For fifty weeks of the year, Fort Lauderdale, Florida is a small corner of tropical heaven, basking contentedly in the warm sun. During the other two weeks, as colleges all over the country discharge their students for Easter vacation, a change comes over the scene. The students swarm to these peaceful shores in droves, twenty thousand strong. They turn night into day, and a small corner of heaven into a sizable chunk of bedlam. The boys come to soak up the sun, and a few carloads of beer. The girls come, very simply, because this is where the boys are.
In 2003 Turner Classic Films had a poll where fans could vote for films they would like to see on DVD. The top five vote getters would be the films to get a DVD release. Surprisingly, Where the Boys Are was one of the five films that voters preferred along with Days of Wine and Roses, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and The Wind and the Lion. It is a testament to how well this film has held up for the past 60 years.
Glendon Swarthout, who wrote the novel upon which the film was based (and that you can read about here) sold the rights to Joe Pasternak before the book was published. The basic plot resembles the novel in that a few of the characters take the bus trip over to the big screen. But the biggest and most important change is that we have four female protagonists instead of the whole film centering around one college know-it-all and her viewpoint of everything going on around her during a week-long getaway in Fort Lauderdale.
Four college girls escape the freezing north during spring break and head to Ft. Lauderdale because as the title says, and the opening narration tells us that’s where the boys are. The narration also mentions that the boys go to Florida to drink beer and soak up the sun. Left unmentioned is that they also go in the hopes of getting laid by some naïve unsuspecting college girl, an underlying theme that runs rampant through the film while trying not to be openly in your face about it.
Producer Pasternak was smart enough to leave some gory details of the novel back where they belonged. In the fiction section of the local book store. You couldn’t hardly put the story of one girl’s trifecta on the big screen as a lightweight comedy.
He also assembled an up and coming young cast, including Paula Prentiss who had never acted in films, and Connie Francis, who was known for her singing and didn’t particularly want to act in anything. She had to be talked into it. On the other hand, she shanghaied Pasternak into letting her use Howard Greenfield and Neil Sedaka to write the title song. A good choice and there is a funny story about how they ended up using the chosen song which you can find out about in the retrospective I’ll post at the end of this article. The title song became one of Connie’s biggest hits. Have a listen to find out why.
The cast is headed by Dolores Hart as Merritt Andrews. Despite having a high I.Q., Merritt is not exactly excelling in college. She has a tendency to say what’s on her mind, and what’s on her mind must have sent a shiver down the spine of many parents way back in 1960 because what Merritt is thinking about is S-E-X. If the movie scandalized 60’s parents, one has to wonder what Ma and Pa thought of the novel when they found it in their college student’s night stand. Better to leave that thing back in the dorm, young ‘uns.
Wanting to escape the blizzard conditions at their temporarily nameless “U” along with Merritt are Tuggle Carpenter (Paula Prentiss), Melanie Toleman, (Yvette Mimieux), and Angie (Connie Francis). Merritt begins to have second thoughts about heading to Florida. Her grades are abysmal despite her high IQ. Time to study, times a wastin’.
Tuggle, sensing Merritt’s mind set could be problematic and put a damper on their trip, enlists Melanie to “work on her” during the next class. Melanie doesn’t have much of a chance to change Merritt’s mindset, but Dr. Raunch does.
Merritt dares to suggest to stodgy old Professor Dr. Raunch (Amy Douglas) that premarital sex might not only be OK, but should almost be a prerequisite for marriage.
Raunch: For many freshman women college provides their first experience in an adult heterosexual society. Their first unrestricted contact with members of the opposite sex. This sudden freedom may give rise to problems of interpersonal relationships. Today we discuss two of those problems: Random dating among college freshmen and premature emotional involvement. (Notices that Merritt is passed out at her desk). Suppose we begin with you, Miss Andrews. Miss Andrews? (Melanie gives Merritt a slight shake to wake her up)
Merritt: Oh! Uh-yes-yes, Dr. Raunch.
Raunch: Have you any comment to make on what our text terms “Random dating?”
Merritt (standing up): Well, it, uh it certainly is random sometimes. (Class laughs)
Raunch: And have you arrived at any other world-shaking opinions?
Merritt: Dr. Raunch, I really don’t feel very well today.
Raunch: None of us do, I’m sure. Answer the question, please.
