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The Girl of the Endless Summer

The Girl of the Endless Summer

Sixty years ago this summer, American International Pictures released the first entry in a cinematic genre that would come to be known as the beach party film. Appropriately titled Beach Party, it starred (among others) Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. It was a surprise hit, bringing in $2.3 million at the box office, which was nearly 10 times its production budget. Over the next five years or so, AIP released another 11 similarly-themed films—Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Party, Pajama Party, and so on—most of which also featured Avalon and Funicello. Although only the AIP entries are generally considered canonical, Wikipedia contends that the genre comprises over 30 films, including movies from other studios.

Wikipedia also notes that the genre owes a great deal to a fictional 15-year-old girl named Franziska “Franzie” Hofer. She was the creation of an Austrian-American novelist and screenwriter named Frederick Kohner, a Jew who fled Nazi Germany for Los Angeles in 1936. He based Franzie on his younger daughter Kathy, who was born in Los Angeles in 1941. In 1956, she began spending her days on the beach at Malibu, where she became an avid surfer and hung out with a gang of male surfers, all of whom were several years older than she was. Kathy was only five feet tall, so the surfers,…

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