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Using Helen Gurley Brown's book as a jump off point, we follow the adventures of a supermarket tabloid editor as he tries to parlay an interview with the author of the book into headlines and sales. Of course, a romantic entanglement ensues.Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
There is something infectious about this comedy. The cast is about as perfect as you can get, but the subject matter was a bit awkward when compared to today's mores.
Before Carrie Bradshaw there was Helen Gurley Brown (Natalie Wood) a real life psychologist and businesswoman (she was editor of Cosmo for 32 years). Ms. Brown has just written a very controversial book about sex and the single girl (hence the title). It creates a firestorm amongst her male colleagues and her conservative patients. Tony Curtis is Bob Weston, a writer for a sleazy National Enquire-esque magazine called Stop. Bob wants to get an interview with Ms. Brown, but pretends to be a patient in need of marital counseling as a ruse. He uses his next door neighbors', Frank (Henry Fonda) and Syvia (Lauren Becall), volatile marriage as material. Of course a romance blossoms and then the normal confusion and hijinks ensue.
My issue with the film is the way Ms. Brown is portrayed. She is a befuddled, confused and weak female. She's also a terrible therapist. Despite writing a book on how a single girl can be successful, she immediately allows herself to become involved with a married patient. If I was the real Helen Brown, I would be appalled. Ms. Wood is gorgeous and I'm captivated by her screen presence, but she plays Ms. Brown as a woman who needs a man...the exact opposite of the book she wrote and my recollections of Ms. Brown in real life (mostly from reading her biography).
I understand this was set in the 1964 when views of male/female relationship skewed more towards male dominance, but it was still hard for me to accept that Ms. Brown could accomplish so much while being so desperate for a man...and a married one at that. Her therapy techniques violate every code of ethics you can imagine. Sure, it was a funny movie and I enjoyed it, but it left me feeling awkward at how simple women were portrayed.
The supporting cast is top notch and the movie's best selling point. Fonda and Bacall as the bickering neighbors are a treat. Mel Ferrer as Brown's fellow psychologist and potential love interest is hilariously smarmy and cocky. Fran Jeffries and Leslie Parish are attractive and funny love interests/secretary for Bob. Larry Storch appears in a cameo as a motorcycle cop during the finale's odd highway chase scene. Count Basie and his orchestra are here just to provide some gravitas, but don't really play any key roles.
There is a running gag about Tony Curtis wearing a woman's robe and everyone referring to him as Mr. Lemon. Curtis and Jack Lemon had starred in "Some Like It Hot" a few years before where they dressed like women. The gag was funny the first two times, but it got overplayed.
I have to say something about the chase scene. It seems that every romantic comedy in the 1960s had a chase scene. This one had a funny idea of the first three cars tossing a quarter to the toll taker. The last car leaves a dollar and takes the 75 cents. It was silly, poorly filmed, but made me laugh. Then there is another similar thing involving pretzels which I simply did not understand. I'm sure there was a point, but I missed it.
With this much talent, it was going to succeed and it does. I just wish Ms. Brown had been played a bit more wisely and not as such an easy mark for Tony Curtis' Bob Weston.
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