Merritt: Well, frankly, I thought the text was a little old fashioned. It didn’t have much to do with modern college life as far as I could see.
Raunch: And just how far is that?
Merritt: Well, take the discussion on emotional involvement on the first date. In this day and age, if a girl doesn’t become a little emotionally involved on the first date, it’s gonna be her last with that man anyhow. (sneezes) Honestly, doctor if a girl doesn’t make out with a man once in a while, she might as well leave campus cause she’s considered practically antisocial.
Raunch: But, you have used the term “Make out”. Define that please.
Merritt (realizing that Raunch must have been born some time in the mid 16th century): I-I beg your pardon?
Raunch: I should like to know what making out means and so would the class.
Merritt (as all eyes are on her now): Well, I-uh..Dr. Raunch I think they know already. (Laughter from the class and myself every time I watch this scene) Uh! Ma-making out is what used to be called necking. Before that it was petting, and going back to early American days it was also known as bundling. It’s all the same game.
Raunch: I’m sure this game of yours is not mentioned in the text.
Merritt: Well, that’s exactly the point I’m trying to make. Dr. Kinsey says…
Rauch: We are not discussing Dr. Kinsey. We are discussing interpersonal relationships.
Merritt: Well, what could be more interpersonal than backseat bingo? (heavy laughter from the students and yours truly)
Raunch: Just what do you consider suitable subject matters for discussion in this course?
Merritt: We’re supposed to be intelligent. So why don’t we get down to the giant jackpost issue like should a girl or should she not under any circumstances play house before marriage? (at this time Melanie is hanging on to her every word).
Raunch: I’d be afraid to ask your opinion on such a subject.
Merritt: Don’t be afraid. My opinion is yes.
Raunch: Miss Andrews, report to the dean.
Merritt decides the sun and fun of Florida is a lot more inviting than the gloomy halls of currently unnamed “U” and the tight-assed thought processes of Dr. Raunch and the Dean. Besides, she can always study while sunning and funning on the beach.
Yeah, right. After the meeting with the Dean, Melanie asks Merritt if she meant what she said in the class, but Merritt is too distracted to answer. Too bad, so sad. Merritt, you should have been listening. They head down to Florida excited at the prospect of meeting boys, preferably from the Ivy League. Tuggle just wants to find a guy with feet as big as hers.
As movie coincidences have it, the girls come across a tall lanky skinny guy in a straw hat hitchhiking to Lauderdale, who wears a size 13 in footwear.
“You’ve just saved the life of TV Thompson, junior class of Michigan State. For the privilege of a ride, I stand ready to amuse you with interesting anecdotes for 310 miles. I’m also an expert driver. Besides which, I can sing and play the accordion except I haven’t got one.”
While the rest of the girls sleep, TV lectures Tuggle about his philosophy of life. The best thing you can do is to let people be charitable. They feel better, you feel better.
TV: Take the way I got into college. There I was all set to enter Michigan. Not a cent to my name. What to do? (Takes one hand off the wheel, the car swerves)
Tuggle: For one thing, you can put both hands on the wheel. Do you mind?
TV: So, I’m sitting around one-night reading in the papers about Miss Barbara Smith Holms Von Haversack, Jr. and her fourth divorce. Miss Moneybags claimed she’d led a very tragic life. Well this ticked me off, so I wrote her a nasty post card. “Dear Miss Barbara Smith Holmes, et cetera,” I said. You and your very tragic blah. With your kind of collateral, you should beef. Here I am, a kid who can’t even swing one year’s college tuition, let alone four divorces.”
Tuggle: Don’t tell me she answered it.
TV: A month later comes this letter from some secretary stating that Miss Barbara et cetera was deeply touched by my note. And hopes the enclosed will enable me to enter college. The enclosed was a check for $2500. You see? I let her be charitable.
Tuggle: You didn’t keep it?
TV: No. I paid one term’s tuition and plunked the balance on a second-hand Porsche, a red one, a real bomb.
Tuggle: Where is it now?
TV: Lauderdale. I rented it to a couple of guys from school. That’s how I financed my trip.
Tuggle: Uh huh. You don’t mind if I don’t believe this?
TV: I don’t ask for your belief, just your attention.
