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  Man's Favorite Sport? Fishing For Compliments
Year: 1964
Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: Rock Hudson, Paula Prentiss, Maria Perschy, John McGiver, Charlene Holt, Roscoe Karns, James Westerfield, Norman Alden, Forrest Lewis, Regis Toomey, Tyler McVey, Kathie Browne
Genre: Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Roger Willoughby (Rock Hudson) is not only the top salesman at the sporting goods department store where he works, he has attained that degree of respect thanks to also penning books on fishing which a host of anglers swear by, so high quality is their advice. Therefore it would come as a complete shock to those readers and buyers, not to mention his boss Mr Cadwalader (John McGiver), to learn Roger has never gone fishing in his life, and all his advice comes from repeating what experienced anglers have told him: he simply collects the information and regurgitates it in convincing fashion. However, he is about to see this subterfuge fall down around his ears when he encounters tournament organiser Abigail Page (Paula Prentiss)...

In the tradition of screwball comedies everywhere, Abigail is the woman who throws the spanner in the works of the quickly befuddled male in a film that appeared to be determined to make Rock Hudson, or his character at least, look like a moron. It was the final comedy from legendary director Howard Hawks, and though he would make three more movies after this one before retiring it was probably the last really good effort he made, though even then he was unhappy with it. Followers of his oeuvre might think that was down to him recreating bits and pieces from his past romantic comedies, but he had done so with his Westerns to an extent; the reason was apparently the director's old enemy, studio interference.

Universal wanted a shorter work, so cut twenty minutes out of Man's Favorite Sport? (fishing according to the story, love according to the theme song) much to Hawks's chagrin, but even so there was enough sparkle to gather enough fans to create a cult movie, and a lot of that was thanks to the two leads. Hudson was a major star by this time, with his ease in romantic comedy well demonstrated - he was actually replacing Cary Grant, who felt he was too old for the part and Rock may have been no spring chicken but he was better able to carry off the idea of being the partner of a twentysomething Paula Prentiss. She was well on her way to becoming a substantial celebrity in the cinema world, and who knows what would have happened if she hadn't suffered a breakdown the next year which kept her off the screen for too long.

She returned to the movies in mostly character, supporting roles thereafter, leaving her fans pondering what might have been if she had been healthier and happier in her mind, but what we do have, while not exactly paltry, does prompt one to wish we'd seen more of her in her heyday. Often partnered with Jim Hutton, she was personally sought by Hawks for the part here, and what a great choice as she brought out the kooky, forthright attitude that Katharine Hepburn had in this director's unassailable classic Bringing Up Baby only with a real offbeat glamour that Hepburn never really possessed, as appealing as she could be. With her sidekick Easy (Maria Perschy) Abigail initially sets her sights on ensuring Roger takes part in the upcoming fishing tournament.

He cannot see a way out when his boss orders him to carry on, even when he explains in secret to Abigail and Easy that he has no talent for fishing, but they both decide to coach him nonetheless, optimistically transforming him into the expert he claims to be. It was a little difficult to believe Roger would be such a novice after writing those respected books, but it was all fuel to Hawks cheerfully taking down the pompous modern male attitude: he loved to depict strong females getting one over on the men in their lives, and though Abigail can come across as unstable at times, she has enough of her goals together in her thoughts to be an obviously fine choice for Roger's partner in love. Oh, there's the problem of his fiancée (striking redhead Charlene Holt, one of the never quite weres of Hollywood movies) but she won't be an issue as Abigail bamboozles her path to Roger's heart, the plot seeing to it he falls into the water as often as possible. Not above the utterly ridiculous (see the motorbike riding bear) that was part of the fun, and if a throwback even then, it was amusing. Music by Henry Mancini.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Review Comments (2)
Posted by:
Andrew Pragasam
Date:
29 May 2015
  Paula Prentiss did a wicked Audrey Hepburn parody in What's New Pussycat? As a kid I remember my local TV station screening the lousy comedy Packing It In a hundred times each week pairing her with real-life husband Richard Benjamin and a young punk-styled Molly Ringwald. Not one of Paula's best. Oh and I would argue most vehemently that El Dorado was Howard Hawks' last great film. Would that Warner Bros had let him make Lonesome Dove in the Seventies with John Wayne and James Stewart!
       
Posted by:
Graeme Clark
Date:
29 May 2015
  El Dorado's fine, but it's not Rio Bravo, just like this isn't Bringing Up Baby, though it tries.

Sadly, What's New Pussycat? was the film that pushed Paula over the edge (almost literally). First film of hers I saw was Saturday the 14th, which is great if you're under ten years old. Nowadays I prefer this.
       


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