Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors
Outside of their animated superstars, Annette Funicello is probably the performer most closely associated with the Walt Disney Company. The relentlessly perky brunette had moved to California with her family when she was a youngster and was spotted in a school production by a Disney talent scout who asked her to audition for a new children's TV show being created by the studio. She thereby became the standout star of The Mickey Mouse Club and the only one of the kids from that series to be kept under contract after its cancellation. Billed simply as 'Annette,' she had scored two Top 10 Recordings, 'Tall Paul' and 'O Dio Mio,' despite the fact that she wasn't much of a singer, and had popped up in several Disney features and television mini-series, although she wasn't all that hot an actress either. There was, however, something exceedingly likable and comfortable about her personality that made audiences care. She found herself as Mary Contrary in the studio's lavish but disappointing version of Babes in Toyland, and co-star to Tommy Kirk in three other productions, The Shaggy Dog, The Misadventures of Merlin Jones, and The Monkey's Uncle, singing the unforgettable title songs for the last two. Her place as an icon of 1960's kitch was solidified by her work outside Disney when American International Pictures teamed her with Frankie Avalon for the insane-but-popular teen comedy Beach Party, in 1963. She was called back to sing and look alternately sweet or pouty-depending on how Frankie was treating her at that moment-in a few other lively but often excruciatingly stupid romps, including Bikini Beach, Pajama Party (Kirk filling in for a camcoing Avalon), and, perhaps, the most famous title of them all, Beach Blanket Bingo. After this era came to an end, she made TV guest appearances, became a commercial pitch person for Jif peanut butter, and was called on to host or speak on various Disney-related programs and videos. In 1987, serving with Avalon as co-executive producer, the due did a colorful send-up of their old beach pictures, Back to the Beach, with Annette good-naturedly kidding herself as an airhead mom, but it wasn't very popular. Shortly afterwards she announced that she was suffering from multiple sclerosis, detailing her struggle in her 1994 autobiography A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes. The book was mad into a typical TV bio film, with Annette playing her older self.
There was a list of films she was in which was incomplete, leaving out Horsemasters and Escapade in Florence entirely. There's is also a list of select TV appearances.
I think when people who write these articles say she was not a good actress or a singer they were expecting the films to be some kind of serious treatments. They were made purely for fun. There was really no attempt at any actual seriousness in the films, no major messages, just plain fun and slap-stick comedy.
I personally liked her singing. Both the films and her singing were representative of the time that they were done. By today's standards they might not be, but a lot of things have advanced in movie production since then, and it's a harsher and more cynical world than in when the Beach movies and other movies were made.
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