Friday, March 04, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Boys' Night Out (1962)

There's a lot to like about the comedy BOYS' NIGHT OUT -- the excellent cast, numerous funny moments, a bouncy title song, and especially the great visual style. Think of the movie as being MAD MEN, filmed when it actually happened -- the early '60s look is terrific, including the New York commuter trains, wood-paneled bars, the wardrobes, even the colorful kitchen dishware. Executives' wives are segregated with the kids in suburbia, and for good measure, one of the lead characters is in the advertising business.

As with MAD MEN, however, the men spend much of the movie engaging in sleazy behavior, and there's the movie's inherent drawback for me. The funny lines and cute moments have some trouble overcoming the plot, which is about three married men, plus a divorced friend, setting up a bachelor pad in the city where they can each have an affair -- with the same woman! -- behind their wives' backs.

It plays somewhat less offensively than it sounds, because the movie never takes the whole thing seriously, and ultimately the film reaffirms the characters' marriages -- but it must be said there's a discordant "ick" factor running underneath the merry goings-on.

The divorced man in the group is played by James Garner, and he's as good as James Garner always is in comedies, quite adorable in a lovestruck, befuddled state.

The gorgeous blonde lusted after by Garner and his buddies (Howard Duff, Tony Randall, and Howard Morris) is played by Kim Novak. Her character, Cathy, is actually a psychology student observing their behavior for a thesis, and she manages to keep all the guys at bay while taking notes. This doesn't completely negate the film's salacious premise, but there are some amusing moments as she distracts the men with what really interests them, including home-cooked meals and garbage disposal repair. Novak is effective essentially playing a double character, her "real" self and a brazen (yet curiously standoffish) hussy.

The wives are played by Anne Jeffreys, Janet Blair, and Patti Page, while Garner's mother is played by Jessie Royce Landis (Cary Grant's mother in NORTH BY NORTHWEST). I especially liked Patti Page as the forever dieting Southern belle of the group.

The cast also includes Oscar Homolka, Larry Keith, William Bendix, Jim Backus, Sandra Gould, Fred Clark, Ruth McDevitt, and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

BOYS' NIGHT OUT was directed by Michael Gordon, who directed Doris Day in PILLOW TALK (1959) and Day and James Garner in MOVE OVER, DARLING (1963). Earlier in his career he directed THE SECRET OF CONVICT LAKE (1951).

BOYS' NIGHT OUT is available in a remastered widescreen DVD-R from the Warner Archive. Glenn Erickson says the Archive print "looks splendid throughout. A few moments on the train and in a bar booth look a bit cold in color, but everything else pops with the original Metrocolor - Cinemascope look."

It's also been released on VHS.

I watched a print recorded from Turner Classic Movies, which will next show the film on James Garner's birthday, April 7th, 2011.

The trailer is here.

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