Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bachelor in Paradise ( 1961 )

Bob Hope stars as AJ Niles, a world-renowned author of a series of books examining the lifestyle, eating habits, and sex life of the Europeans. His research keeps him busy all across the continent and his books have made him over a million in revenue. However, when he returns to the States after a 14 year absence, he finds his business manager has skedaddled to Mexico and left him with the IRS hounding him for over $600,000 in unpaid income taxes. His publisher suggests he write another book to help pay off this debt, this time about the Americans. Niles reluctantly goes undercover in a typical modern pre-planned housing development in California's San Fernando Valley to examine men, women, and their lifestyle for his latest tell-all book, "How the Americans Live". 

Niles rents one of the last available homes from Rosemary Howard, played by the glamorous Lana Turner, whom he also hires as a secretary to help with his writing. As a bachelor, his presence in the family-oriented community of Paradise Village causes intrigue and arouses excitement in some of the housewives - notably Dolores ( Janis Paige ), the neglected wife of Paradise's developer Mr. Jynson ( Don Porter ). Niles decides that what Paradise needs is passion and begins educating the baby-saddled housewives in the language of l'amour. His advice to add spice to their marriages works well in some households but downright terrible in others. Jim Hutton and Paula Prentiss play one of these young married couples in their third on-screen teaming, after the two lanky stars made a splash in Where the Boys Are ( 1960 ). 

The housewives are happy to get a little romance back into their lives, but some of the husbands believe that Niles is out to wreck their marriages instead. In truth, he only has eyes for Rosemary, and it's obvious that the world's most famous bachelor won't remain single for long. 

" I came out here to tell you what a despicable person you are" - Rosemary
" You might get an argument, I'm very fond of me" - A.J

Lana Turner was making a number of lush Ross Hunter soap operas ( Imitation of Life, By Love Possessed ) when she returned to MGM after a five-year absence to make Bachelor in Paradise, released in November 1961. The breezy comedy offered her a welcome change of pace from her turbulent home life. At the time, her daughter, Cheryl Crane, had been acquitted for killing Turner's gangster boyfriend Johnny Stampanato, and had recently been committed to a psychiatric institute. 

Bob Hope enjoyed a change of pace as well.....for a Hope vehicle, Bachelor in Paradise offered him a meatier plot line than his prat-filled comedies of the 1950s. The Facts of Life and Paradise revamped the comedy formula Hope was tied to in the previous decade and created a new style that he would eventually wear out as well. 

"It would be pink" - A.J, looking at the new house
"That's not pink! It's California Coral" - Rosemary

Bachelor in Paraidse is an amusing comedy and, like two other films of the era - Good Neighbor Sam ( 1964 ) and Send Me No Flowers ( 1964 ) - it offers a nostalgic slice of suburban American life in the early 1960s. Happily, the picture is not confined to indoor sets and we get to follow A.J. Niles as he visits a shopping center ( eggs were 42 cents a dozen! ), a bowling alley, drive-thru hamburger stand, and the Pig Pit BBQ restaurant, where a tipsy Rosemary displays her hula movements, much to the delight of Niles. Alas, in the final court sequences, the film flounders and not even Agnes Moorehead - appearing as the court judge- can keep the audience from emitting some mouth-stretching yawns at this point. 

The talented Henry Mancini penned a wonderfully light and fluffy score for Bachelor in Paradise and the theme song - with lyrics by Mack David - went on to earn a nomination for Best Song at the 1962 Academy Awards. During the ceremony, Ann-Margaret performed a scintillating rendition of the song and her performance turned her into an overnight sensation and launched her image as a sex kitten. 

For an afternoon's amusement, the chuckles Bachelor in Paradise bring can't be topped and spotting the myriad of familiar faces to be seen in the film ( John McGiver, Reta Shaw, Roberts Shore, to name a few ) only adds to the entertainment. 

Be sure to check out Robby Cress' great post on Paradise Village and how the area looks like today, over at his blog Dear Old Hollywood. Also, stay tuned for our own look at the floor plan to Rosemary Howard's home in Paradise. 

1 comment:

  1. Every once in a while I'll ask my husband what he wants for dinner. His reply: "A sammich." I ask him what kind of sammich. He says: "A peanut butter and pickle sammich." Who knew "Bachelor in Paradise" was such an influential film.

    PS: Did supermarkets ever really and truly look like that? Really? And truly?