For one thing, there was National Bandstand on Grease (which also featured Rydell High). Then there was the Corny Collins Show in Hairspray, but its influence was Buddy Deane, not Dick Clark. The Idolmaker was a thinly-veiled portrayal of Chancellor Records' Bob Marcucci and his development of South Philly stars Frankie Avalon and Fabian. The In Crowd was set in Philadelphia, but host Perry Parker was more Jerry Blavat than Dick Clark.
Given all his other successes, its surprising that Clark wasn't able to maneuver the Bandstand story to the silver screen. In 2001 he almost got the job done.
Clark's push began in 1997 when he announced that he was working with Danny DeVito's New Jersey Films in creating a feature film about Bandstand. The original script was written by John Logan, a then mostly unknown screenwriter from Chicago. In the years since, he's become well-known in Hollywood, having penned screenplays for Gladiator, The Aviator, Sweeney Todd, Rango and Hugo, among others.
Logan's script apparently didn't past muster, though, so another screenwriter was given a shot. That screenwriter, Linda Woolverton, is well-known for her work with Disney, including scripts for Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Maleficent. Woolverton's script also didn't make it onto the screen and in 2001 Clark went to a third writer, Duane Adler, who has a solid background in writing and directing dance-themed movies. Adler's attempt met the same fate as the first two. What gives? I recently talked to Adler about the project.
"It just didn't come together," Adler said, adding that all three scripts were well-written. “All three scripts were very different. All three scripts were in different ways trying to capture different eras and dynamics of the show.”
“John’s draft, as I recall, focused a lot on Dick’s point of view and Dick didn’t like that. He didn’t want the story to be The Dick Clark Story. He thought the most important thing was the kids dancing and what the dancing and the music meant."
"Linda’s draft, if I recall, was from the point of view of a group of dancers and kids on the show and it transcended eras. You experienced both the show and the kids lives through different eras. It was an ensemble piece and her draft was a lot less about Dick himself and much more about the kids. My job was to shrink those kids and eras down to a specific group of kids and a specific era and that’s what I did. So each draft sort of evolved.”
It looked for a while as if the project might take off. Jersey Films was excited about it, then Universal was enthusiastic.
"All three of us – Jersey Films, myself and Dick – went into the studio to present how I would tackle the script and what kind of movie we might try to make," Adler said.
It was a real challenge, Adler said, to shrink more than 40 years of history into a 2-hour movie and "still have its essence, its appeal, its impact on society and all of those things. I think each draft was close in its own way.”
But interested faded quickly. Adler thinks it may be because the TV show American Dreams was in production about the same time.
“He [Clark] was developing that at the same time as the feature," Adler noted. "I never knew if one canceled the other out.”
Nevertheless, Adler said “my experience working with Dick and with Jersey Films on it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my career.”
Do you have any stories about Bandstand, Dick Clark or growing up in the Philadelphia area during the show's run at WFIL-TV? Please share them in the comments section or e-mail them to me.
Photo: Duane Adler