TOP 10 ’60S STARLET MOVIES
After my recent post about Come Fly with Me, a reader recently suggested that I offer my Top 10 Sixties movies to recommend. It got me thinking and decided to offer my personal list based on the 60s starlet quotient. The movies I selected are all extremely entertaining (some in a big, bad way) and feature a number of starlets. Since I already wrote about Come Fly with Me, I omitted it, but it is definitely Top Ten for me. I tried to cover all popular movie genres of the decade—beach, Elvis, biker, romance, etc. Below is my list in chronological order:
Where the Boys Are (1960)
Gidget Goes to Rome (1963)
The Pleasure Seekers (1964)
Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) 4/14
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) 8/6
Village of the Giants (1965)
Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966)
The Mini-Skirt Mob(1968)
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)
And now why, beginning at the top.
Starlets: Dolores Hart, Yvette Mimieux, Connie Francis, Paula Prentiss, Barbara Nichols
Despite its uneven mixture of slapstick comedy and melodrama, and its heavy-handed moralizing about the evils of premarital sex, Where the Boys Are is so handsomely produced and charmingly acted by the above starlets that it can’t help but be entertaining. Its popularity started a small wave of movies (i.e. Rome Adventure, Two Tickets to Paris, Gidget Goes to Rome, Palm Springs Weekend, Come Fly with Me, Follow the Boys, Ride the Wild Surf, The Pleasure Seekers, etc.) sending a gaggle of starlets on vacation to picturesque ports of call.
Where the Boys Are is not a frivolous comedy as one may suspect. It is probably one of the first movies to suggest that it is okay for young women to have sex before marriage. This was very outlandishly daring for 1960. However, to counteract this novel idea, Hart’s good girl Merritt doesn’t practice what she preaches, and the audience is hit over the head by Prentiss’ character, who is out to land a husband while holding on to her virginity. The film is so dated that Prentiss’ Tuggle boasts that girls like her “are not built to be educated, but to become a walking-talking baby factor.” It is lines like this that will even the most hardened male chauvinist pig rolling his eyes in disbelief. Yvette Mimieux is the easy girl out to reel in an Ivy Leaguer using her feminine wiles, but of course she has to pay for her wanton ways. Not only does she get raped, the poor thing gets hit by a car to boot. Mimieux is just another popular starlet in a long line of late fifties/early sixties fair-haired good girls gone bad who had to suffer for going all the way. For instance, unwed high school student Carol Lynley gets pregnant and is sent away in Blue Denim (1969), while Diane McBain meets a nasty end as a Southern tramp shot dead in her bedroom in Claudelle Inglish (1961).
Where the Boys Are captures the craziness ofFort Lauderdale wonderfully from the crowded beaches to the packed sidewalks and traffic-laden streets. The on location photography elevates the film immensely. However, the scenes with the principals on the sand were obviously filmed on the MGM back lot and none of the actors wade into the water on screen. Some of writer George Wells’ hip dialog was square back in 1960, but a number of his lines do retain their humor especially when delivered by deft comic actors Jim Hutton and Paula Prentiss.
The cast for the most part is first-rate and very attractive. The fresh-faced Dolores Hart, with her big expressionistic blue eyes, makes a charming leading lady and is always one step ahead of George Hamilton, who makes a super suave though wooden seducer, Ryder Smith. Paula Prentiss proves to be a delightful comedienne in the vein of Rosalind Russell or Eve Arden, and delivers some funny wisecracks as Tuggle though her determination to remain chaste wears thin. She is matched every step of the way by the equally good Jim Hutton as her goofy love interest, who is “queer for hats.” Connie Francis is too pretty to be cast as the “unattractive one,” but she is surprising humorous playing the role in a ditzy manner. The only one who comes off maudlin is the beautiful Yvette Mimieux, but to be fair she is saddled with the weakest role of the doomed ingénue.
All in all Where the Boys Are is extremely entertaining thanks to its cast of starlets. It is a good introduction to Sixties beach movies (coupled with the starlets on vacation theme) and what was yet to come.
To be continued…