AFM Flashback: Muscle Beach Was the Star in 1964

AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES (AIP)/PHOTOFEST
Annette Funicello got a lift from future 'Mission: Impossible' star Peter Lupus on the set of 'Muscle Beach Party' (1964), directed by William Asher.

The original Muscle Beach, walking distance from AFM, was once immortalized in the film, 'Muscle Beach Party' — starring Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Buddy Hackett and Don Rickles — which The Hollywood Reporter predicted would become "a box-office weightlifter."

The original Muscle Beach, walking distance from AFM, was once immortalized in Muscle Beach Party, (1964), the second of seven beach movies produced by American International Pictures. 

"These were fun movies made for teenagers to watch at the drive-in," says former AIP marketing exec Milton Moritz, whose son, Neal Moritz, has produced the Fast and the Furious films. "The funny thing was our biggest audience was kids in the Midwest who’d never seen the ocean."

The plot was thin — surfers discover their favorite beach has been invaded by bodybuilders — but The Hollywood Reporter predicted Muscle Beach Party would be "a box-office weightlifter." It had an interesting cast. Besides Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, there was Buddy Hackett and Don Rickles, then 37, who played the bodybuilders’ perennially angry coach, plus Peter Lorre, who died at age 59 before the film was released. There also was a musical performer THR referred to as "the young Negro singer, Stevie Wonder," who was 13 at the time. 

As for the real Muscle Beach, it shifted south in 1987 from near the Santa Monica Pier to two blocks north of Venice Boulevard.

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Nov. 3 daily issue at the American Film Market.