Lymon was 13 years old when the teenage group Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers erupted from radios and jukeboxes with their 1956 hit "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" and appeared in the movie Rock, Rock, Rock (1956).
After Mr. Rock and Roll (1957), Lymon started a solo singing career, but it all fell apart. Lymon's career was over by the time he was 18 years old, and he died of a heroin overdose seven years later.
Jumping from the 1950s to the 1960s, the film traces the rise and fall of Lymon (Larenz Tate) in a series of flashbacks as courtroom claims on Lymon's royalties are outlined by three women: Zola Taylor (Halle Berry) of the R&B group The Platters; Elizabeth Waters (Vivica A. Fox), who loves her pet dog (which Lymon kills by mistake, when it bites his hand after threatening to throw it out a window during an argument between him and Elizabeth) and who became a prostitute to cover the costs of Lymon's recovery from addiction; and schoolteacher Emira Eagle (Lela Rochon). Ending credits shows the real Frankie Lymon singing his song "Goody Goody."
Little Richard also makes a courtroom appearance, while Miguel A. Nunez, Jr. portrays Little Richard in scenes set in the 1950s.
The film ends with Emira winning Frankie's estate, although Elizabeth was named the legal surviving spouse of Frankie Lymon.
The screenplay of the film, written by actress-turned-screenwriter Tina Andrews, took fifteen years to be produced. Director Gregory Nava used most of the technical staff from his prior film Selena.
Filming locations include: Jacksonville, Florida; Los Angeles, California; and Starke, Florida.
The film was first presented at the Urbanworld Film Festival, New York on August 8, 1998.
The film opened in wide release on August 28, 1998 (1,369 theaters) and sales the opening weekend were $3,946,382. Why Do Fools Fall in Love ran for 8 weeks domestically (66 days) and eventually grossed $12,506,676 in the United States. At its widest release the film was shown in 1,377 screens.
The taglines used by the producers of the film to market the film include:The story of three very different women... with one husband in common
Three different women married Frankie Lymon. Now as they fight to get a piece of his millions, They will have to prove who married him first and who loved him most
Based on a true story of love, music and money
It currently holds a 54% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Roger Ebert, film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, was disappointed in the screenplay and ultimately Nava's direction of the film, and wrote, "There are several angles this material might have been approached from, and director Gregory Nava tries several without hitting on one that works. By the end of the film, we're not even left with anyone to root for; we realize with a little astonishment, waiting for the court verdict, that we don't care who wins."
Yet, film critic Peter Stack liked the film and believes director Nava smartly juggles a lot of elements in the picture. He wrote, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love is a fresh, enlightening example of how to take a tragic American show-business story and make it funny, warm and terrifically entertaining...[it] brims with joyful spirit and raucous comedy...[and the film] deftly juggles a surprising number of elements, but they all work."
WinsALMA Award: Outstanding Latino Director of a Feature Film, Gregory Nava, 1999.
American Black Film Festival: Black Film Award; Best Actor, Larenz Tate, 1999.
NominationsALMA Awards: Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film in a Crossover Role, Miguel A. Núñez Jr.; Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role in a Feature Film, Alexis Cruz, 1999.
American Black Film Festival: Black Film Award; Best Screenplay, Tina Andrews; Best Soundtrack, 1999.
Two soundtrack albums were released for Why Do Fools Fall in Love by Warner Music Group. Why Do Fools Fall in Love: Original Versions from the Movie, released on September 8, 1998 by Rhino Records, contained fourteen songs, including five of Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers' original recordings. Also included are original hits by Little Richard, The Platters, The Shirelles, Otis Redding and others.
Why Do Fools Fall in Love: Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture was released on the same day as Original Versions from the Movie, but on Warner's East West Records label. Save for one vintage Little Richard song, it features new hip-hop and contemporary R&B recordings more or less unrelated to the actual film (one track, Gina Thompson's "Why Do Fools Fall in Love", interpolates the Teenagers' hit and is featured over the end credits of the film). Primarily produced by Missy Elliott and Timbaland, this soundtrack album features songs by artists such as Elliott, Busta Rhymes, En Vogue, Destiny's Child, Coko and, making her solo debut, Spice Girls member Melanie B.