Hey Kids, let’s have one more week of Spring Break! It’s Where The Boys Are! (1960)
“…That’s my ambition–to be a walking,talking baby factory! Legal of course and with Union labor!”
Such is the pronouncement of ‘Tuggle’, the otherwise unnamed college gal on Spring Break with her fellow co-eds in Ft. Lauderdale. Tuggle is under the impression that because she is 5″10, she is only good for reproduction. Just one of many misperceptions these girls express in this somewhat seminal teen flick of 1960. I say somewhat seminal because although its plot (girl-meets-boy, girl-loses-boy, girl gets boy back) isn’t new, by its attitude toward intimacy among young adults and its audacity in actually using the word ‘sex’, was just controversial enough to stimulate young minds and concern their parents.
By today’s standards, if course, it’s incredibly tame, but in 1960 it was shocking. What I find most interesting about it is how it reflects male/female relationships then; the casual disregard for the women’s feelings, the accepted female roles of the young women, and naiveté bordering on ignorance, much like Mad Men in Season 1. All four women (sorry, ‘girls’) have dating troubles, but the way they deal with it will make many modern women cringe.
First, there’s Merritt Andrews, (Dolores Hart) the immaculately neat but reluctant ‘leader’ of the group. She earns the respect of her friends by explaining what ‘making out’ means to her ancient Sex-Ed teacher and pronouncing that yes, a girl should ‘play house’ with a boy before marriage;. This statement gets her sent to the Dean’s office, where we learn that she’s incredibly smart, but just barely passing. The solution? Two weeks in Ft. Lauderdale, along with her pals to celebrate the rites of spring.
The serious Merritt is joined by Tuggle, (Paula Prentiss) the earthy hockey captain Angie, (Connie Francis) and willowy ingénue Melanie (Yvette Mimieux). In time they are wooed and courted by Ryder Smith (George Hamilton) T.V. ( Jim Hutton) Basil (Frank Gorshin), Dill, and Franklin. And while the gals dream about getting their ‘M.R.S.’ degree, the guys just want S.E.X. With dead seriousness, TV asks Tuggle a wince-inducing question: “Are you a good girl?” The women all face this dilemma of being “live-it-up kids” or staying virginal until marriage. Merrit and Tuggle are determined to be the latter, Melanie the former, and Angie just wants a date. The boys prove they cannot be trusted– as a telling line from T.V. proves “I don’t ask for your belief, only your attention!”
All the women fall under the boy’s spell, and Melanie is especially smitten. Obsessed with ‘ivy leagers’, she jumps right in with a couple of Pete Campbells. One wonders if she had been so willing if she has seen these jokers tossing a coin over who would get her. ( I suspect she wouldn’t, because, don’t you see, they’re ivy leaguers!) Tuggle’s fellah T.V. is obsessed with sex, and brings it up as often as possible. Angie’s fellah, eccentric Jazz musician Basil, has little respect for her, but she follows him like a puppy. Merrit meets the ultimate Ivy League stallion, Ryder Smith, who sails her around on his rich family’s ‘putt’putt’. All the guys have a line. TV insists he’s a bust with women. Ryder insists that sex is no longer a matter of morals, but a friendly thing, like shaking hands or making sure you catch a persons name when you’re being introduced…it’s actually serving your fellow-man!” he argues.
How far the friends choose to ‘serve’ becomes the main issue when the couples, minus Melanie, gather for a final night of partying. But what happens to one of them arrives just in time to determine just how close to the sex line they get.
If you love early 60′s romantic romps and mid-century style, Where The Boys Are is the place for you! It isn’t bogged down by ridiculously over-blown characters (as many Frankie and Annette beach movies would become) and it has real emotions at its core. The fashions are pretty fab, of course, and I must say that although T.V. is considered the weirdo here, he’s the one dressed most practically for the beach, no melanoma for him. The girls all long for an even tan or even a burn; oh if we knew then what we know now! Connie Francis is as radiant as ever in her first movie, but I find it ridiculous that her character is portrayed as a less attractive girl. She’s a doll! It’s a perfect movie for cold winter evenings up north, and for anyone who can’t afford a spring break.
Alas Hollywood, having begun to up its recycling in 1984, released an updated version that year, which I’m only mentioning to remind you the original is MUCH BETTER! Seriously, don’t bother!
TRIVIA: Connie Francis (Angie) had her pals Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield write two versions of the title song, although the song chosen was the one all three hated! I wonder what the good one was? Unfortunately it was never recorded. Sedaka and Greenfield also wrote Connie’s other number, the snappy “Turn on the Sunshine”
The lovely Dolores Hart later left movies and went where the boys aren’t. She took up the veil and become a cloistered nun at The Abbey of Regina Laudis. Today she is the Mother Prioress of the Benedictine order, but she still connects to her acting roots, as her sisters have an outdoor theater that produces plays and musicals in the summer. Still a voting member of the MPAA, she was nominated for an Academy Award this year for her work on God is the Bigger Elvis, a short documentary about her life after Hollywood.
Jim Hutton and Paula Prentiss played couples in four movies for the studio. The studio liked them together for their height. Their onscreen romances had fans asking if they were really married (no, they weren’t) but they had wonderful chemistry together. Sadly, Jim Hutton passed on way too soon in 1979 (cancer). He is missed.
- Dolores Hart as Merritt Andrews
- Paula Prentiss as Tuggle Carpenter
- Yvette Mimieux as Melanie Tolman
- Connie Francis as Angie
- George Hamilton as Ryder Smith
- Jim Hutton as TV Thompson
- Rory Harrity as Franklin
- Frank Gorshin as Basil
- Chill Wills as Police Captain
- Barbara Nichols as Lola Fandango
See you next week!