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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Where the Boys Are (1960)
Where the Boys Are (1960)
Warner Bros. // Unrated // January 6, 2004
List Price: $19.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by DVD Savant | posted December 31, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

This glossy production presents probably the last studio-manicured batch of young actors to be put through the traditional departmentalized ingenue system at MGM. That's a big part of the fun - we get to see several star personalities formed all at once.

Where the Boys Are is going to appeal to the shrinking demographic of over-50 fans who can still remember the time before the Beatles and Beach Party movies, when Hollywood comedies about young adults were strange hybrids with little resemblance to reality. As the top writers of 1959 were all probably 40 or 50+ in age, pictures like Tall Story (which introduced Jane Fonda) tended to make post- James Dean college students behave like kids in 1930s movies. Girls don't go wild in this first-ever Spring Break bash, but the screenplay does address the issue once known as pre-marital sex in a reasonably honest manner.

Synopsis:

Up to their armpits in snow and stuffy midwestern morality, coeds Merritt Andrews (Dolores Hart), Melanie Coleman (Yvette Mimieux), Angie (Connie Francis) and Tuggle Carpenter (Paula Prentiss) head to Fort Lauderdale for sun, fun and the possibility of finding the 'right' boy. The target males are a mixed bunch: eccentric nut TV Thompson (Jim Hutton), suave Brown senior and millionaire Ryder Smith (George Hamilton), and nearsighted jazz empresario Basil (Frank Gorshin). Unfortunately, the ditzy Melanie throws herself at the first Ivy League lothario she sees, blinded by the thought of early marriage to a dream husband.

Hollywood romantic comedies spent the latter half of the 50s dancing around the subject of sex. Whereas earlier generations of films (at least post- Hays Code) pretended that the whole world faded to black when couples kissed, movies were finally acknowledging that casual sex was a possibility for 'nice' girls. Over 30 actress-comediennes like Doris Day were in demand. Day could project an illusion of wholesomeness while crossing her eyes over hanky-panky that never actually happened.

Where the Boys Are is probably a campy curiosity today. Poor drippy-nosed Dolores Hart is criticized by her college professor, an old spinster type who expects girls to observe stiff moral codes. The actresses are all so beautiful, they look too mature to be confused coeds. Prentiss (21) is the most obviously talented and became one of the most underused bright spots of the next two decades - she even elevates Man's Favorite Sport?, a fossilized, surreal comedy. Dolores Hart (22) made three early Elvis movies, a couple more comedies, and then became a nun. Yvette Mimieux (18) was just starting but had already made the classic The Time Machine.

The most famous of the bunch was Connie Francis (22), the singer of the film's top-ten title tune. Where the Boys Are was and is considered her movie, the first of several fairly square vehicles for her singing talent. Oddly, MGM gave her the ugly-duckling, nobody-wants-me Nancy Walker type role.

Handsome George Hamilton (21) was one of the hottest young stars at the time, but had a blah screen presence and was never much of an actor. Jim Hutton (26) was older but no more experienced than anyone else, at least not in movie credits. Rounding out the secondary cast were seasoned vets Frank Gorshin (26) and Barbara Nichols (31), providing clownish comedy relief.

CinemaScope location filming fills the screen with thousands of anonymous college students swarming the beaches, streets and night spots. We never get into the water, as there are plenty of hijinks to cover on dry land - filching free meals, cramming 7 girls into one motel room, picking up a stalled sports car and carrying it out of traffic. The wildest things get is when TV Thompson invades Barbara Nichols' mermaid act at The Tropical Isle nightclub. The scene probably inspired similar antics set at the same time and place in Philip Kaufman's The Right Stuff.

Where the Boys Are's social wisdom for single women probably fit 1950, for upper-middle class whitebread Americans. It was outdated in 1960 but was still a mother's blueprint for behavior for the 'nice' girls I was dating seven and eight years later. There's still the lingering rule that says that girls in college are really marking time waiting for husbands to come along. Merritt and Melanie's confusion makes perfect sense. Girls were expected to function under a double-standard where the only way to attract boys was to have something to offer, but anyone who actually offered it was a slut. Boys, meanwhile, were free to display any personality they wished (kooky like TV or oily like Ryder) while unapologetically making advances. TV asks outright: "Are you a good girl, Tuggle?" When Tuggle answers Yes, he immediately loses interest. The same with Merritt and Ryder. On the first date Ryder comes on with dinner aboard his yacht, and then goes into an 'it's O.K.' mode when Merritt balks at going horizontal.

In short, the boys are expected to sprint for third base immediately. The girls have to find some way of proving they're not pushovers, but keeping the boy around long enough for their real personalities to soak in. Then True Love is supposed to take over. As a system, I imagine this worked fine for one couple in twenty.

The Hart-Hamilton pairing is standard fairy tale stuff, but the movie has more fun with the 'kooky' relationship between the tall pair, Prentiss and Hutton. They're humorous and attractive and more like people we know. She's self-conscious about her height, and he hides his insecurities behind aggressive nonconformity. The match was so good, MGM paired them together three more times - but only once as a starring couple, in The Horizontal Lieutenant.

The rest is comedy coloration. Connie Francis has a terrific voice and looks far too pretty to be saddled with the role of a girl who can't get a date. We aren't supposed to consider her romantic problems as being important as her girlfriends'. And forget about getting basic script respect for Barbara Nichols' bimbo or Frank Gorshin's hepster jazz man. This 'selective sympathies' game is a flaw that better comedy writers overcome. George Wells wrote scores of lively comedies, but they tend to be non-classics that deal in stereotypes.

Where the Boys Are becomes serious (or hilarious, depending on your point of view) with Yvette Mimieux's Melanie character. As MGM's object lesson for naive girls, and perhaps to counter the potential immorality on view, Melanie sleeps with one boy and then goes out of control when he ignores her. She's handed off to another of his pals who has some free time to kill, and then traded back. I can imagine the blood of thousands of American mothers running cold, while a million teenaged girls got a valuable lesson in worst-case scenarios. Of course, since this is Hollywood, Melanie doesn't get pregnant or lose all her friends ... only getting run over on the highway will suffice!


Warner's DVD of Where the Boys Are polishes up the comedy-drama quite nicely, improving on the old pan-scan prints. The audio quality is fine for Connie Francis' title tune and the less-memorable pop trifles she sings 'spontaneously' during the show.

An original trailer and a premiere newsreel are welcome, but the icing on the cake is Paula Prentiss' commentary, and the short docu she shares with Connie Francis. Paula relates her plucked-from-campus leap to stardom and the later fan assumption that she and Hutton were married. There's plenty of discussion of her co-stars and the picture's attitudes about women. Francis' part of the docu concentrates mostly on how MGM pressured her to appear on screen for the first time, and how she used that as leverage to help out her songwriting pals Pete Rugolo and Neil Sedaka.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Where the Boys Are rates:
Movie: Good
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Paula Prentiss commentary; docu Where the Boys Were: A Retrospective; Fort Lauderdale Premiere Newsreel, trailer
Packaging: Snapper case
Reviewed: December 30, 2003



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