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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 »


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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 ... Himself
Hermione Baddeley ... Penelope
Reginald Beckwith 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


An Extraordinary Motion Picture of Uncommon Power! See more »


Drama | Music


Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

11 December 1959 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

A Singing Idol See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Meier Tzelniker and Susan Hampshire were the only cast members to carry their parts over from the stage-play. 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 »


Referenced in Jonathan Creek: The Reconstituted Corpse (1997) See more »


A Voice in the Wilderness
Music by Norrie Paramor
Lyrics by Bunny Lewis
Sung by Cliff Richard
See more »

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User Reviews

A missed opportunity
5 November 2010 | by dont_tell_duncanSee all my reviews

This was actually much better than I thought it could have been. And for a younger viewer it provides a snapshot of how Cliff really was once hip, belying his now ubiquitously and perennially uncool image. However, not being any sort of director or producer, it is very rare I ever have an insight of how I would remake a film. In the right hands, though, you sense the germs of a story that could have been executed with far more pathos - in the manner of say, a 'Darling' or even an 'All About Eve'. Entertaining as it is, it falls far short of being even the best Cliff film.

Lawrence Harvey is - for the first time that I've seen - badly miscast as the sleazy agent with a heart. He never quite gets to grips with the deeper layers of the amoral Johnny Jackson and the accent flits around hopelessly compounding the problem. You imagine what a Dirk Bogarde or even a young Peter Sellers might have done with such a role? Yolande Donlon portrays 'American star' on autopilot and the sexual tension is far too underplayed (although probably a fear of the censors more than anything else). Cliff is reasonably endearing, but is laughable as any sort of 'British Elvis' - one watch of King Creole (which this film surely owes a lot to) demonstrates Elvis as a far superior actor, albeit one who was never really given a chance to shine. He also inevitably always managed to wear his outfits - however outlandish - with far more panache than the embarrassing costumes Cliff is forced to don (check out the swimming trunks/shoes/socks combo!). Only Sylvia Syms is amiably convincing, but is never really given adequate chance to shine in the role of stripper-with-a-heart Maisie King.

At the root of the problem is a makeshift script which suffers from not knowing what it wants to be? Is it a morality tale? Light entertainment? A document of a short era of London's youth culture? Or simply a quick buck being made off what I imagine was expected at the time to be Cliff's fleeting popularity? Whilst there are flashes of wit and the odd great scene, these are counterbalanced by irrelevant unfunny scenes (such as those involving the inexplicable buffoon children of Donlon's publicist?) and insufficient background characterisation of all the leads. It also lacks sufficient songs of a quality which could help carry it - only Voice In The Wilderness even vaguely stands up as credible, and even then it's not exactly 'edgy'.

In short it's not by any means the worst way to spend 90 mins on a Sunday afternoon or suchlike, but you may end up wishing for what could have been so much more...

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