Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Ticklish Affair ( 1963 )

In 1962, Shirley Jones, fresh from her success as Marian the librarian in the film adaptation of The Music Man, was assigned the leading role in MGM's A Ticklish Affair

After Jones had won an Academy Award for her dramatic performance in "Elmer Gantry"( 1960 ) she thought the studio would finally give her a chance to exercise her dramatic skills to greater use....instead they ushered her into light-hearted comedies.  

"Before and after Gantry, I did a string of comedies including The Courtship of Eddies Father ( 1963 ) with Glenn Ford, A Ticklish Affair with Gig Young, and my favorite, Bedtime Story ( 1964 ) with David Niven and Marlon Brando. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of doing comedy. The studios usually referred to them as 'sophisticated comedies'. Too often they were neither. "

A Ticklish Affair tells the story of a Navy widow with three boys, a lovely home overlooking San Diego harbor, and a heart shut out to romance. Amy Martin ( Shirley Jones ) grew up as a Navy brat living out of a suitcase as her father got transferred from place to place. After her husband passes away she decides she wants stability for her children and vows to never get involved with another Navy man again. One afternoon her boys are playing a game and send an SOS signal using a signal lamp, it is spotted by a docked Navy vessel which sends them hurrying out to her house to investigate. The Commander ( Gig Young ) is instantly smitten with the comely mother - with shapely legs - and decides to become a frequent guest. No objection from Amy...until she finds herself falling in love again. 

A Ticklish Affair was released fifty years ago on August 18, 1963. Critics did not take to the film favorably, panning it's overly sentimental story, but audience members who watched it upon its release ( or even in more recent late-night television airings ) remember the film vividly. Quite often it is those light-hearted comedies that are the most fondly remembered....

Jean Simmons was originally slated to star in A Ticklish Affair, but due to contractual obligations Shirley Jones was reassigned the role. Doris Day - or even Debbie Reynolds - could have easily played her part too, and in some aspects a Doris Day is what the film needed. Although Jones does a splendid job, the film is thin on plot and really needed a strong leading persona to help carry it successfully. 

The film hoped to make up for it with a stellar cast. Carolyn Jones and Red Buttons ( as sister-in-law and brother ) provided steady support for Mrs. Martin, with Edgar Buchanan in a minor role as her father-in-law. Other familiar faces include Edward Platt ( Get Smart ), as Young's commanding officer, Eddie Applegate ( The Patty Duke Show ) as a Navy seabee, and Billy Mumy ( Lost in Space ), Bryan Russell ( Bye Bye Birdie ) and Peter Robbins ( Charlie Brown ) as the three little cadets. 

" More fun than marriage! "

So hailed the tagline. That would depend on one's marriage though. 

The major draw to the film is its colorful San Diego locations, beautiful house set ( who wouldn't want to live in a rustic colonial with ocean-view? ) and its climax : the Martin boys continually receive super fun gifts from their Uncle Cy ( Buttons ), the latest being a bundle of surplus weather balloons. Cy tells the children that they can pretend they are "moon walking" by tying themselves to the balloons and letting them carry them off the ground. Grover Martin, the youngest of the boys, cuts himself loose from the rope tethering himself to the weather balloons and slowly drifts over the city and out towards the sea in an attempt to get the Commander to rescue him. Some children will do anything for attention....

A Ticklish Affair meanders along at a leisurely pace and although it doesn't quite tickle its audience enough as it could have, it does have a cheerful tone about it and quite frankly that more than makes up for its shortcomings.


  1. Not great cinema but I've always found it an enjoyable treat. The Jones girls, Shirley and Carolyn are both most engaging, play well off each other and looking great. In Carolyn's case this might be the most attractive she ever was on screen. As the men in their lives Gig got a rare chance to be the romantic lead who doesn't lose the girl in the end and performed with his customary charming agility. Red Buttons while providing comic relief also has a character with a bit more depth and he does it well, he and Carolyn are a surprisingly compatible couple. I watched it with my young niece and she was hooked as soon as the boys showed up and stayed interested throughout not an easy find nowadays.

    1. I must agree with you there, Carolyn Jones was indeed ravishing here. She looked her best in the early-mid 1960s. It's nice that your niece enjoyed the movie. This seems like one of those films that one would watch as a youngin and then remember years later ( without remembering the title ). I like re-watching every couple of years.

  2. This is a new-to-me film. I'll have to put it on my list.

    Thanks so much for a great review and for the contribution to the blogathon. I really appreciate it!

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