Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on March 25, 2010
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 His style of humor was seen as slightly outdated at a time when younger funny men like Jack Lemmon, Jerry Lewis and Peter Sellers were making their mark in Hollywood.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!
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