- Movie Rating -

The Idolmaker (1980)

| November 14, 1980

Every star has a talent that comes from somewhere; some have talent that comes from God and others have it painted and prepped and trained and paid for.  This second method is the job of Vince Vaccari, a smooth, fast-talking slickster who is so good at his job that he could have convinced Moses to go back to Egypt.  In the ballooned-up world of 1950s rock and roll Vince makes teen idols happen.  With an encouragement here, some dance moves there he can take your average kid with a limited singing ability and push him in front of 200 screaming bobbysoxers and turn him into an over-night sensation.

An yet, underneath that slick façade lies a sad irony.  Vince makes stars but he never had the looks to make it on his own.  He’s talented but the years have bypassed him, and so he uses young kids as a vicarious vehicle to the stardom that he was never able to achieve for himself.

I wasn’t so sure that this set-up would work.  At the beginning of The Idolmaker I was fairly resigned to the fact that it I knew where it was going and that director Taylor Hackford would merely spend his time padding until we get to the formulaic destination.  I was delighted that this is not the case.  The screenplay is not the most original thing in the world but it has nuance, it has something to say, it has a certain amount of sympathy for Vince that I didn’t expect.

Much of that comes from the performance of Ray Sharky as Vince.  He’s a guy with a passion for his work and his pitch to his young stars are a grand mixture of encouragement and grand salesmanship (read: bullshit) but he knows how to spin those encouragements into convincing a shy kid that he can be a superstar. 

Vince is based, I understand, on Bob Marcucci, the real-life talent agent whose biggest claim to fame was prepping and packaging early 60s stars like Frankie Avalon and Fabian into brief but not insignificant stardom.  I don’t know how much of this movie is Marcucci and how much was fabricated but I was so interested in Vince’s world, as a guy who can make a star but can never be in the spotlight himself, and if Sharky weren’t so convincing, I don’t think it would work.  This is a nice portrait of need, of isolation and of a man with the talent to make great things happen but not the thing that he perhaps wanted most for himself.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1980) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized