Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Bachelor in Paradise (1961)

BACHELOR IN PARADISE, with its colorful "California coral" houses dotting the landscape like so many Easter eggs, somehow seemed an appropriate film for an Easter afternoon!

This Bob Hope film is a wonderful memento of suburban California in the '60s, with the eye-popping production design beautifully displayed in a newly remastered widescreen print from the Warner Archive. When Hope walks into his San Fernando Valley rental home and quips that it's decorated in "early Disneyland," he's not far off the mark!

The movie is a visual treat; as Robby Cress writes at Dear Old Hollywood: "...the look of this film is stunning. The mid-century tract homes, an early suburban grocery store, bowling alley, tiki bar, cars, drive-in restaurant, clothes - everything in this film is a colorful step back in time." Indeed, the pastel-colored Hughes Market seen in the film conjures up memories of the long-gone grocery stores of my childhood, such as Market Basket and Alpha Beta. (Be sure not to miss Robby's post, which is packed with pictures from the film and comparisons to the same locations today.)

BACHELOR IN PARADISE is worth watching for the visuals alone, but this tale of a writer (Bob Hope) chronicling life in American suburbia also has a marvelous cast of "faces" and a nicely restrained, wryly funny performance by Hope. It's only a "good" film storywise, but the visuals and the cast push it across the finish line, turning it into a "must see" for those who are interested in the era.

Hope's landlady is played by Lana Turner, and the ladies of the neighborhood include Paula Prentiss (who is cute as the proverbial button) and Virginia Grey, a favorite from '40s films. Janis Paige plays the would-be divorcee on the prowl, and Agnes Moorehead is very amusing as a divorce court judge. John McGiver, Jim Hutton, Clinton Sundberg, Roberta Shore, Reta Shaw, Don Porter, and Mary Treen fill out the large cast.

Dodger fans will get a kick out of shots of a very young Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett calling a Dodgers game, and they'll also enjoy the film joking about fans using transistor radios at the game -- a Dodgers tradition, as even fans seeing the game in person want to hear what Vin Scully has to say about it.

The film also boasts a spot-on score by Henry Mancini; he was nominated for an Oscar for the title song -- and lost to his own "Moon River" from BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S!

BACHELOR IN PARADISE was directed by Jack Arnold and photographed by Joseph Ruttenberg. The screenplay was written by Valentine Davies (MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET) and Hal Kanter, based on a story by Vera Caspary (the author of the novel LAURA). It runs 109 minutes.

In addition to the recent Warner Archive release, this movie had a release on VHS in the mid-'90s.

April 26th Update: Lou Lumenick of the New York Post has posted a brief review which also raves about the film's look: "...a detailed time capsule of a time and place, lovingly photographed by four-time Oscar winner Joseph Ruttenberg (GIGI). The widescreen views of a suburban supermarket...are positively mesmerizing."

2021 Update: This film will be released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive in May 2021. My review of the Blu-ray is here.


Blogger monty said...

Great post Laura. I love this movie. A very good representation of the 60's as you say. And one of the better comedies from this period.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Audrey said...

This sounds like a really fun movie!

8:38 PM  
Blogger VP81955 said...

The Dodgers footage must have been filmed during their tenure at the Coliseum, arguably the most absurd of baseball parks.

11:31 AM  

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