Suburban Paradise

My husband and I recently purchased our first home and it’s a cute 1954 suburban California ranch house that needs a lot of work. We’re trying to restore our home’s original vintage charm and in the process we’ve been watching some older films that make use of suburban locations and highlight mid-century design. One of my favorite examples of this is the 1961 comedy Bachelor in Paradise. The movie was directed by Jack Arnold who is best known for the classic horror and science fiction films he made including Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), It Came from Outer Space (1953), Tarantula (1955) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) but in the ’60s Arnold’s interests seemed to shift a bit. He started making comedies like The Mouse That Roared (1959) with Peter Sellers as well as Bachelor in Paradise and A Global Affair (1964) that both featured Bob Hope.

The comedies that Bob Hope appeared in during the ’60s are often dismissed by critics and for good reason. Hope’s combination of slapstick humor and snappy comebacks had somewhat run its course. His style of humor was seen as slightly outdated at a time when younger funny men like Jack Lemmon, Jerry Lewis and Peter Sellers were making their mark in Hollywood. But I personally enjoy some of the movies Bob Hope appeared in during the ’60s such as the adulterous comedy The Facts of Life (1960) as well as this silly suburban sex farce.

In Bachelor in Paradise Bob Hope plays Adam J. Niles, a womanizing writer who has gained popularity for penning a series of books based on his romantic exploits around the world. When he finds himself in hot water with the IRS, Adam is forced to move to a California suburb called Paradise Village under the pseudonym “Jack Adams.” While staying there he plans on writing a book about the sexual behaviors of average Americans.

“Jack” gets more than he bargained for when he meets the lovely Rosemary Howard (Lana Turner) who helps manage the suburban development. Rosemary is the only single woman in Paradise Village and she’s decided to rent him her beautiful ranch home complete with every modern convenience and plenty of modern style. At first Jack’s sense of humor and natural charm doesn’t seem to impress Rosemary but it does attract attention from his female neighbors who come to rely on him for marriage tips.

Things start to go wrong when the husbands of Paradise Village begin to resent Jack and the advice he’s been giving their wives. The situation does manage to bring Rosemary and Jack closer together since they’re both unmarried and being treated like outcasts in suburbia. Before long romance begins to blossom between the two single adults but once Rosemary discovers that “Jack” is really the notorious writer Adam J. Niles she puts an end to their relationship. This is a lighthearted comedy so naturally Bob Hope and Lana Turner end up together in the end, but before they do lots of mayhem ensues as well as a somewhat pointless courtroom scene that goes on for a little too long.

Bachelor in Paradise relies much too heavily on stereotypes and plenty of people will probably find the jokes terribly outdated. The movie’s old-fashioned approach to love and marriage will undoubtedly make a lot of people cringe and I really can’t blame them. This romantic farce is not for everyone but it works for me.

According to some, Bob Hope and Lana Turner supposedly didn’t get along very well on the set of Bachelor in Paradise and their lack of chemistry seems somewhat apparent on screen. But I think the tension between the two actors works in the film’s favor. Throughout most of Bachelor in Paradise Lana Turner is fighting her personal feelings for Bob Hope’s character. She clearly doesn’t want to fall in love with a man who she finds rather crude so her perpetual lack of interest in his advances seems appropriate. Bob Hope and Lana Turner make a great looking middle-aged couple and it’s just fun to watch them struggle to overcome their differences and finally fall in love. Lana Turner was a terrific actress so even if she didn’t appreciate Bob Hope off-screen she made me believe in their peculiar on-screen romance.

The movie also features memorable performances from Paula Prentiss and Jim Hutton playing a cute and occasionally awkward young couple whose marriage becomes strained during the course of the film. In addition, actress Janis Paige stands out as a sexually frustrated housewife who puts the moves on Bob Hope in an effort to make her husband jealous.

Besides the laughs that the film provides I recommend watching Bachelor in Paradise for the eye-catching exterior shots of early ’60s suburbia. The movie offers viewers an affectionate look at the colorful homes that populate Paradise Village. Director Jack Arnold also takes us inside a space-age supermarket and we get to visit a modern bowling alley as well as a swinging Tiki Bar. Suburban California has rarely looked so good! The impressive look of Bachelor in Paradise must also be credited to the Oscar-wining cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg who shot many terrific looking films such as The Great Waltz (1938), Mrs. Miniver (1942), Gaslight (1944), Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Gigi (1958) and BUtterfield 8 (1960). Popular composer Henry Mancini provided the wonderful jazz-infused soundtrack and it adds another appealing element to this funny film.

