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A. J. Niles is the author of a series of 'Bachelor Books'. These books describe the romantic life of a bachelor in various cities of the world. But when he runs into trouble with the I.R.S. for back taxes, he needs to write another book fast, to pay them. His publisher decides a book about life in the American suburbs would be a hit, and settles him into Paradise Cove. One bachelor plus lonely housewives equals many angry husbands. Written by
Brian W Martz <B.Martz@Genie.com>
almost a documentary on 1961 housing in California
Bob Hope was 58 and Lana Turner was 40 when they made this movie. They have no chemistry whatsoever so a romance is not believable. Perhaps with softened makeup and hair she would have been appealing. Anyway the story is beside the point now, 45 years later.
The movie is all about the huge, spacious, tract developments in undeveloped parts of California in 1961. I lived in one, so this movie takes me back there. Watching it takes me back to those days when Kennedy was the new president, when there were brand new houses in pale pink, light green, and yellow; each house divided from its neighbour by a row of cacti. Families moved to them from the older, two-story traditional houses. It was supposed to be a great thing to have no stairs; to live in a sprawling "rancher." Just looking at the houses with the huge kitchens and wall phones brings nostalgia, as only the very rich can afford space now; back then it was taken for granted.
A major "comedic" event in this film is Bob putting too much detergent in the washer, and the ensuing crisis when soap suds flood the entire house.
The houses were spacious and everything was inexpensive - such houses were $20,000 new. Nowadays any surviving houses from that era have been remodeled and no longer have the orange built-in bars, the gold appliances, or wood grained walls.
This is my parents' world, post-war - 16 years after the end of WW II. This is an era where everything is available, where the kitchen is the size of a restaurant, but there is no happiness whatsoever.
A scene in the supermarket is jarring when a little girl who had been left in the car by her mother is talking to Bob Hope and her mother comes along and just leaves her with him as she goes about her shopping. That would never happen now and reminds us of a more innocent and trusting time.
The development is called Paradise. It's more like Paradise Lost, or Discarded. There's a dark subplot of an unhappy marriage, a couple that is "practically divorced" and the wife (Janis Paige) is throwing herself at Bob Hope. But he's secretly a gentleman who only has eyes for the stiff, unmarried Lana Turner, and when he finally gets her, there is the obligatory panning across the floor showing their discarded clothing and then we hear her giggles. Just like a Rock Hudson/Doris Day ending.
Then the movie ends and I guess maybe we are meant to think they will have a real life together. They're too old to start having kids to populate the housing tract and be ignored and spoiled, so maybe they will write and think and discuss real things and have a happy life together.
The sixties are gone - but here in this movie we have the remnants of what it started out to be, if people could only have held on to it and preserved something for the future.
Who knew a fluff piece like this would be so thought provoking 40 years later.
I thank Turner Classics for realizing these are valuable period pieces that give us insight on a bygone age. An age where people lost the values they had in the 30s and 40s. After the war, people wanted comfort and ease, and wanted their kids to enjoy a carefree life without the privation of the depression and the war. Unfortunately it only shows that comfort and ease do not bring happiness.
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