Nashville Girl (1976)

I think it’s safe to say that just about everyone has had a dream of being the hottest new country music sensation, right?

No?  It’s just me?  Come on, guys, I cannot be the only person who ever thought about running away to Nashville, Tennessee, wearing a short skirt, pretend that I’m only about 18 years old, and use my looks to make it big in the world of country music.  Really?

You may say that you’ve never thought about it, but I can smell a lie like a fart in a car, dear Enemaniacs.  But, hey…  Maybe that bug just hasn’t bitten you yet.  I guarantee that after watching this week’s B-Movie Enema feature, Nashville Girl, you will have a new life dream.

Country music is a fascinating beast.  It’s a genre of music that I just cannot abide.  I’m a rock and roll guy through and through.  Yet…  I really like southern rock.  My favorite singer/songwriter is Tom Petty and, despite being heavily influenced by The Birds, he’s undoubtedly a southern rocker.  However, there is an element of country music that I really do have some appreciation for.

Most of it these days are guys singing about their beer, their trucks, or their broken hearts while most women in the genre almost dance along a pop music line with some, like Taylor Swift, leaning fully into the realm of pop.  However, there’s a period in time in which country (and western) music was more pure and, quite frankly, something I can appreciate.  I think of it as less the redneck kind of country, and the more honest, salt of the earth kind of country and western the likes of Conway Twitty, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, and Dolly Parton do.  It’s almost like folksy troubadours with twang.  It’s not city music.  It’s country.  It’s what people pick on their guitars and banjos while on the front step on a hot summer day.

Nashville Girl brings to bear a crossroad between those earlier days of country music and the general Hollywood fascination with redneck folk.  I became aware of this movie thanks to Mr. Joe Bob Briggs at his How Rednecks Saved Hollywood show back in February right before the world became an 800-page Stephen King novel come to life.  It’s got 70s exploitation mixed with music with a pinch of jailbait thriller.  Don’t believe me?  Well if you watch the spectacular trailer for the movie, you’d see this:

Roger Corman’s New World Pictures distributed this movie and he reported it doing quite well in the south and, surprisingly, Europe.  Now, I’m no expert on European nuthin’ but I suspect that “16 years old – but she caught on fast” bit sells just as well, or better, over there as it does in the south.

The two main stars of this movie are Monica Gayle, our titular Nashville Girl, who only had about a 10 year career in the biz but cranked out 30 credits, and Glenn Corbett who I can always immediately recognize as the first person to play Zefram Cochrane.  Who the fuck is Zefram Cochrane?  Well, junior, he’s the dude who will create the first warp drive engine and ultimately lead the Vulcans to a first contact with humans on Earth.  Corbett played him in the original Star Trek series and, later, Oscar nominated actor James Cromwell played him in Star Trek: First Contact.  Goddamn, I really hope the aftermath of the Coronavirus is Star Trek.

(Can’t you tell I wrote this article while quarantined?)

I appreciate that the DVD of this obscure mid-70s exploitation movie has more than just the movie.  Naturally, Roger Corman gets a special feature for an interview.  However, you also have a Fun Facts and Trivia Mode you can watch the movie with as well as the original trailer AND the Trailers from Hell trailer.  Nifty.

The movie starts with Monica Gayle’s Jamie, skippin’ her way across a field.  She stops at the edge of a pond and strips down to go for a skinny dip.  I know Monica Gayle is older than 16 when she made this, but I’m not sure if I should be turned on by her skinny dipping or worried that I’ll get busted for watching this.  Before I think about this too long and start to feel icky, I’m just going to take her character’s word for it that she is 19.  Anyway, she’s listening to Jeb Hubbard (Corbett) on the radio.  A local boy who likes to tease her has tossed her clothes up the way a bit so he can watch her swim and hopefully get a peak of the goodies when she decides to get out and get dressed.

The moment Jeb gets off the stage where the show is being broadcast from, a guy tries sell him a song, but Jeb ain’t having none of it.  Why?  There’s a naked girl waiting for him in his dressing room.  I’m guessing that is the form the gaseous cloud that was keeping him company decided to turn itself into.  Heh…  Star Trek jokes!