Melanie wastes no time checking out the three guys staying in the lower part of the Fairview, Apartments which by the way is charging the gals the astronomical sum of $22 a day to stay there. (Angie: There goes a hole in the budget). Just wait, in sixty years a “cheap” hotel room during spring break will cost you about $180 a night and then rise quickly from there. Whomever inherited the Fairview Apartments from this old fart, is probably making a fortune.
Melanie is positive her newfound boy toys are Yalies or Harvards because of their accent. When they get back to the frozen north, I suggest Melanie take a course studying dialects. Two other girls from Ohio State are invited to share the apartment because they could not afford the rates. They will not be the last to intrude.
Across town, a police captain played by Chill Wills prepares his troops.
Police Captain: Gentlemen, the city of Fort Lauderdale is once again under fire from the north. We’ve survived it before and I reckon we’re gonna survive it again. To you newly installed officers on the force, I’d like to give you a little rundown on what to expect. Expect anything. Anything and everything cause that’s what you’re gonna get. Now, Fort Lauderdale is not the only city to be invaded at this time. In Palm Springs and in Newport, from the beaches of the Mid Atlantic to the snows of Colorado, the students of America are gathering to celebrate the rites of spring. And, if you pardon a pun, they’ve got that right. They’re our future voters, they’re citizens of our country, and they’re our responsibility. But how the hell to handle them, that’s a different manner. (laughter from officers)
Now these kids didn’t come down here to break the law. They’ll break it for sure, but that’s not their main objective. And remember that they are our guests. So, I want every man on the force to try his best, his level best, to try to avoid arresting anyone. I know that this is going to take great will power but try. And, above all preserve your sense of humor. Cause you’re gonna need it if you want to survive. And… God bless you all.
Could you imagine Donald Trump giving that speech? Nope. He’d be going “shoot the bastards! Shoot those thugs on sight.” Oh wait. These are white kids so he probably would not say anything. And maybe if a few of them put on pointed hoodies, he’d seek them out and give them the medal of honor.
While the gals figure out how to budget their money (a bottle and a half of suntan lotion a day and a steak pact) Melanie makes the scene at the swimming pool with Dill and Franklin. Dill invites her for a private love fest on the beach. Unbeknownst to Melanie but not to us, Dill won the opportunity to get in her pants by winning a coin toss with Franklin.
Heading to the beach, the girls run into TV once again, who is pretending to be blind to get around in traffic. He reminds Tuggle of their date to have beers and they head to a dark crowded bar known as the Elbow Room. Called that because there isn’t much room for anything except breathing and sweating on each other.
At the beach, Angie and friend watch a tall handsome guy they immediately nailed as an Ivy Leaguer slowly make his way around the live bodies littering the Florida coast. We will find out who this permanently suntanned lass with dark hair and Ivory White teeth is later on.
Living it up at another part of the beach, Melanie asks Dill why he picked her when he could have any one of the other girls in Fort Lauderdale. Although she seems unsure of herself, she agrees to go with him to find a nice quiet place perfect for screwing your new found playmate. He does not say the screwing part out loud. Just use your twenty first century imagination like I just did.
Over at the Elbow Room we find out that TV got his first name because he intends to go into television as a career move. Thank God we do not have to deal with the name baggage from the novel. Thank you, screenwriter George Wells for kicking that shit to the curb. See my review of that book for some horror story details.
TV wants to talk about nothing else but sex and Tuggle wants to talk about everything except sex. Later, she suggests they leave the bar so she can get some sun, but when they get outside, the sun has already set.
Later at the Fairview apartments, TV still has a one-track mind focused squarely on Tuggle’s Honey Pot. Tuggle does her best to avoid the subject as she has taken a vow of chastity. After a little making out in a lounge chair built for two, TV asks her the million-dollar question.
TV: Do you think you could like me.
Tuggle: I think I already do.
TV: A lot?
Tuggle: Uh huh..
Tuggle: Uh huh?
TV: Are you a good girl?
Tuggle: Please, I don’t wanna disillusion you or disappoint you.
TV: Oh, no, no, no, I won’t be disillusioned or disappointed. Are you a good girl, Tuggle?
TV (disappointed): Oh.
Tuggle: I knew it. Well, so long, TV.
Good Girl is a way to ask if a girl is a virgin without using the word virgin. Seven years before this movie, the director, Otto Preminger, and the producers of a film called The Moon is Blue went to war with the censors because they dared to use words like virgin, seduce, and mistress. That film was banned in Boston because everybody who was living in that city would be scandalized. Easier to avoid that hassle in a film this light weight.
