(director/writer: Leo McCarey; screenwriters: Claude Binyon/from the novel by Max Shulman; cinematographer: Leon Shamroy; editor: Louis R. Loeffler; music: Cyril J. Mockridge; cast: Paul Newman (Harry Bannerman), Joanne Woodward (Grace Oglethorpe Bannerman), Joan Collins (Angela Hoffa), Jack Carson (Capt. Hoxie), Dwayne Hickman (Grady Metcalf, Comfort’s suitor), Tuesday Weld (Comfort Goodpasture), Gale Gordon (Brig. Gen. W.A. Thorwald), Tom Gilson (Corporal Opie), O.Z. Whitehead (Isaac Goodpasture, Comfort’s Father), Murvyn Vye (Oscar Hoffa, Angela’s husband); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Leo McCarey; Twentieth Century Fox; 1958)

Satire on activist suburbanites is so weak, it only seems funny because it has nothing to say.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Satire on activist suburbanites is so weak, it only seems funny because it has nothing to say. It does an injustice to Max Shulman’s 1957 novel by killing off the comedy.It comes at a time when star Paul Newman hadn’t yet mastered the art of comedy and at a time when talented veteran director Leo McCarey (“Going My Way”/”The Awful Truth”/”Duck Soup”)was over-the-hill. McCarey is not up to the task of dishing out a fashionable new style sitcom melodrama on sex and a protest pic about the nuclear bomb.

It’s set in the serene Puritan founded small town ofPutnam’s Landing, Connecticut, where PR corporate man commuter Harry Bannerman (Paul Newman) gets roped in by his civic-minded wife Grace (Joanne Woodward), the town’s newly appointed chairman of ‘the safety committee for the protection of Putnam’s Landing,’ to represent the town in its disapproval of a top secret missile base and he’s sent to the Pentagon to state the town’s opposition. Brig. Gen. W.A. Thorwald (Gale Gordon), in charge of the operation, becomes displeased with the tactless way the gruff base commander, Captain Hoxie (Jack Carson), handles the women protesters and gets Harry activated from his Naval reserve outfit to be the Captain’s superior officer to push through the nuclear missile base.

Subplots develop, such as the married life of Grace and Harry is on the rocks over their opposite stances during the protest; the frustrated neglected hottie wife of Harry’s neighbor, Angela Hoffa (Joan Collins), tries to seduce the innocent Harry and Grace mistakenly thinks hubby has fallen for the seductress when she barges into his hotel room and he has no pants on while Angela is dancing in a negligee; and, the dipso beat hipster talking teenage babysitter of Harry’s two boys, Comfort Goodpasture (Tuesday Weld), suddenly becomes boy crazy and is fought over by dimwit local biker Grady Metcalf (Dwayne Hickman) and smoothie Southern hillbilly guitar player Corporal Opie (Tom Gilson).

It all seems juvenile, politically tepid, hardly racy and hardly funny, but it was a precursor to the hit Dobie Gillis television series, which was also based on a Max Shulman novel and starred Dwayne Hickman and Tuesday Weld.

Newman and Woodward were newlyweds, who appeared together for the first time in The Long, Hot Summer (1958), and the New York Actors Studio trained pair of serious actors fought hard to let the studio team them up again for this comedy.

Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! Poster