Jamie thinks that Carl, the local yokel who was hiding her clothes, has decided to leave her alone.  He has not.  She tries getting her clothes, but he jumps her and then rapes her…  Because this is a 70s movie and that’s just what happens in these.  Carl, the big man he is, is like a four pump chump and he then cries and begs for her forgiveness and for her not to tell anyone.  Carl has a bright future in southern politics.  All he has to do drop the N-word and he’s a shoe-in for Congress!  Heh…  Political jokes!

You know…  Monica Gayle reminds me a little bit of Camille Keaton mixed with Sissy Spacek.  That rape scene with doughy as fuck Carl was raw and startling like something in I Spit on Your Grave.  Anyway, I guess his tears weren’t enough for her to not tell someone, so a car full of dudes chase Carl down.  They beat the fuck out of him.  While they do that, Jamie’s Pa whips the shit out of her for listenin’ to that devil country music during church service.

I’m not saying I know a whole lot about any of these characters yet, but I can definitely understand motivations – Jeb wants to fuck and Jamie’s life in this podunk farm county suuuuucks.

She finds an ad in the newspaper for country music singers and writers.  She leaves a note and some money with her sister and runs away from home.  She thumbs it to Nashville.  She gets picked up by a semi on its way to Murfreesboro just a little southeast of Nashville.  Within moments of getting into the cab, a guy puts his hand on her leg and she flips the fuck out.  The older, wiser driver calms her down, scolds the other guy with him and tells her this guy won’t try anything again.

They stop at a diner and a cop thinks something is real fishy with two truckers and a young girl.  The cop’s partner is like, “Dude, we can’t do nothing unless we know they are doing something.”  That is correct.  While the most conspicuous guy in the world stares daggers at the trio from their car, we are privy to the conversation in the diner.  The one guy does suggest she stay in their hotel room if they shack up for the night, but she’ll sleep on the floor.  The older drive agrees that might be the best idea.

Now, here’s where my mind has to ask… Is the cop staring daggers thinking the truck drivers are up to no good or do they think Jamie is the one initiating whatever it is he thinks is going on?  They watch them go to the motel and get a room and decide to act.  They bust in and find her in the tub where she is planning to sleep.  They pull her out and ask the guys what they think they are doing with a girl who doesn’t look 18 to them.  The old man says they should know better than to bust in and molest his daughter.  This gets the cops off their backs and they press on to Nashville where they leave her on the outskirts.

She gets picked up by a famous singer and he immediately tries to fuck her.  She gets away from him.  He thinks he must be doing something wrong because this always happens to him.  She gets a room at the YWCA and meets “Al” (short for Alice, played by Marcie Barkin).  Al is from Brooklyn and she too wants to find fame and fortune as a writer or singer.  She helps Jamie get a new guitar and goes with her to the “office” of C.Y. Ordell.  This is a classic sham job.  Ordell just sits around and when someone comes in, his secretary gives a signal and he climbs out the window and around to the front door.  He then gets fake messages about how Motown and Columbia Records wants his songs and talent, etc.

Ordell has Jamie play a song and it comes out quite nicely.  Both he and Al are really impressed.  He says the song needs a little polish, but he will get a demo ordered up.  He wants to get a band together, a producer, and a studio.  The cost would be between $3,000 to $5,000.  So Jamie has to go get a job.  Cue the job-finding montage.  In this time, Al tells her she’s moving with her boyfriend to Memphis where he got a new job.  Jamie’s last ditch effort is to go see the publishers and producers directly.  That doesn’t work out so well because she doesn’t have a demo tape anyway.

It’s about here where I have learned that this movie is actually pretty decent.  I’m 40 minutes in and Jamie’s gotten a job at a “massage parlor”as a receptionist.  The sleazeball manager will give her a few bucks a day to work there, but says she will make more if she only performed massages.  Jamie is positively not into that.  When push comes to shove, and she won’t service a customer, she gets fired.  She is back out on the streets hoping to find a job or a way to get her songs heard.  All the while, she has dreams of performing inside an Olan Mills portrait studio.

