A young insecure college sportsman is in trouble. He wants to marry his very straightforward girlfriend, also a student, but has no money. When he is offered a bribe to fix a game, he is tor... Read allA young insecure college sportsman is in trouble. He wants to marry his very straightforward girlfriend, also a student, but has no money. When he is offered a bribe to fix a game, he is torn even more about the matter.A young insecure college sportsman is in trouble. He wants to marry his very straightforward girlfriend, also a student, but has no money. When he is offered a bribe to fix a game, he is torn even more about the matter.
The story is infused with an innocent air. Later in the film, we find that the big dilemma of the film is Ray flunking an exam, prohibiting him from playing in the big game. In 1960, there were Beach Blanket films and fluffy Rock Hudson/Doris Day films. In a few years, America's male students would still play basketball, but college attendance would mean an educational deferment from the military draft. In the early 60s, things would change quickly.
"Tall Story" is beautifully filmed. And the background music is excellent. The story is, of course, somewhat silly. But the cast makes it well worth watching.
Jane Fonda is fresh-faced, enthusiastic, and undeniably sexy. It would be five more years before what I consider her big break, "Cat Ballou", but the screen loves her from the first seconds she appears on film, when her character brashly advises two professors that they must compete for her enrollment in their classes. Fonda is about age 22 and working with the director (Logan) who convinced her to enter acting. She is wonderful in this role.
Tony Perkins is about age 27 during the filming, but he easily portrays the star collegiate athlete who the fans hoist on their shoulders. Is he convincing as an athlete? Probably not. But June is not interested in him for his athletic abilities; she thinks he's a dreamboat. 1960 is also the year that Hitchcock's "Psycho" would hit the big screen, transforming Tony Perkins' career.
In this film, professors are oddball academics, but lovable. The two professors are played by Ray Walston and Marc Connelly. As usual, Walston is delightful. Connelly stays right with him in this film, as does Anne Jackson who plays Walston's wife. Three years after this film, Walston would make an impact in the TV comedy "My Favorite Martian". Much later in his career, he would again play a teacher, the iconic Mr. Hand in "Fast Time at Ridgemont High".
"Tall Story" is dated, but deliciously so. The big game is going to be against the "Sputniks", the touring Soviet national team. Can Custer's men of the hardcourt withstand the Soviet machine? Of course, because Ray has a secret weapon--his "scientific" theory for shooting a basketball. The discerning viewer will note that his theory is nonsense and actually rooted in mysticism, evidenced by the way June, like a disturbance in the force, disrupts his abilities by standing too close to him.
The longest scene in the film is a flirting scene between Ray and June. Ray is no smooth Casanova. Perkins plays him as a gulping, romantic incompetent. But June manages to turn his head and redirect some of his ambitions.
In one scene they visit a trailer court for married couples. It is a picture of marital bliss (and young passions). June's friends live in a trailer dubbed "Lovesville, USA"--cozy (cramped) quarters decorated with hearts. The couple is played by Tom Laughlin (who would become Billy Jack in 1971) and Barbara Darrow, an actress I am unfamiliar with, but who I think dominates the screen when she is in it.
This film is adapted from the stage, something Joshua Logan had done successfully many times. Here he directs an extremely enjoyable cast, resulting in a comedy that is entertaining and fun to watch as a period piece.
- Jun 19, 2014