As for Tuggle, she sees her chastity as the end of her relationship with TV. Dill returns home with Melanie and there are no words needed to deduce what they have been up to.
Melanie asks him if he would ever say anything or tell anyone, but Dill does not answer. He just kisses her. So, points in Dill’s favor, at least he did not lie. Just kidding. He is an incredible sleazy asshole.
The next morning Melanie goes looking for Dill, but he got called away on business by his daddy. I always figured being called to help his father out whose business just happens to be in Fort Myers, Florida was the first clue that these twerps were not from Yale or anywhere close to an Ivy League school. But Melanie has had her heads in the clouds from the moment she laid eyes on her first palm tree. Or maybe she has lost it in a cloud of tar and nicotine since she has taken up smoking because, “Dill smokes, I thought I would give it a chance. But I don’t inhale though”
Tuggle: It’s the tropics, everybody goes to pieces in the tropics.
Melanie: A girl from U got married down here last year. Did you know?
Tuggle: What brought that on?
Melanie: Well, nothing, I just heard about it. A sophomore from Swanson Hall. She met this real nice boy. The next thing, they were married.
Merritt: You’ve got your calendar a little wrong. She met this boy here in March and they got married in October two jumps ahead of the obstetrician.
At this point Melanie only wants to hear what she wants to while she sets herself on a one way path of wrecking her reputation because this is 1960 and the mere suggestion that you’re getting the hot beef injection by some boys from a motel would set tongues-a-wagging.
TV on the other hand, having reconciled himself to the fact that he doesn’t have the key to unlock Tuggle’s Treasure Chest, reconnects with her so that they can continue their daily potato chip orgy as Angie calls it although Tuggle points out that sometimes they have pretzels.
I always thought that the next day in this movie was the next day. But if you pay attention to the dialogue, we may have skipped over a few days here and there.
The previously unnamed dark haired perpetually tanned person shown a few days earlier, comes walking through the beach crowd once again like he owns the place, plops down next to Merritt and makes the 60’s version of internet chat in the sand.
?-Penmore U (Finally after one book and a little over a third of the movie, someone decided to give the college a name.)
Ryder: How about a cocktail.
Merritt: I didn’t know they served them in the Elbow Room.
Ryder: Well, I was thinking of a place called The Sheik’s.
Time to gather up the school books and head for the bar. Angie is left alone to fend for herself which is kind of rude I guess but it’s time to move the story along.
At The Sheik, Merritt plays the question mark game in a wet spot on the table and we and she find out that his name is Ryder Smith, he goes to Brown University, He’s 22, and is a Senior.
After having waded through the heavy nonsensical dialogue of the novel recently, the conversation here is a joy to behold in its simplicity. It is sophisticated in a 1960 sort of way, and unlike Merritt from the book, this Merritt from the movie is nobody’s fool.
As Ryder and Merritt leave the lounge on their way to the Smith Family Estate, who do we see sitting at a nearby table. Why, could it be Melanie and Franklin? You remember Franklin. He is the one who lost the coin toss and is pumping her with screwdrivers but I’m only guessing. It could just be orange Kool-Aid or maybe Tang, the drink of Astronauts.
The Smith dwelling comes complete with fountains, swimming pools, a yacht tied up to the pier and a lawn that looks like it was manicured by the ground crew from Yankee Stadium. Little House on the Prairie it ain’t. Everything is owned by Ryder’s grandfather, but it will be his someday as soon as he figures out a way to bump the old guy off.
Merritt is well tuned into Ryder’s attempts to seduce her. On board Grandpa Jed Clampett’s putt putt, he offers her another drink
Merritt: No thanks. I’m not much for the drinking bit.
Ryder: Good Girl
Merritt: I’m not being prudish. I just don’t believe in getting smashed. (As Ryder gets ready to pour himself another drink) It’s sort of juvenile.Not really worth the effort. (Ryder sets the bottle down.)
Having been thwarted in his attempts to get Merritt plastered, he offers her dinner instead and calls the Cook to have it sent down. Merritt is impressed.
Ryder: Would you like to stay aboard tonight?
Merritt: Where will you be?
Ryder: Oh, not far.
