British college professor seeks peace in a California beach house but has nothing but trouble from an uninvited female 'juvenile delinquent', a neighbor with a mischievous dog, and a bevy of amorous American woman.
Anthropology Professor Bruce Patterson (Terry Thomas) has the natural British charm that allures women automatically. When his fiancée Helen Bushmill (Celeste Holm) is abroad for an extended time, he has to fight the neighborhood ladies and his students away. Helen has failed to tell him that she has a seventeen year old daughter Libby (Tuesday Weld) who shows up at her mother's home unaware that she in engaged. Bruce's neighbor Mike (Richard Beymer) and his mischievous dachshund also get mixed up in the all the shenanigans happening around the "bachelor flat."Written by
Richard Jones <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Critics tend to ignore director Frank Tashlin's films, except for the two starring Jayne Mansfield. When they do review Tashlin's work, they invariably mention that he began as an animator (Warner Brothers' Looney Toons), and that Tashlin's live-action movies tend to feature cartoonish characters and impossible sight gags. 'Bachelor Flat' is unusual for Tashlin, in that the main characters are all plausible human beings. Even more interestingly, 'Bachelor Flat' appears to be Hollywood's attempt to turn Terry-Thomas into a light-comedy romantic lead, rather than a comic villain.
Terry-Thomas here plays a veddy British professor at one of those California colleges where all the students are young, tanned, and impossibly good-looking. Terry-Thomas's character is named Bruce Patterson, which sounds to me more like an Australian name! The dialogue identifies Patterson as an 'archaeologist', but he's clearly a palaeontologist: did they think we wouldn't know what this word means? The movie's premise maintains that Patterson is irresistible to women, due to his English accent and his charming manner.
The young romantic leads are Tuesday Weld (as a flighty teen runaway) and Richard Beymer (as a swot). Weld is supposed to be all cute 'n' adorable, and we're supposed to want to hug her, but I just wanted to slap her and call her an idiot. For one thing, she runs away from boarding school wearing high heels!
What on Earth can explain the brief success of Richard Beymer? This tall handsome non-entity displays no acting talent whatever. In 'The Diary of Anne Frank' he utterly failed to convince me that he was European. In all his romantic roles (including 'Bachelor Flat') he quite fails to convince me that he has any interest in women. Beymer's best-known role is the male lead in 'West Side Story' (however did he get THAT part?), yet his utter blandness was the biggest flaw in that great film.
Tuesday Weld and Celeste Holm are meant to be playing daughter and mother, yet their characters have almost no footage together. I was impressed with one clever transition by Tashlin: a shot of Weld in bed with a photo of Holm, then cutting to a shot of Holm in bed with a photo of Weld.
Celeste Holm and her real-life husband (character actor Wesley Addy) have made generous donations to many charities, and they have been friendly to me personally: Holm has kindly granted me the time to interview her about her early days performing with George M Cohan. I really want to like her on screen ... yet Holm has never given a movie performance that impresses me. She's just dull here, playing an unsympathetic character. Allegedly, she's romantically involved with Terry-Thomas, but their characters have almost no screen time together.
Francesca Bellini (who?) gives one of the worst performances I've ever seen in a Hollywood sound film, and an unbilled American actress in the role of Miss Pilkington attempts an unconvincing English accent. Howard McNear is just as annoying here as he was in Mayberry. Rather a lot of this movie is implausible without being funny. If a tiny dachshund really did steal an immense dinosaur bone, dragging it slowly along inch by inch, would the dog really make TWO circuits round the same sand dune? Not likely.
I laughed heartily at one sight gag involving Terry-Thomas and a Cro-Magnon skull. The gag was reworked from a similar gag with Jules Munshin in 'On the Town', but it's funnier here and more imaginative. The film's prologue, featuring Terry-Thomas as a predatory redcoat in the days of Paul Revere, is amusing ... but it unfortunately sets the wrong tone for everything that follows. I liked the views of early 1960s California, although (based on this movie) there doesn't seem to be anyone in the entire state who isn't white. 'Bachelor Flat' features impressive production values, but there's really very little of interest here. I'll rate this movie just 4 out of 10.
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