She ends up back at the massage parlor where she is doing a “half and half” – where she massages a guy for a half hour and then he massages her back.  When he tries fingering her, she gets the guy thrown out.  She’s worried that he’s going to get the authorities involved.  Her boss says that he won’t want to tell anyone that he’s been anywhere near that joint.  Smash cut to her being sentenced to three months at the juvenile detention farm.

The lesbian guard there has retrieved Jamie’s guitar for her and says that there will be some way for her to “repay” her.

 

Yup…  My little hillbilly musical has gone from exploitation drama to a little rape revenge to a harrowing tale of a young girl striking out on her own to, now, a women-in-prison flick.  I think this movie wants to be all things.  The guard makes her move and tries making out with Jamie in the shower.  Jamie gets the guard fired and the warden helps Jamie get paroled early.  A friend she met there, Frisky, picks her up and tells her she knows a guy, Kelly, who can introduce her to a producer to help her out.

Kelly does indeed introduce her to a guy named Mishmash who is a really good producer.  Mishmash gives her a listen and says her song wasn’t good, but excellent.  He tells her she has talent and can get places, but he doesn’t have a great deal of time to do all the handling she would need.  So she has sex with him.  She tells him that she’ll be 17 next week, and he kicks her out.

Kelly, who seems to be a super dude who wants to truly help her and not just lay her, helps her record a demo with the band he plays with.  She cranks out another really sweet song about doing better today than yesterday.  Kelly tells her she did a great job and gives her a sweet kiss and says he’ll see her tonight.

…and I guess he did want to have sex with her.

So, yet again, someone wants to “help” her in some way by using her utter desire to become a singer and songwriter so they can get their dick wet.  She goes to another publisher who gets handsy immediately after closing the door.  Kelly tells Jamie that Jeb Hubbard heard her tape and wants to meet her tomorrow morning… In his hotel room…  In his fucking boxers.

Kelly leaves her with Jeb.  He’s got another piece of ass in the room hidden too.  That said, he says he will put her under contract.  She won’t make much at the start, and he’ll get 50% of everything she makes, and she will be under contract for seven years with an option every six months.  She agrees.

She gets a new name, Melody Mason, and a new back story about being a coal miner’s daughter… huh.  That seems like a good title for something.  They create a whole new story about how her family died, how she got into country music, etc.  So she’s on the road with Jeb and his wife, Fran.  They’ll keep “Melody” under their wing.  Oh…  I think they even say she was 14, but they sing love song duets.  She has to constantly pretend to be asleep not to get laid by members of the band.  She’s on the road constantly.  Jeb yells at her when she wants to be called Jamie instead of Melody.  I’m not exactly sure how this life is better than the one Jamie had back home.

Kelly wants to see her, and by see I mean fuck.  She doesn’t want to, and she can’t really explain why.  Jeb knows Kelly came to see her and sleep with her, so the next morning, he gets pissy with her when she isn’t ready when he wants her to be.  She says he doesn’t own her private life.  While on the road, Fran says to be “patient” with Jeb, but…

…but

Whatever…  Jeb visits her in her hotel room and tries to fuck her.  But you see, Fran and Jamie are friends.  Jeb doesn’t give a shit about that.  I guess he just wants to fuck the pretty young girl.  This creates tension between husband and wife and between Jeb and Jamie when she tries to assert her own prerogative on how she should sing a sing.  Not to mention how she interacts with the audience that he believes is there to see him, not her.  (They are totally there to see her.)

Her sister tells Jamie that she wrote a song, but Jamie is not just surprised that Kathy has written songs, but she blurts out that she should not get into this life she’s in.  You know, because every guy would just want to fuck her.  Oh, and hey!  While she’s singing this sweet song to her sister, Jeb comes to the door and bangs on it and demands to be let in because he thinks Jamie is stealing his fans from him.

