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The World By Night and Wee Willie Harris

Posted by Joe Bloe , 01 November 2013 · 8,187 views

I'm probably leaving myself open to ridicule, but I'm going to come right out and say it anyway: one of my all-time favourite movies was "The World By Night" (Mondo di Notte) released in 1960. The International Movie Database refers to it as "this duller-than-dirt travelogue" but I am looking backwards in time and I can still see it through the eyes of a fifteen year old who was watching risque comedians, strippers, female impersonators, and wild rockabilly singers for the very first time in his life. Duller than dirt it may have been according to the critics, but more than fifty years later there is still a fifteen year old boy inside me who says that this was one of the best movies ever made.

It was a documentary really: A collection of night club acts from around the world featuring performers like Rapha Temporel; a stripper billed as "the houri in the hammock" (I fell instantly in love with her, she was so gorgeous). There was "Rex The Wonder Dog"; a performing dog that failed to perform a single trick, and an orchestra of idiots who sent the conductor insane and caused him to spend most of the show sitting on his own and sucking a dummy (or 'pacifier' if you speak American). Then there was Ricky Renee a stripper who bore a striking resemblance to Kim Novak. She had a spectacular striptease routine and I couldn't believe (as a 15 year old remember) that I was lucky enough to be there when she started to undo her bra. Holy cow I thought, I'm actually going to see some bare tits, this is going to be the best day of my life! And then it was total confusion!

Off came the bra, and there she stood in all her glory --- as flat as a pancake! The audience gasped in astonishment. None of us had ever seen anything like it. Most of us had never even heard of such a thing. It was a man! Dressed up like a woman! And looking like Kim Novak! I couldn't believe it. None of us could. Holy snapping duck shit, what was the world coming to? It was as if aliens had landed and taken control of our minds. I completely missed the next act because I was still trying to work out what Ricky Renee had done to me.

Unfortunately, despite the impact this movie had on me way back then, the critics may have been right when they said it was "as dull as dirt" because it has never been officially released as a video cassette or DVD --- so you can imagine my surprise when I found one short clip of the movie on You Tube the other day. Maybe a fan filmed a pirate copy while watching a rerun of the movie in the cinema. If so I wish they'd put the rest of it up on You Tube. Anyway, here it is, the only clip I have; a clip featuring a British rockabilly singer known as Wee Willie Harris singing "Bloodshot Eyes". (I like the way the director has juxtaposed Wee Willie's wild rock and roll with the rather more genteel antics of a Salvation Army Band playing "We Shall Gather At The River".)

In the movie Wee Willie Harris also sang another song called "I Go Ape" written by, of all people, Neil Sedaka. Wee Willie gets down off the stage and sings the song while prowling through the audience and imitating an ape. One of my old rockabilly fan mags describes it thus: "Topped off with bright red hair and clad only in a leopard skin and a pair of old shoes and socks, he was last seen underneath a table biting one of the posh and rather frightened female patrons on the ankle." Here's the song in all its glory:

And this next video (below) shows Wee Willie Harris today; still performing in 2013 at the age of eighty!

Despite his fame among rockabilly fans, Wee Willie Harris has never had a Top 40 hit, but that might change this month (November 2013) when his Twitter followers embark on a campaign to get him into the charts at least once before he dies:

In 2013 there is a Twitter campaign (@WeeWillieHarris) to get 'Got A Match' into The Official UK Top 40 and give Wee Willie Harris his first top 40 hit. Fans are urged to buy the track (iTunes etc) from November 3 to November 9, 2013.

Jul 25 2014 07:54 AM

inteersting, hey, take a look at my history tampered with thread

Jul 25 2014 07:54 AM


Definitely real rockabilly!  I liked the way religion and having fun are juxtaposed in the movie clip.  And Wee Willie Harris was cute as a button.

Aging Disgracefully
Aug 16 2015 10:46 AM

That looks like great fun. I love cheesy movies and Rockabilly!