funeral shocked that his life ended just as it seemed to be beginning."[4]

Janet Maslin, writing for The New York Times, was impressed with Lou Diamond Phillips' performance, and wrote, "A film like this is quite naturally a showcase for its star, and as Valens, Lou Diamond Phillips has a sweetness and sincerity that in no way diminish the toughness of his onstage persona. The role is blandly written, but Mr. Phillips gives Valens backbone."[5]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 95% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on twenty reviews."[6]

Soundtrack

Because the movie is a celebration of 1950s rock & roller Ritchie Valens, his music, and the music of his contemporaries play a central part in the film.

An original motion picture soundtrack album was released on June 30, 1987 on Warner Bros. Records. The album contained twelve tracks. The first six songs consist of Los Lobos covers of Ritchie Valens' songs: "La Bamba", "Come On Let's Go", "Ooh My Head", "We Belong Together", "Framed", and "Donna".[7]

Other performers include: Howard Huntsberry, Marshall Crenshaw, Brian Setzer, and Bo Diddley performing a new version of his blues classic "Who Do You Love?"

Some songs like The Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace" were omitted from the release. Other omitted songs were "Oh Boy", "Rip It Up", "The Paddi Wack Song" (written by Valens), and "Sleep Walk".

Preceded by
Whitney by Whitney Houston
Billboard 200 number-one album
September 12–26, 1987
Succeeded by
Bad by Michael Jackson

Awards

Wins

Nominations

References

  1. ^ La Bamba at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ IMDb, ibid.
  3. ^ The Numbers box office data. Last accessed: November 27, 2007.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times, film review, July 24, 1987.
  5. ^ Maslin, Janet. The New York Times, film review, July 24, 1987.
  6. ^ La Bamba at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: November 18, 2008.
  7. ^ Amazon.com web site.

External links

File:Sunset at Huntington Beach.jpg Los Angeles portal
Latino and Hispanic American portal


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