Unfortunately the movie is not available on DVD yet but you can find copies of it on video and it occasionally plays on TCM. If you want to get an eye-full of early ’60s Americana keep an eye out for Bachelor in Paradise.

Updated 12/11: Warner Archives has recently released the film on DVD!

26 Responses Suburban Paradise
Posted By Medusa : March 26, 2010 2:36 pm

I haven’t seen this one in a while — does he make that “Rrrrrr” sound when he sees a pretty girl? I hope so! It wouldn’t be Bob Hope without it!

It was more his pacing than performance that began to suffer — his movies almost had that cue card-reading quality that date his TV specials — although I do love most of his movie output.

Having ground up in a So. Cal ranch house, I admire your project!

Posted By Medusa : March 26, 2010 2:36 pm

I haven’t seen this one in a while — does he make that “Rrrrrr” sound when he sees a pretty girl? I hope so! It wouldn’t be Bob Hope without it!

It was more his pacing than performance that began to suffer — his movies almost had that cue card-reading quality that date his TV specials — although I do love most of his movie output.

Having ground up in a So. Cal ranch house, I admire your project!

Posted By Suzi : March 26, 2010 6:30 pm

For some reason, I remember the house in this movie quite well. When I saw the movie recently for the first time in years, I remembered the house better than the plot! Cute post!

Posted By Suzi : March 26, 2010 6:30 pm

For some reason, I remember the house in this movie quite well. When I saw the movie recently for the first time in years, I remembered the house better than the plot! Cute post!

Posted By Donna : March 28, 2010 2:16 pm

I love this movie! I think what makes it so endearing to me is the pairing of Paula Prentiss and Jim Hutton once again! It felt like what might have happened if Tuggle and TV from Where the Boys Are married…

Posted By Donna : March 28, 2010 2:16 pm

I love this movie! I think what makes it so endearing to me is the pairing of Paula Prentiss and Jim Hutton once again! It felt like what might have happened if Tuggle and TV from Where the Boys Are married…

Posted By Will : March 31, 2010 5:33 pm

I too love the early 1960′s suburbia of this film (the era I grew up in). Another one is No Down Payment with the post WWII suburban theme.

Posted By Will : March 31, 2010 5:33 pm

I too love the early 1960′s suburbia of this film (the era I grew up in). Another one is No Down Payment with the post WWII suburban theme.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 1, 2010 8:46 pm

Thanks for all the feedback! I often come across people who scoff at Bob Hope’s later output so it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who enjoys some of his later films.

Donna – I completely agree with you! I really like the paring of Prentiss/Hutton too and I enjoy watching them together in anything.

Will – I haven’t seen No Down Payment so I’ll have to seek it out. Thanks for the suggestion! I love films that showcase post WW2 suburbia.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 1, 2010 8:46 pm

Thanks for all the feedback! I often come across people who scoff at Bob Hope’s later output so it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who enjoys some of his later films.

Donna – I completely agree with you! I really like the paring of Prentiss/Hutton too and I enjoy watching them together in anything.

Will – I haven’t seen No Down Payment so I’ll have to seek it out. Thanks for the suggestion! I love films that showcase post WW2 suburbia.

Posted By Medusa : April 2, 2010 6:53 am

In the post WW2 suburbia genre, be sure to also check out the seductive “Strangers When We Meet” with Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak. Takes places in So. Cal suburbia, and much talk of houses since he plays an architect.

Posted By Medusa : April 2, 2010 6:53 am

In the post WW2 suburbia genre, be sure to also check out the seductive “Strangers When We Meet” with Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak. Takes places in So. Cal suburbia, and much talk of houses since he plays an architect.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 2, 2010 1:57 pm

I love Strangers When We Met (I’m a big Novak fan) and you’re right about the setting, Medusa. It could make for an interesting double feature with Bachelor in Paradise. The house that Kirk is supposedly building in it is just amazing!

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 2, 2010 1:57 pm

I love Strangers When We Met (I’m a big Novak fan) and you’re right about the setting, Medusa. It could make for an interesting double feature with Bachelor in Paradise. The house that Kirk is supposedly building in it is just amazing!

