Sweet Dreams – Rediscovering ‘Nashville Girl’ (US 1976 – 90 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - July 20, 2015
Sweet Dreams – Rediscovering ‘Nashville Girl’ (US 1976 – 90 mins)

Part exploitation, part touching drama, the little-seen quickie ‘Nashville Girl’ is a better than average tale about ambition and the darker side of success. A Drive-in delight, it makes the most of its low budget and succeeds mainly due to the enthusiastic charm of its lead actress.

To escape her religious family and after being sexually assaulted by a local lad, pretty Country & Western wannabe Jamie (Monica Gayle) takes to the road and hitchhikes her way to the big city, hoping to be discovered as the next Loretta Lynn. Along the way she takes a job in a dodgy massage parlor, finds herself thrown into prison for prostitution, and has to fend off the gropes of shady record producers, a lesbian prison guard, and a famous country singer.

What surprised me the most about ‘Nashville Girl’ was the quality of the music, as the songs are better than you would expect, particularly the beguiling ballad ‘Friends’. It’s hard to tell if it was Monica Gayle doing her own singing, but if not then she certainly mimes well. Reminding us that we are also in exploitation territory, there’s a lot of female nudity and sordid incidents, including Jamie’s opening skinny-dipping scene which leads to her rape.

Lovable Monica Gayle gives a winning performance as the ambitious and underage Jamie, who slowly realizes that fame can leave you empty, and that there’s no place like home. Reminding me a little of the wonderful Lynn Lowry, Monica has had a varied career, mixing soft-core with mainstream. Gayle’s other notable works were the sensual drama ‘Strawberries Need Rain’ (’70), and Jack Hill’s ‘Switchblade Sisters’ (’75), where she gave a terrific turn as an eye-patch wearing member of a spunky girl gang. Monica’s career would only last ten years though and she retired from the screen in 1979. Popular television and western star Glenn Corbett had a rare sleazy role as Jeb, the sordid Country singer who doesn’t take Jamie’s rejections too kindly.

Talented director and ex-husband of Goldie Hawn; Gus Trikonis, went on to make the underrated chiller ‘The Evil’ (’78), while the movie’s producer Peer J. Oppenheimer wrote the decent if downbeat screenplay.

With the usual dumb cops, road-side diners and overweight sleaze-balls, ‘Nashville Girl’ made for very good Drive-in fare, especially with its likable lead and some rather catchy tunes. It’s also rather sad and reminds us that the rocky road to stardom is often paved with heartache.

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