Life ‘Inside the Osmonds,’ a Family’s Success, Struggles


Despite its squeaky-clean image, the Osmonds singing group has had its share of conflicts and problems. The new ABC movie “Inside the Osmonds,” which airs tonight, examines the rise of the pop world’s singing family, as well as the heartache behind its hit songs and fame.

Jimmy Osmond, 37, the youngest of the clan, was an executive producer on the film that begins in 1970, after the Osmonds left “The Andy Williams Show” as regulars to become rockers while staying true to their Mormon values.

Jimmy, who owns and operates the Osmond Family Theater in Branson, Mo., recently talked about “the family” from his home in Branson.


Question: Do the brothers perform at your theater year-round?

Answer: The four brothers--[Merrill, Wayne, Jay and Jimmy]--did about 300-plus shows a year here for the past nine years, but it’s winding down as far as that many shows. We are kind of getting too old for it. We just had our 3-millionth patron since I opened it up about 9 years ago. We were very blessed to have good success. [Our audiences consist of] the grandma remembering us from the old Andy Williams and Walt Disney days to the young people who are really rediscovering what Donny and Marie are all about and what the brothers are doing currently.

Q: Weren’t you actually the first Osmond to have a hit record?

A: It was kind of a novelty thing. I had my first hit when I was 5 and it was in Japan. I would do these Japanese commercials, which made me a popular kind of kid star, so I had about eight gold albums between there and South America and the U.S. The only one that is remembered in the movie is “The Long Haired Lover From Liverpool.” That is still the longest No. 1 record in European history. It is one of those songs you love to hate. So I was like Barney back then.

Q: Was it your idea do “Inside the Osmonds”?

A: It actually came from a gentleman named Mark Sennet. He was working at the time for Merv Griffin. I had just done an event with Merv at his hotel in Beverly Hills. [Griffin] is always in touch with the networks and they expressed interest [in a movie]. Mark brought it to me and said they thought they could make a deal. I said I would only do it if everybody signed off on it. Everyone was in the right place at the right time and my family--we are in a really good place with each other, very grateful for our history and hope we still have a good future.

Q: I was surprised the family had so much inner conflict, let alone the fact that the Osmonds lost all of their money.

A: You know what is sad is that you can’t tell the whole story in 90 minutes. There are so many things we could talk about. I think they went for the dramatic elements.

I think everyone goes through the same beats in their lives [as performers] where you are the flavor of the month and then you’re not and how do you cope? Our desire was just to tell our story in a fun and honest way. Everyone [in the family] has seen the rough cut. While nothing is perfect, I think it captures the essence, and the family, by and large, ispleased.


Q: It must have been emotional for the entire family to appear at the finale singing, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”

A: It was really hard to pull it off. ABC was really cool. They sent us all private jets to fly out [to the location in Winnipeg, Canada]. But right at that time, we were doing our Christmas shows, Donny was on tour and Marie was in the middle of her doll tour. We picked a Sunday and just kind of did it. It was a lot of hard work to get everybody there, but . . . it was a fun personal family moment.

Q: What do you hope viewers take away from “Inside the Osmonds”?

A: I wanted to somehow put across in the movie the incredible career the brothers had before Donny, Marie and myself really came along. Everyone who gets in the music business is a purist, really, and the brothers were great writers. They had gold and platinum records and great success. Then they had to keep the family intact and put their career and aspirations on hold and try to find fulfillment in not only still being in front of the camera, but reinventing themselves in other ways.