(director: Joshua Logan; screenwriters: Julius J. Epstein, Russel Crouse & Howard Lindsay (play), Howard Nemerov (novel); cinematographer: Ellsworth Fredericks; editor: Philip W. Anderson; music: Cyril J. Mockridge; cast: Anthony Perkins (Ray Blent), Jane Fonda (June Ryder), Ray Walston (Prof. Leo Sullivan), Marc Connelly (Professor Charles Osman), Anne Jackson (Myra Sullivan), Murray Hamilton (Coach Sandy Hardy), Bart Burns (D. A. Davis), Elizabeth Patterson (Connie), Joe E. Ross (Mike ), Bob Wright (President Nagel); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joshua Logan; Warner Bros.; 1960-BW)
“The film was not believable, but viewing it today even if it was clueless about college life, sports betting and college hoops, it was at least diverting and genial.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Outdated and ridiculous college basketball rom/com directed by Joshua Logan (“Camelot”/”Fanny”), an old friend of Henry Fonda. It’s based on the novel “The Homecoming Game” by Howard Nemerov and that inspired the Broadway play by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. It’s awkwardly scripted by Julius J. Epstein.
WB refused to have Warren Beatty as star because he was known for the stage and never acted in a movie, and instead chose the up and coming actor of the last 7 years Anthony Perkins. A few months after his hoop role, Psycho was released and the actor’s career changed forever as the loony in the celebrated Hitchcock film became a household name. This film was Jane Fonda’s movie debut and the start to an illustrious career.
During the start of the spring semester at L.A.’s fictitious Custer College, a basketball school, teaching colleagues, veteran science professor Charles Osman (Marc Connelly) and his new colleague and next-door neighbor, ethics professor Leo Sullivan (Ray Walston), get to know each other. Also with the men, when not making kreplach (Jewish dumpling) is Leo’s Jewish wife Myra (Ann Jackson).
Later on campus, the professors are chatting when June Ryder (Jane Fonda) crashes into them on her bicycle and tells them she was looking to tell them she has transferred here from a junior college, as a home economics major, because she’s tall (5 feet 7 1/2 inchestall) and wants to meet the tall basketball star Ray Blent (Anthony Perkins) and marry him. She thereby finesses her way into their classes where Ray is taking their courses and she can sit next to him.
The frothy comedy continues to be daft and cornball, as the pushy June pushes herself on the quirky Ray (he tells coach he thinks he found a way to shoot hoops scientifically). The needy Ray works a student job driving a taxi for the college to have some spending money.
When Ray falls for June and wants to marry her, he realizes he doesn’t have the finances to buy a trailer to live in. He’s also concerned about a visiting Russian basketball team that’s undefeated while touring America and will soon play his college (which is expected to beat them).
A stranger from a crime organization gives Ray money to fix the game with the Russian Sputniks, even when Ray refuses it (the conflicted Ray gives the bribe money to his professor friends, who give it back to him when he plays to win in the game. Too bad no one knew it’s illegal to keep bribe money).
The film was not believable, but viewing it today even if it was clueless about college life, sports betting and college hoops, it was at least diverting and genial. Though Perkins tried to look like a hoopster and went to the gym every day to learn the game, there was no way he could pass for a college player.
REVIEWED ON 2/19/2023 GRADE: C