While Jeb smacks Jamie around and yells at her and rapes her, Kathy is still on the phone.  I think Jeb instantly blows his wad the moment he got inside her.  He claims that she was mentally fucking him this whole time so clearly it was okay for him to take a pound of flesh from her.  He even says he’s coming back tomorrow and she better be willing.  She says if he comes back, she’ll tell everyone that he raped her.  Yet, he says that she was a delinquent and clearly has a rep for fucking everyone in town, so no one will believe her.

Kathy shows up and while she is there, Jamie explains everything.  Jamie even says she thinks she probably was leading Jeb on…  Um, no…?  She wasn’t?  Whatever.  Anyway, Kathy goes to Jeb’s picks him up, and takes him on a scary drive and tells him that he needs to leave Jamie alone.  Kathy, like a dumbass, agrees to pull over and let Jeb drive them back home safely.  Jeb slaps Kathy and takes the car from him.

In the end, Jamie likely revealed to Fran what happened between her and Jeb.  This allows for her to tell Jeb to take his contract and shove it up his ass.  She’s free to make her own way again shackled to no man who just wants her sexy little bod.

This is a pretty good movie in all fairness.  This is not the type of movie that you poke fun at (clearly).  It’s a melodrama and far from the sleazy flick some may hoped it would be about underage girl ballin’ dudes left and right.  It’s a story about becoming famous and how that usually puts women in compromising positions.  It’s an early example of what I think people would say is a “Me Too” movie today.

There are slight moments of sleaze.  Like when the lesbian juvenile detention farm guard tries to get a little action off Jamie in the shower.  Why there is a shower scene at all could be debated.  Jamie is fondled, raped, and forcibly kissed multiple times throughout the movie.  However, it uses that as a way to tell the story it wants to tell without “reputable” theaters refusing to show it or major studios trying to tone it down.  It provides a little bit for both the guy and his lady date to enjoy if they saw this together.  Of course, when they go to the same theater for a second date, the lady date probably thinks the guy is a complete sex pervert because he is now taking her to a women-in-prison flick, but I digress.

Monica Gayle is pretty great in this movie.  She would be best know for two roles, as Jamie in this movie, and as “Patch” in The Switchblade Sisters (aka The Jezebels, aka Maggie’s Stiletto Sisters).  In this, she carries the film.  She is laser-focused on what she wants and doesn’t allow any guy to collar her and hold her down from getting to a recording career.  She’s not exactly stupid either.  Naive, sure, but not a dummy.  Her naivete causes her to make a bad deal with Jeb, but she’s able to turn those tables on him once she establishes herself.

He may have given her the stage, but her talent was not his so she could navigate on her own.

I suppose you could say some things are a little too far fetched or hokey in places.  As I said, this is melodrama with heavy doses of exploitation so it’s not like you’re going to get a perfectly tight script with perfect execution.  It’s a 90-minute movie that spans the course of a couple years.  That’s what makes this a really charming movie.

One final note…  Seemingly Monica Gayle disappeared into obscurity just a few years after making this movie.  She was in the biz for 10 years, did her thing, and got out.  It’s not like a Claudia Jennings situation where her career was cut short by way of a terrible accident (at least I don’t think so), she just… left.  It’s kind of like our favorite gal on this blog, Candice Rialson.  I suspect Gayle ultimately settled down and raised a family.  I doubt Monica Gayle was even her real name.  That alone gave her the ability to fade away and live a normal life.  While I am far from one to tell anyone what they can or can’t do, Gayle really seemed to be a very good actress.  She was pretty and she is solid in her performance.  It does leave me to wonder what else she might have been able to do if she stuck around longer.

Alright, so maybe Nashville Girl wasn’t exactly the usual B-Movie Enema fare.  I like to crack jokes and talk about tits, man.  I feel like I will have ample opportunity to do so next week.  Come back in seven short days as I take a look at the 1989 Rick Sloane boobtacular masterpiece Vice Academy!

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