Merritt: That’s probably about the coolest approach I’ve ever had.
After telling Ryder her different classifications for men, Merritt tells him she’ll have to come up with a new classification for him.
Merritt: I divided boys into three types: sweepers, the strokers…
Ryder: Educate me. What’s a sweeper?
Merritt: The ones that sweep you off your feet – or try to. Often leaving large bruises.
Ryder: The, eh, judo experts?
Merritt: Right! Then, there are the strokers. They use the soft caress, usually accompanied by the soft words, the soft lighting and soft music.
Ryder: They, eh, set the stage, huh?
Merritt: Um-hum. And if a girl gets too interested in the drama, act three is over before she even knows the curtain is up.
Ryder: What’s that, eh, third classification?
Merritt: Aw, the subtles. The ones with the subtle approaches. They have a lot of different techniques: discussions of erotic literature, Freud, the coming of age in Samoa.
He asks her about his original question in regards to spending the night, and her answer is what amounts to “not tonight, maybe not tomorrow night or even the night after.” At least it’s not a flat out no, and Merritt does get to take home part of her dinner because she has a poodle.
On the way to the beach the next morning the girls are nearly run over by the Basil Demetomos (Frank Gorshin) Quintet, purveyors of dialectic jazz. He invites everyone within earshot to the Elbow Room to listen to some dialectic while the band pays for the beers.
Let’s just stop for a minute so that I can nitpick and you know how much I love to nitpick. Upon issuing his invited several thousand kids begin pushing their way to the bar with Merritt, Angie and Tuggle way behind the pack. Yet, somehow they get a prime location right next to where the band is playing, even though there’s no way all those kids could have even fit into that bar. I can guess that maybe Basil gave them a front row seat as reparations for almost killing them. It’s the only explanation I can think of.
Inside the bar, by the process of elimination, Basil hooks up with Angie.
Later that evening while preparing for their dates, we find out that Tuggle and TV are still sparring over whether he will be able to loot her bounty.
Merritt: How are things going between you two.
Tuggle: Oh, about the same. He hints what he wants, I hint about Matrimony And while each of us is hinting the other isn’t listening. He certainly is persistent though. He keeps knocking on the door. It’s just a question of how long I can keep it locked.
Merritt and Ryder are no different. He keeps trying and she keeps saying, “nah baby nah”. This is where Ryder imports Glendon Swarthout’s bullshit philosophy from the novel when he takes her for night time ride (although it looks like broad daylight to me) on Grandpa’s Put-put.
Merritt: No girl enjoys being considered promiscuous, even those who might be.
Ryder: Now, that’s a pretty old fangled notion, Merritt.
Ryder: Sex is no longer a matter of morals. That idea went out with the raccoon coat. Sex is a part of personal relations.
Merritt: Oh, really?
Ryder: It’s a pleasant, thrilling thing. Like, like, like shaking hands! Or, making sure you’ll catch a person’s name when you’re introduced.
Merritt: I hadn’t realized.
Ryder: It’s like contributing to a charity or working on a civic committee. As a matter of fact, it’s actually serving your fellow man.
Merritt: Uh, uh, what about the, this old-fangled notion called love? Shouldn’t that figure somewhere in the proceedings?
Ryder: Later, after we become better acquainted. More marriages go on the rocks just because people aren’t better acquainted.
Merritt: Uh uh. It’s talk like this that may get me bounced out of school next week.
Ryder: Well, nice to know we agree on something.
Merritt: Well let’s see if you can agree on what time you take me home.
Melanie comes home to the Fairview in a state of drunkenness that Arthur Bach would be proud of. (Google it) Or maybe she saw Pink Elephants on parade.
Merritt (trying to get Melanie’s clothes off): Did Dill arrange for this party?
Melanie: Dill! No, not Dill. I was with Franklin. Franklin! Mer, you wanna know something? I’m in love with Franklin and Franklin’s in love with me. Isn’t that the most wonderful thing you’ve ever heard Mer?
There’s an old saying that if you mix screwdrivers with grasshoppers, your odds of getting impressionable college girls in the sack increase dramatically Melanie, in her record setting state of Fort Lauderdale Inebriation, tells Merritt she was right about everything. We, being the intelligent movie viewing creatures know exactly what Melanie is referring to, even if Merritt does not.
