(George Roy Hill, USA, 1964) 106 minutes


Director: George Roy Hill
Producer: Jerome Hellman
Screenplay: Nora Johnson, Nunnally Johnson
Based on the novel by Nora Johnson
Cinematography: Boris Kaufman, Arthur J. Ornitz
Editor: Stuart Gilmore
Production designer: James Sullivan
Costumes: Ann Roth
Sound: Bob Martin
Music: Elmer Bernstein
Peter Sellers (Henry Orient)
Paula Prentiss (Stella)
Angela Lansbury (Isabel Boyd)
Tom Bosley (Frank Boyd)
Phyllis Thaxter (Mrs Gilbert)
Tippy Walker (Valerie Boyd)
Merrie Spaeth (Marian Gilbert)
Bibi Osterwald (Boothy)
Peter Duchin (Joe Byrd)
John Fielder (Sidney)

Reviews and notes

A charming comedy about the agony of adolescent infatuation. Walker and Spaeth are boarding school chums who keep busy pursuing egotistical concert pianist Sellers. The girls, just 14 or so, believe that they are in love with Sellers, a Casanova whose latest conquest is the married Prentiss. Prentiss is convinced that the girls have been hired by her husband to trail her, and after that the groupies' idolatry creates a number of ridiculous situations. This is one of the rare films in which someone steals scenes from Sellers. Walker and Spaeth are a joy--with none of the professional, cloying sweetness so often seen in younger performers--and the best part of the movie is the depiction of the girls, which never strays from truth, even when the teens are on wild flights of fancy.
- TV Guide.

The world of Henry Orient is a pretty narrow one: the only thing on Henry's horizon is consummating an affair with a married woman, his impending piano concert be hanged. The film's world, despite title, is much more that of a couple of goggle-eyed 14-year-old schoolgirls who disconcertingly adopt Henry after coming across him and his lady friend warming up in Central Park.

It's quite encouraging to find a film that centres on girls of this age group, neither precocious moppets nor sex-crazed semi-delinquents. The result is a film of considerable charm if not of great substance that makes rich pickings out of the kind of ideas and conspiracies that can involve the pair. There are the puns in dress and dialogue over Henry's surname; the awed comment on one of his cigarette butts ('No filter, he's not scared!'); the wild stories they invent to trap overly considerate adults (with Al Lewis, a face from the Sgt Bilko show, splendid as a wide-mouthed, gullible store-owner). Actually, the scriptwriters have hit on a valid setting for some rather philistine (in fact 'juvenile') humour of the type dispensed in supposedly mature comedies. The gags act as imaginative strokes of characterisation that fit the girls' outlook and play even better because they are giving well-rounded, appealing performances.

We largely see Henry as they do, and Peter Sellers makes a sharp impression out of a series of glimpses of a greasy, preening, cowardly, untalented creep with sudden lapses in his sophisticated front. Paula Prentiss has a less substantial, rather thankless part as his romantic attachment, little more than a symbol of desirability.

Like her, the other adults are flatly conceived and never really come to life, excepting Tom Bosley as the father who gradually accepts his parental responsibilities. His is a warm performance that makes a lot out of some sketchy sequences when the film goes out of its way to develop his character and that of his wife (always a pleasure to see Angela Lansbury as a bitch). Henry makes an abrupt exit, and one's expectations that he'll have picked the same flight as one of the girls to escape by aren't fulfilled. The film seems a little uncertain what to do with him.

George Roy Hill does an excellent job of handling his young discoveries, Tippy Walker and Merrie Spaeth, outside of a short, pretentious sequence which features them in tilted angles and slow motion. (He rises much better to handling Henry's nightmare concert with the conductor mouthing 'B flat' to the panicky performer in the solemn tones of 'B 0.') Miss Walker, playing the more fanciful and less well-adjusted of the pair, has a steely charm and aggressive personality with distinct Ann-Margret qualities that extend to her appearance and suggest a bright future. Merrie Spaeth brings no less substance to the more conventional girl, and Jane Buchanan makes a cutting impression as a schoolmate with a price for telling tales.

Not the least part of the film's appeal is its extensive use of New York locations which, together with bright costuming and airy interiors, make the images a constant delight to behold. Elmer Bernstein provides a characteristically appropriate score. Little open hilarity, more quiet amuse ment: all told, this is an ideal film to relax with.
- Allen Eyles, Films and Filming, July 1964.

Weblink: Review by Monica Sullivan, Movie Magazine International, Air Date: 10/3/01

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