Where the Boys Are (DVD Review)22 Aug, 2011 By: Mike Clark
Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Stars Dolores Hart, George Hamilton, Yvette Mimieux, Paula Prentiss.
While spending a few years in late elementary and early middle school reading the source novels of a lot of movies I’d missed or coming ones I feared might be un-seeable, I remember being surprised that the same author who wrote Boys (Glendon Swarthout) had also penned They Came to Cordura, which had been adapted not long before into a fairly gritty Gary Cooper movie about military cowardice. (If I’d only known The Shootist, later transformed into John Wayne’s swan song, was to come). This didn’t seem like the most natural link to a Fort Lauderdale sex comedy produced by MGM’s Joe Pasternak — who even then I knew produced musicals with Jane Powell and Esther Williams plus now, in her screen debut, pop singer Connie Francis.
As it turned out (and hardly surprisingly, though I’m working from half-century memory here), the Swarthout novel was more hard-edged than the resulting movie — whose recent viewing, via this on-demand DVD release, just inspired me to order up the print version on Kindle ($5.95, not bad). If I recall correctly, the novel was narrated first-person by the character Dolores Hart played in the screen version, a coed I’m pretty sure has become pregnant by story’s end. Not in the movie, though, and certainly not with Dolores Hart — that contender (with Ann-Margret) for the title of Elvis’s best leading lady ever and one who became a nun in real life (thus depriving me of one of my favorite young actresses of her era).
Still, the movie has a little more edge than expected (maybe 5% to 10%) in addressing the pressures and even psychological abuse young women endured at the outset of the Pill — everyday, but in this specific instance, during college vacations where there were going to be a lot of men who didn’t want their time to be exclusively spent tossing footballs on the beach. In particular, the Yvette Mimieux character here gets pretty messed up because a) she has the most vulnerable personality; and b) is probably the best-looking one of an all-around attractive bunch and is thus getting hit on all the time by beered-up males who aren’t the types to sit around talking about Saul Bellow. But given its release date during the period when JFK had been elected but Eisenhower was still in office, the movie makes it clear that the women are always back in their motel (with pool) by evening’s end — and sleeping six or seven to a room.
Boys was constructed as a showcase for MGM hopefuls, though Hart (who’d make just four subsequent features) tended to freelance. But there was Mimieux, who’d been memorable the previous summer in The Time Machine; George Hamilton, back when he was still considered promising following a critical triumph the previous March in Vincente Minnelli’s Home from the Hill; Paula Prentiss and her soon-to-be ubiquitous co-star Jim Hutton (their heights were compatible); Frank Gorshin (much funnier than anything else in this mild pleasantry, playing a near-blind jazz musician); and Francis, who got a No. 4 Billboard hit out of the title tune. Despite Boys’ box office success, Francis never really caught on in the movies, though 1964's Looking for Love has some mild notoriety for containing Johnny Carson’s only big-screen appearance. It inspired his classic quip hosting the Oscarcast one year when he happily noted that archival arrangements had been made to transfer the movie’s negative from safety to (highly flammable) nitrate stock.
Uncommonly for a made-to-order release, Boys is a re-issue of an out-of-print onetime retail title — complete with carried-over bonus extras that include Prentiss commentary. It deserves to be around because it was MGM’s biggest hit of the year when the studio was finding them tough to come by — and certainly an antidote to the disappointing grosses for the same December’s costly remake of Cimarron, which muted a lot of Leo the Lion’s roar. When the following spring rolled around, there was an all but exponentially increased explosion of students showing up at Fort Lauderdale, a practice that didn’t exactly abate. No one cared, though, a quarter-century later when TriStar’s Where the Boys Are ’84 opened and closed more quickly than Johnny Carson’s movie career.