The next morning, Melanie is nursing her hangover which leads to an argument with Merritt about Merritt’s classroom preaching the day before. After Franklin stands her up, Melanie heads out on the S.S. Ryder Seducing Machine at Merritt’s invitation. Something Ryder isn’t too happy about and gets in a pouting snit figuring that Merritt brought her friend along as a chaperone. As for Melanie, she’s in full blown pity party mood.
Angie finally finds her way into Basil’s heart when she bursts into song while the Dialectic Quartet are performing at a nightclub. It’s also an excuse for Connie Francis to sing another ditty by Sedaka/Greenfield and we can never get too much of that.
Meanwhile, Franklin comes around to take Melanie out for his nightly round of Hide the Salami. Melanie hints at him with her girl who got married last year story and Franklin makes it clear that’s not where they are headed and seems to be annoyed with the subject matter.
After realizing that there are only two days left in their vacation, Ryder and TV impart typical male wisdom to each other while the gals go for a swim.
TV: Nice kids, aren’t they?
Ryder: Yeah, maybe a little too nice.
TV: Yeah, funny thing about women, if you don’t make a big pitch for them, they get mad. If you do, they get mad. How can you win?
Ryder: You can’t, they’re not playing for the same stakes.
TV: Boy, I know what you mean. While you’re seeing stars, they see a wedding ring. They’re so darn, practical.
Ryder: You know something? I don’t think they realize what a risk marriage is for men.
TV: Well not so much for a rich guy like you. You can afford to be wrong. I can’t even afford to be right.
Don’t you just love that bit about, “They’re not playing for the same stakes?” Or the “I don’t think they realize what a risk marriage is for men?” Do you think things have changed much in 60 years? Not for a lot of men who still think women were put on this earth to be at their beck and call. Worse, there are women who believe they are here for the same thing. Ask any female Trump supporter.
They decide to go out in style making a night of it by getting all fancied up and hitting only the best places. Melanie decides to stay behind for two reasons: A. Franklin might call and B. She can help take us into our big dramatic flourish at the end.
As for the four explorers of the Lauderdale nightclub scene, they manage to get blottoed. There’s an underwater show that totally fascinates a very drunk TV Thompson, who with a little alcohol in his system (okay, a lot of alcohol) proves to Tuggle and us that underneath that goofy exterior lies a total jerkoff.
The show is called Lola ‘the sea nymph of the Tropical Isle!’ Barbara Nichols plays Lola, who is supposed to be funny but I mostly find the character to be annoying not to mention that she has a voice that makes Fran Drescher seem like a great orator. And TV doesn’t help the medicine go down either as he makes his play for Lola, the Scylla of Sex (as Merritt called her in the book and it’s stayed with me ever since) in the presence of Tuggle whom he treats like a shit rag.
Basil drops his glasses, somebody steps on them, and he is blind for the duration aka the rest of the movie. We wrap this party up, with some slapstick before heading to the beach and switching on the romantic tragedy dramatic mode.
Will TV dump Tuggle for the “amazing lungs” of Lola Fandango? Will Ryder finally get lucky with Merritt? And will Melanie find true love with Franklin?
You can probably guess some of the answers. Good girls get rewarded in the 60’s while bad girls must undergo excruciating punishment.
I really like Where the Boys Are. I’ve seen it many times and although the plot may seem simple and mundane reading about it, there are some great things that make it better than the average movie of this genre.
First and foremost is the cast. Pasternak knew what he was doing when he got this group together. They are all so damn likable and can let loose with a one liner as if they were born to do so. The plot to find guys to marry is straight out of the 50’s and 60’s or in 2020, on the Hallmark Channel. But so, what? There’s a chemistry among all the actors that you won’t find in too many films.
The other thing that the film has going for it is the snappy dialogue thanks to the script by George Wells and the decision to drop a major amount of dead weight from the novel. Director Henry Levin knows how to do this sort of film, having also directed the musical April Love that I reviewed a few months back. He would meet up with Dolores Hart once again when he directed Come Fly With Me which is one of those films I keep meaning to watch but haven’t as of yet.
Dolores Hart is exceptional as Merritt. She is the center of our attention from the beginning of the film to the end. Her character is the gravity that keeps things interesting. Her back and forth with George Hamilton as Ryder is intelligent and witty.
