Monday, July 25, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Where the Boys Are (1960)

It may be set during spring break, but WHERE THE BOYS ARE is perfect summer entertainment, a light, diverting piece of fluff filled with beaches, boats, and swimming pools.

Four girls from a midwestern college head for spring break in Fort Lauderdale. Along the drive the tall, strangely named Tuggle (Paula Prentiss) pairs up with the equally tall, strangely named TV (Jim Hutton), who hitchhikes with them to Florida.

Merritt (Dolores Hart) hits the jackpot when she meets Brown senior -- and millionaire! -- Ryder (George Hamilton) on the beach. And bubbly Angie (Connie Francis) finds she has things in common with Basil (Frank Gorshin), a musician who's blind without his glasses.

Melanie (Yvette Mimieux), on the other hand, looks for love in all the wrong places, demonstrating the perils of going "all the way," apparently with multiple partners, without first securing a commitment from a nice guy. Some will consider the message old-fashioned and heavy-handed -- indeed, the modern viewer wonders why the police aren't making an arrest near the end of the movie -- yet there's a valuable message in there about self-respect and holding out for a meaningful relationship.

Of course, this was an era when some women went to college as a way to meet eligible candidates for marriage, rather than to establish their own careers. Tuggle (Prentiss), in particular, is very frank about this with her friends; she wants to get married and "be a walking, talking baby machine." While some viewers of half a century later will find her distressingly unliberated (grin), from today's perspective there's also something refreshing about her happy, honestly expressed desire to focus on creating a family. Wherever the viewer comes down on these issues, the movie provides a fascinating peek back at the culture as it was, or as filmmakers imagined it was, circa 1960.

For the most part, the film is simply consistently entertaining, well-paced fun against a colorful backdrop. The acting won't win any awards, but Prentiss, Hutton, and Hart in particular are appealing; Prentiss and Hutton are bubbly and engaging, and Hart comes across as direct and honest, someone a millionaire won't have to worry is marrying him for his money.

On the other hand, it's never really explained why someone with an I.Q. as high as Hart's character is in danger of flunking out of college, and it doesn't really factor into the plot much, other than her being seen with books from time to time during spring break. Perhaps the lack of seriousness about her studies also implies that she's really more interested in marriage than good grades.

There are some pleasant musical numbers, and of course the classic title tune sung by Connie Francis. I was musing once again how nice modern technology is, inasmuch as I could immediately download the song for my iTunes account. Back when I was the age of the characters in the movie, finding this song would have required driving around to record stores in search of an album which included the song; here in 2011, I click, pay 99 cents, and I can play the song immediately.

There's a hilarious sequence near the end of the film featuring Barbara Nichols as an Esther Williams style mermaid entertaining in a nightclub. Sharp-eyed viewers will spot perennial bit player and extra Bess Flowers as one of the patrons in the same nightclub. The cast also includes Chill Wills, John Brennan, Percy Helton, and Rory Harrity. The narrator is Paul Frees.

It's pretty obvious that the motel exterior and the closeups in the beach scenes are filmed on a soundstage, but they're mixed fairly skillfully with actual Florida exteriors. The film has attractive colors, with lots of cool greens, and the motel pool looks nice, even if it's in a soundstage.

Leading lady Dolores Hart is a fascinating story. She starred with Elvis in LOVING YOU (1957) and KING CREOLE (1958), appeared in LONELYHEARTS (1958) with Montgomery Clift, and one of her films following WHERE THE BOYS ARE was the very entertaining COME FLY WITH ME (1963). After concluding publicity for that movie, Dolores Hart retired from the screen, cancelled wedding plans, and became a nun; she has lived at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Connecticut for nearly half a century.

Entertainment Weekly published a fascinating interview with Mother Dolores Hart in February of this year; it includes interviews with her friend Paula Prentiss Benjamin and her ex-fiance, who has remained a lifelong friend. Those who have enjoyed Hart's work should be sure to read this detailed article.

This was the first of five films teaming Jim Hutton and Paula Prentiss, seen here in a beach photo from the LIFE archive. They also appeared in BACHELOR IN PARADISE (1961), THE HONEYMOON MACHINE (1961), THE HORIZONTAL LIEUTENANT (1962), and LOOKING FOR LOVE (1964). LOOKING FOR LOVE was just released by Warner Archive last week in a remastered widescreen print; it joins THE HONEYMOON MACHINE, THE HORIZONAL LIEUTENANT, and BACHELOR IN PARADISE which have all previously had remastered widescreen releases from the Archive.

WHERE THE BOYS ARE was released on DVD a number of years ago, but that release has since gone out of print. Happily, the movie was just reissued in widescreen by the Warner Archive. Even better news is that the Archive release will include the extras from the original DVD, including a commentary track by Paula Prentiss and Connie Francis. As far as I know, this is the first Archive release with a commentary track; even if it was recorded for another release, I think that's an exciting development, as the Archive continues to evolve.

I watched the movie in a print recorded from Turner Classic Movies, but I enjoyed the film so much I immediately ordered the Archive DVD -- I know I'll be watching the movie again, and I'm looking forward to the extras!

This film has also had a VHS release, back in 1993.

Recommended as enjoyable summer entertainment.

6 Comments:

Blogger Audrey said...

This sounds like a cute film. I've always been fascinated by Dolores Hart's story. Not many people have had the courage to walk away from Hollywood like that.

11:09 AM  
Blogger MC said...

I love this movie! It's such a reflection of its times, like you said. Definitely my favorite of the many teenage beach vacation movies that came out in the '60s.

5:10 PM  
Blogger la peregrina said...

I've loved this movie ever since the first time I watched at the neighborhood theater's kiddie matinee. I even have a 1960 movie-tie-in paperback copy of the novel. My sister gave it to me for my birthday a few years back.

The front cover of the book has the words, " Why do thousands of coeds flock to Fort Lauderdale every Spring Vacation? ...because that's Where the Boys Are," over a cropped photo of the women used on the VHS release. Two sentences are under the photo "A zany new novel by Glendon Swarthout" and "Now a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Motion Picture Release." Then under that are the words, "A SIGNET BOOK Complete and Unabridged"

The book is more grown-up as Merritt practices what she preaches with Ryder, TV, and Basil. In the book Tuggle is with someone else and Angie doesn't exist, but Melanie's story is the same even if her name isn't. Reading it was like dropping into an alternate story universe. Definitely not like the movie and kind of disturbing in a way.

2:50 PM  
Blogger Robert Pingel said...

You do such a great job listing credits. I thought two more might be in order. The title song "Where the Boys Are" was written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I've really enjoyed all the feedback on this fun movie. Audrey, I hope you'll enjoy it when you catch up with it!

La Peregrina, thanks for sharing the interesting info about the novel, and Robert, additional info on the filmmakers is always welcome. Sedaka and Greenfield certainly wrote an evocative song.

Best wishes,
Laura

2:50 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

I got the DVD fairly quickly from the library and watched it today. I loved the color and the "look" of it along with the clothing of that time period.

I remember when this movie came out and going to see it with my friends. It was quite shocking for it's time and I'm surprised my Mom let me go. I think I was only 12. I don't think she knew the subject matter :)

Now watching it, the dialog and such seems so quaint given what we are subjected to today in the movies let alone on TV. It really did represent the beginning of the sexual revolution. Frankly I loved the simpler times.

9:41 PM  

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