La Bamba (1987) Poster



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According to Lou Diamond Phillips in the VH1 documentary Behind the Music: The Day the Music Died (1999), Ritchie Valens' sister was on the set the day they shot the "coin toss" scene, in which Ritchie wins the chance to fly on the plane with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. Ritchie's sister began to weep uncontrollably during shooting. When Phillips tried to console her, she hugged him and sobbed, "Why Ritchie? Why did you get on the plane?"
Ritchie Valens' family were so attached to Lou Diamond Phillips that when he was shooting the scene where Valens gets on the airplane that led him to his death, the family begged Phillips not to get on, fearing that he would die. The family was warned not to come to the filming the day that they filmed him getting on the plane but his sister ignored this and drove up to the set anyways. She cried, hugged him and begged him not to get on the plane
The plane crash at Ritchie Valens' school happened on January 31, 1957. A DC-7 and an F-89 jet collided and broke-up in mid-air. The DC-7 landed on the playground of Pacoima Junior High School (now Pacoima Middle School) while students were outside at recess. Everyone on the DC-7 was killed. Several students died on the playground; 75 were injured. Valens was out of school that day, attending his grandfather's funeral. The crash caused Valens' fear of flying.
The band playing the traditional folk version of "La Bamba" at the club in Tijuana is Los Lobos, which performed all of Ritchie Valens' music for the film. The guitar player next to the bass player is David Hidalgo, who provided Lou Diamond Phillips' singing voice.
The club where Ritchie Valens is nervous about performing before an Anglo crowd is Cowboy Palace in Chatsworth, California.The bar is still in business.
Before Lou Diamond Phillips auditioned for the role, his agent mistakenly told him that the film was about Frankie Valli. Phillips didn't think he was right for the part, but went to the audition anyway.
According to Tommy Allsup (the one who "lost" the fateful coin toss), the toss occurred in the SURF ballroom and not on the airfield as depicted in the movie.
Rosanna DeSoto is only twelve years older than Lou Diamond Phillips and Esai Morales, who played her sons on the film.
Many family members from the production team, and Luis Valdez's and the Valenzuela family, appear in this film.
The Big Bopper and Waylon Jennings, who was Buddy Holly's bass player at the time, traded seats. The Big Bopper got on the plane, Waylon took the bus. Before the plane took off, Buddy said to Waylon, "I hope you freeze your ass on that bus". Waylon responded, jokingly, "Well, I hope your plane crashes". That remark haunted Waylon for years.
One of the cartoon characters seen on the wall of Bob's basement studio is Oswald the Rabbit, the early Walt Disney character that was later modified and became Mickey Mouse.
Lou Diamond Phillips was 25 when he played teen-aged Ritchie Valens. Marshall Crenshaw was 33 when he played 22-year-old Buddy Holly.
The Indian motorcycle that Bob rides throughout the movie is really a Harley-Davidson Sportster mocked up to look like an Indian.
A cafe in Bundaberg Australia named La Bamba as a tribute to the film operated for a number of years with 50's memorabilia and a phone booth similar to the one Richie sang to Donna in and set up like a 50's US cafe.
The patch on Bob's vest is that of the Galloping Goose Motorcycle Club. In 1947, Galloping Goose was one of many clubs that came to Hollister, California during the AMA Gypsy Tour motorcycle rally, which led to a riot. Galloping Goose, with just over a dozen members, was there by invitation.
Esai Morales coincidentally has the same last name as the real person he portrays, Bob Morales.
The green guitar at the beginning of the movie is a Harmony Stratotone 3/4 scale, or Student Model, from the early 1950s. The amp is an early 1950s Fender Champ.
Original title was "Let's Go".
In the movie, Esai Morales plays Bob, the older brother of Ritchie Valens, played by Lou Diamond Phillips. In reality, Phillips is eight months older than Morales.
In the repeating plane crash dream of the 1957, one of the planes is a Beechcraft Bonanza Model 35 V tail. This is the type plane that Richie actually crashed in on Feb. 3, 1959. The actual planes in the 1957 crash were a DC7B and a F89 jet.
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The song "sleep walk" by Johnny and Santo used in the film was actually covered by the Big Bopper, which enhances the already haunting quality it brings to the OST.
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Ritchie Valens,The Big Bopper, and Buddy Holly died in a plane crash on February 3rd, 1959, while on tour in Iowa.
Howard Huntsberry plays Jackie Wilson. Two years later, Ghostbusters II (1989) used 2 different versions of the song "Higher and Higher." Wilson's version was used in the toaster scene, and a cover by Huntsberry was used in the Statue of Liberty scene.
Waylon Jennings' The Stage (Stars in Heaven) recreates the Winter Dance Party in a touching song about the last performance before the Day the Music Died.
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Toward the end of the movie, when Ritchie and Donna are cruising down the road, Ritchie asks Donna if she'll wait to marry him. He says "Just till I'm 25 and I have a big, glass cabinet to keep all my gold records in". Lou Diamond Phillips actually was 25 during filming.
The American Legion Hall used in the movie was filmed on Ave 55 in the Highland Park community of Northeast Los Angeles.
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During the surprise party for Ritchie after he returns from his tour, his manager Bob Keanu says he's going to stay because of the good food. Just before the scene cuts, you can hear him ask someone, "What's this in the bowl?" It's menudo, a red Mexican soup or sauce.
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Was selected in 2017 for preservation in the National Film Registry by The Library of Congress for being "Culturally historically or aesthetically significant".
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Connie Valenzuela: the old woman sitting near Ritchie Valens at the first family party. Valens' mother died October 18, 1987, three months after the film's release.


The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

When Ritchie is interviewed by the radio station, the DJ asks listeners a trivia question, "What does the mystery guest have in common with the Vice President of the United States?" Dwight Eisenhower was President at the time, and his Vice-President was Richard Nixon. The VP and the mystery guest had the same first name.

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