Too bad she would eventually drop out of Hollywood. Good for her since that was what she wanted to do, bad for us because we’ll never know what direction her Hollywood career would have taken.
Wikipedia explains it all:
Using the stage name of ‘Dolores Hart’, in 1956 she was signed to play a supporting role as the love interest to Elvis Presley in the 1957 release Loving You. After this appearance, Hart was in frequent demand, and she made two more films before playing with Presley again in 1958’s King Creole. She has denied ever having had an ‘intimate’ relationship with Presley off-screen. Hart then debuted on Broadway, winning a 1959 Theatre World Award as well as a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress for her role in The Pleasure of His Company.
In 1960, Hart starred in Where the Boys Are, a teenage comedy about college students on spring break which developed a near cult-like following. In the film, Hart plays a co-ed who struggles to define herself when confronted with her newly-discovered sexuality and popularity with the opposite sex.
She went on to star in four more films, her last opposite Hugh O’Brian in 1963’s Come Fly with Me. At this point she had made up her mind to leave the film industry, and a ter breaking off her engagement to Los Angeles businessman Don Robinson, the twenty-five-year old actress became a Roman Catholic nun at the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut, ultimately becoming the Prioress of the Convent. She chants in Latin eight times a day.
Paula Prentiss makes her big screen debut as Tuggle and has a natural flair for comedy. She would go on to star in many films of this type, probably my favorite being Man’s Favorite Sport with Rock Hudson, a film I also reviewed a while back. She was paired up in a lot of films with Jim Hutton because he was tall, she was tall, and they seemed natural together just like they are here. She also bared it all full frontal for the original film version of Catch-22, a strange movie based on an even stranger book. I haven’t watched the George Clooney remake.
Yvette Mimeaux plays naive freshman Melanie. She has a tough job in this movie. She must bring gravitas to the scene while not putting too much of a damper on the rest of the proceedings. She pulls it off, but still, we know where her character is headed early on.
Connie Francis is a revelation as girl hockey player, Angie. For some reason (I guess because she is a hockey player) she has trouble getting a guy. I seriously doubt someone who looks like her would have that kind of a problem, but Francis plays the role in a ditsy kind of way. Angie is one gal just about anybody would like to have hanging around just for laughs. Her most memorable scene was the one in the diner where her and Merritt eat on the cheap.
Add to this the fact that the girl can sing up a storm and is given two opportunities to let loose over the title credits and later as a plot device. It’s too bad that films never capitalized on her comedic capabilities and most of her films after this ranged from so-so (Follow the Boys) to downright awful (When the Boys Meet the Girls).
Jim Hutton plays TV Thompson and his hook up with Tuggle is a match made in movie heaven. Their on screen chemistry blends together like peaches and cream or “peas and carrots”. If there’s a down side, his drunken obnoxiousness showing an evil side of his character suddenly makes us wish he would take a long walk off a short pier. What would that accomplish? Everything. He can’t swim. At least he’s not totally despicable like the character in the book.
George Hamilton was chiseled by the gods of suntan and sophistication to play Merritt’s love interest, Ryder. His scenes with Merritt are very cleverly written with some good give and take. If you need someone to play a college millionaire who’s all glamour and no depth, Hamilton is your guy which made him perfectly suited for this role.
Frank Gorshin portrays the nearly blind dialectic narcissist jazz musician named Basil. But he’s likable because he’s just plain goofy, even more so when he’s nearly blind at the end of the film. Dialectic Jazz provided by the great Pete Rugolo.
Yes, the film is dated with its premise that all the girls in the world are looking for a rich guy to march down the aisle with. But nothing wrong with that I suppose. Normally, all this would seem kind of shallow but you just have to go with it and roll with the punches. It’s a light weight entry into the romance/comedy genre. There’s no mistake about that. But it’s one of the better ones. It may not be Romeo and Juliet and Heathcliffe and Catherine, but 60 years after the fact, Where the Boys Are is still and enjoyable diversion. And for that we score you with a straight arrow B.
In the video below, Connie Francis and Paula Prentiss take a look back at Where the Boys Are. Just like I promised. You’ll have fun. You can buy the bluray from either Amazon (click on the bluray picture above) or from Warner Archives. The bluray transfer gets by but should have been much better. It’s obvious no care was put into this release, as the audio could use a boatload of cleanup but the picture quality is fine.