Posted By medusamorlock : April 2, 2010 4:39 pm

Glad you already are onto “SWWM”. It’s of my favorites movies — inexplicably, perhaps — and I’m also a huge Novak-ite. I think they she and Douglas are really sexy together. Sigh….

Posted By medusamorlock : April 2, 2010 4:39 pm

Glad you already are onto “SWWM”. It’s of my favorites movies — inexplicably, perhaps — and I’m also a huge Novak-ite. I think they she and Douglas are really sexy together. Sigh….

Posted By Al Lowe : April 5, 2010 7:00 am

I think it is fair to say that even many movie buffs don’t realize how popular Bob Hope films were in the 40s. He regularly made the exhibitors’ Top Ten Box Office list and often placed higher on the list than such icons as Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart and Judy Garland. THE PALEFACE, GHOST BREAKERS AND MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE – and, of course, the ROAD series – were huge hits in their day and are still enjoyable to watch (although the racial stereotyping in GHOST BREAKERS makes you wince).
So it is understandable why he still wanted to make movies in the 1960s. He’d been a big star, one of the biggest. It is also just as understandable why many of us didn’t want to watch them.
It is sad to say this but Hope became hard to watch after he lost his youth. He lost that cheekiness, that natural charm, his “average American” appeal, his zest and enthusiasm – in short, his attractiveness and his youth.
BACHELOR IN PARADISE and, particularly, THE FACTS OF LIFE, were two of his best from that decade.

Another interesting thing about Hope is that we didn’t really get to know him. When he made guest shots on the “Tonight” show he rattled off one liners prepared by his writing staff. Other stars like John Wayne, Richard Burton and George Burns shared personal stories when they guested on talk shows. Not Hope.

I recently saw the Oscar winning anti-Viet Nam documentary, HEARTS AND MINDS. (I should mention that I served a year in that country while in the Army but was fortunate enough not to experience combat and I now have serious reservations about that war.) This film shows scenes of Hope and Nixon at the White House praising men who bombed Nam.
According to the accounts I read, Hope threw a tantrum backstage when the producer won the Oscar and read a telegram from the Viet Cong delegation at the Paris peace talks.
We never got to see that side of Hope. We never knew how he felt about ANYTHING.

It is like having a neighbor who is always saying “Hi, how are you doing?” and making some jokes. Everyone likes him but after he dies, you realize that you didn’t know anything at all about him.

Posted By Al Lowe : April 5, 2010 7:00 am

I think it is fair to say that even many movie buffs don’t realize how popular Bob Hope films were in the 40s. He regularly made the exhibitors’ Top Ten Box Office list and often placed higher on the list than such icons as Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart and Judy Garland. THE PALEFACE, GHOST BREAKERS AND MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE – and, of course, the ROAD series – were huge hits in their day and are still enjoyable to watch (although the racial stereotyping in GHOST BREAKERS makes you wince).
So it is understandable why he still wanted to make movies in the 1960s. He’d been a big star, one of the biggest. It is also just as understandable why many of us didn’t want to watch them.
It is sad to say this but Hope became hard to watch after he lost his youth. He lost that cheekiness, that natural charm, his “average American” appeal, his zest and enthusiasm – in short, his attractiveness and his youth.
BACHELOR IN PARADISE and, particularly, THE FACTS OF LIFE, were two of his best from that decade.

Another interesting thing about Hope is that we didn’t really get to know him. When he made guest shots on the “Tonight” show he rattled off one liners prepared by his writing staff. Other stars like John Wayne, Richard Burton and George Burns shared personal stories when they guested on talk shows. Not Hope.

I recently saw the Oscar winning anti-Viet Nam documentary, HEARTS AND MINDS. (I should mention that I served a year in that country while in the Army but was fortunate enough not to experience combat and I now have serious reservations about that war.) This film shows scenes of Hope and Nixon at the White House praising men who bombed Nam.
According to the accounts I read, Hope threw a tantrum backstage when the producer won the Oscar and read a telegram from the Viet Cong delegation at the Paris peace talks.
We never got to see that side of Hope. We never knew how he felt about ANYTHING.

It is like having a neighbor who is always saying “Hi, how are you doing?” and making some jokes. Everyone likes him but after he dies, you realize that you didn’t know anything at all about him.

