Why Do Fools Fall in Love (1998)
“Since he died, they've been using that song in the film American Graffiti, a greeting card commercial and now Diana's turning it gold again”. ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love’ was one of rock and roll’s first hits, featuring in both Alan Freed biopics American Hot Wax and Mr. Rock 'n' Roll: The Alan Freed Story. Yet the man who wrote it and originally performed it, Frankie Lymon, has largely been forgotten. Not by Elizabeth Waters though, who as his widow sees the song's renewed popularity as an opportunity to recoup some of the lost royalties she feels are rightfully hers. Unfortunately for her, so do Emira Eagle and former Platters' singer Zola Taylor, each claiming to also be Lymon’s widow.
Opening with these woman giving their different perspective of Lymon, the biopic cleverly uses the ensuing court case to depict the singer’s life. Apart from his three wives, other witnesses include Richard Barrett, Morris Levy and an outrageously over-the-top Little Richard portraying himself. From the various testimonies emerge a portrait of a very talented man who turned to drugs once the applause died down. Herein lies the film’s key fault. At the time Lymon first tasted success he was only 13 years old. He became a heroin addict when aged 15 and was dead at the age of 25. The filmmakers seem to have deliberately hidden this key factor of his story, even removing a reference to his age when recreating a scene from the film Rock, Rock, Rock!
In most other aspects, Why Do Fools Fall in Love works fine. The musical numbers are gloriously rendered, the comedy arising out of three competing widows plays fairly well and the drama caused by Lymon's drug addiction results in at least one unsettling scene. Yet the idea of making a romantic-comedy out of what is, at its core, a tragic story, produces an uneven tone in an otherwise entertaining film.
In short, this is one of those biopics where the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
as Frankie Lymon
as Zola Taylor
as Little Richard
as Little Richard
Frankie Lymon did not sign with Morris Levy’s Roulette Records until after his split with The Teenagers. Before that, the group was under contract to George Goldner’s Gee Records.
Film splices footage of Alan Freed introducing Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers from Rock, Rock, Rock! with a recreation of the group singing the biopic's title song. In reality, the group did not sing 'Why Do Fools Fall in Love' in this film.