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Expresso Bongo (1959)

Not Rated | | Drama, Music | 11 December 1959 (UK)
Johnny Jackson, a sleazy talent agent, discovers teenager Bert Rudge singing in a coffee house. Despite Bert's protestation that he really is only interested in playing bongos, Johnny ... See full summary »


Val Guest


Wolf Mankowitz (based on "Expresso Bongo" by), Julian More (based on "Expresso Bongo" by) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 2 BAFTA Film Awards. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Laurence Harvey ... Johnny Jackson
Sylvia Syms ... Maisie King
Yolande Donlan ... Dixie Collins
Cliff Richard ... Bert Rudge / Bongo Herbert
Meier Tzelniker Meier Tzelniker ... Mayer
Ambrosine Phillpotts ... Lady Rosemary
Eric Pohlmann ... Leon (as Eric Pohlman)
Gilbert Harding Gilbert Harding ... Self
Hermione Baddeley ... Penelope
Reginald Beckwith ... Reverend Tobias Craven


Johnny Jackson, a sleazy talent agent, discovers teenager Bert Rudge singing in a coffee house. Despite Bert's protestation that he really is only interested in playing bongos, Johnny starts him on the road to stardom. The deal they cut, however, is highly exploitative of the young singer, and their relationship soon begins to go bad. Written by George S. Davis <mgeorges@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Laurence Harvey in an outstanding and different motion picture that takes you into a world of burlesque houses .. jazz dens ... and flesh-and-blood people! See more »


Drama | Music


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Laurence Harvey said that he based his character's accent on writer Wolf Mankowitz. See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits are shown on a neon sign outside a theatre, a jukebox, a pinball machine, a barrel organ, a restaurant menu, a pin-board, ending with a sandwich-board man. See more »

Alternate Versions

Reissued in 1962 at 106 minutes. This shorter version omitted a number of songs, including "Nausea." About 2 minutes of alternate scenes were used to fill in some of the cut musical scenes. See more »


References Seven Wonders of the World (1956) See more »


Nothing Is For Nothing
Music by David Heneker (as David Henneker) and Monty Norman
Lyrics by Julian More and Wolf Mankowitz
See more »

User Reviews

Cliff Richard's best film
7 January 2015 | by helenandgrahamSee all my reviews

Watching any film 50 years after you last saw it is, at any time, a mildly unnerving experience. A film that boasts the dubious title 'Expresso Bongo' and features a not-greatly post-pubescent Cliff Richard should have provided a strong warning that turning back the clock is not always a good idea but, actually, this was a great pleasure. Based on a successful stage musical and set in the heart of the Soho music industry of the late 1950s as it comes to terms with rock and roll , 'Expresso Bongo' retains a salty edge even now. Laurence Harvey plays a chancer who happens to come across a young rocker (Cliff Richard) who he seeks to exploit shamelessly but who then proves more than a match for him. With a sharp, pungent and funny script (by 50s star writer Wolf Mankowitz) and plenty of night location shooting in Soho, the film fizzes along for the most part, resembling 'Sweet Smell of Success', but with songs and a slightly softer edge. The version on this DVD has been shorn of its extrinsic musical numbers (including one sung by old-style musical promoter Maier Tzelniker that I remember well, starting 'When I compare these little bleeders to the chorus from Aida….nausea!') but still has time for the wonderfully cynical 'Shrine on the Second Floor', as Cliff is propelled into religiosity to further his career. Harvey's weaselly good looks are just right and Sylvia Sims is very sexy as his long-suffering stripper girlfriend. Even Cliff acquits himself well, with just the right amount of ambivalence as to his complicity (including being asked, not for the last time, why he has no girlfriend). In a film where everyone is either on the make or being exploited, sometimes at the same time, there is at least one poignant real-life parallel. The distinguished stage actress Hermione Baddelley here plays a veteran street tart. She has a couple of affectionate scenes with Harvey, with whom, despite their age difference, she had a relationship in the early 1950s just as his career was getting under way. Now, Harvey was on a roll and would shortly go to Hollywood on the strength of his next film, 'Man at the Top'.

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Release Date:

11 December 1959 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

A Singing Idol See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Val Guest Productions See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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