Posted By Medusa : April 5, 2010 9:42 am

Al, you’re so right about Hope. He’s one of my favorites in his 1940s and 1950s movies, and some of the later ones. I think you hit it exactly with your analysis of those qualities he once had onscreen which made him so irresistible. The “canned” quality of his later appearances, though they were professional and glib and often amusing, did make him seem like almost a different guy, or kind of a Bob Hope robot. I think we need to write a lot more about Hope here!

Can you imagine what it must have been like trying to crack through Hope AND Crosby backstage? A couple of guys who played it close to the vest emotionally — maybe that’s why they were able to have such successful professional collaborations…nothing real to get in the way.

Much to ponder!

Posted By Medusa : April 5, 2010 9:42 am

Al, you’re so right about Hope. He’s one of my favorites in his 1940s and 1950s movies, and some of the later ones. I think you hit it exactly with your analysis of those qualities he once had onscreen which made him so irresistible. The “canned” quality of his later appearances, though they were professional and glib and often amusing, did make him seem like almost a different guy, or kind of a Bob Hope robot. I think we need to write a lot more about Hope here!

Can you imagine what it must have been like trying to crack through Hope AND Crosby backstage? A couple of guys who played it close to the vest emotionally — maybe that’s why they were able to have such successful professional collaborations…nothing real to get in the way.

Much to ponder!

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 5, 2010 5:38 pm

Great observations from both Al and Medusa! Hope’s an interesting character and it’s probably hard for a lot of folks to remember how popular he was. In general, I think some comedians have a tendency to shy away from discussing personal aspects of their lives and don’t enjoy being too open in public. They often seem to prefer cracking jokes in interviews. After awhile the jokes can get kind of old and they do take on a canned or robotic quality (I’m thinking about Robin Williams at the moment).

Hope and Cosby had an interesting chemistry. I think you might be on to something there Medusa! They both had very similar professional style.

On a side note, my grandmother on my mom’s side of the family worked as a secretary during WW2 at military bases in San Francisco and Alameda. She had the opportunity to briefly meet a few celebrities at that time and I can remember her talking fondly of Bob Hope.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 5, 2010 5:38 pm

Great observations from both Al and Medusa! Hope’s an interesting character and it’s probably hard for a lot of folks to remember how popular he was. In general, I think some comedians have a tendency to shy away from discussing personal aspects of their lives and don’t enjoy being too open in public. They often seem to prefer cracking jokes in interviews. After awhile the jokes can get kind of old and they do take on a canned or robotic quality (I’m thinking about Robin Williams at the moment).

Hope and Cosby had an interesting chemistry. I think you might be on to something there Medusa! They both had very similar professional style.

On a side note, my grandmother on my mom’s side of the family worked as a secretary during WW2 at military bases in San Francisco and Alameda. She had the opportunity to briefly meet a few celebrities at that time and I can remember her talking fondly of Bob Hope.

Posted By Neville Ross : April 7, 2010 11:23 pm

Amazing how beck in 1964, a ron-com about middle-aged love could be made and be popular (we have The 40-Year Old Virgin, but it’s not the same).

Posted By Neville Ross : April 7, 2010 11:23 pm

Amazing how beck in 1964, a ron-com about middle-aged love could be made and be popular (we have The 40-Year Old Virgin, but it’s not the same).

Posted By Hecubot : October 17, 2010 10:37 pm

Late to the party, but I wanted to note that the best piece I ever read on Bob Hope was in Rolling Stone (of all things).

Very fascinating account of his early days. Bob was a bit of badass! He got his famous ski-nose from a logging accident; he was a tree-topper, which is an incredibly dangerous job. He fell more than thirty feet and smashed up his face. He was also a boxer in his youth, which is curious since he so frequently played rank cowards for comic effect in his films.

Posted By Hecubot : October 17, 2010 10:37 pm

Late to the party, but I wanted to note that the best piece I ever read on Bob Hope was in Rolling Stone (of all things).

Very fascinating account of his early days. Bob was a bit of badass! He got his famous ski-nose from a logging accident; he was a tree-topper, which is an incredibly dangerous job. He fell more than thirty feet and smashed up his face. He was also a boxer in his youth, which is curious since he so frequently played rank cowards for comic effect in his films.

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