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TENDER TRAP, THE (director: Charles Walters; screenwriters: Julius J. Epstein/based on a play by Max Shulman and Robert Paul Smith; cinematographer: Paul C. Vogel; editor: John Dunning; music: Jeff Alexander; cast: Frank Sinatra (Charlie Y. Reader), Debbie Reynolds (Julie Gillis), David Wayne (Joe McCall), Celeste Holm (Sylvia Crewes), Lola Albright (Poppy Masters), Jarma Lewis (Jessica Collins), Carolyn Jones (Helen), Howard St. John (Sam Sayers), James Drury (Eddie), Joey Faye (Sol Z. Steiner), Tom Helmore (Mr. Loughran); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lawrence Weingarten; MGM; 1955)
“A disappointing dated and flat romantic comedy from the 1950s.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A disappointing dated and flat romantic comedy from the 1950s directed without flair by Charles Walters (“High Society”/”Easter Parade”/”Summer Stock”) and written by Julius J. Epstein; it’s based on a hit play by Max Shulman and Robert Paul Smith. It features the Academy Award nominated Jimmy Van Heusen-Sammy Cahn title song (Love is) The Tender Trap sung by Frank Sinatra, which opens the film. The showbiz sex comedy was never able to draw its expected comedy from Sinatra, who is too old for the swinger part and too smug to be a sentient bachelor who gets his comeuppance.

Joe McCall (David Wayne) springs a surprise visit to childhood pal Charlie Y. Reader (Frank Sinatra), a big shot Manhattan theatrical agent and playboy bachelor living like royalty in a Sutton Place luxury pad. Charlie is disappointed to learn that Joe has temporarily separated from his wife Ethel and three kids after eleven years of what was a happy marriage. The Indiana native is experiencing a mid-life crisis and when he sees all the beautiful dolls that Charlie is dating, he becomes envious and wonders if he can snag one of Charlie’s rejects.

Though Charlie is most serious about dating NBC orchestra violinist Sylvia Crewes (Celeste Holm), the 35-year-old man falls head and heels over Julie Gillis (Debbie Reynolds), the 21-year-old spunky, bright-eyed, cutie pie, who is his latest Broadway actress/singer client. The problem here is that Charlie is a confirmed bachelor and the energetic Julie, The Tender Trap, is determined to get married within the year, even setting the date for March 12th, the date her folks tied the knot. The perky “set in her ways” Julie plans to live in a suburban house in Scarsdale and raise three kids. This is taken for the normal aspirations of the 1950’s middle-class women. By the film’s final act, Joe convinces Charlie that marriage and family is bliss and he gives up all his dolls to ask Julie to marry him.

Lola Albright, Jarma Lewis and Carolyn Jones have skimpy parts as Charlie’s pretty girlfriends who fawn over him. The thin comedy scored big at the box office.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”