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TUNNEL OF LOVE, THE(director: Gene Kelly; screenwriters: from the play by Joseph Fields/from the novel by Peter De Vries; cinematographer: Robert J. Bronner; editor: John McSweeney, Jr.; music: Ruth Roberts; cast: Doris Day (Isolde Poole), Richard Widmark (Augie Poole), Gig Young (Dick Pepper), Gia Scala (Estelle Novick), Elisabeth Fraser (Alice Pepper), Elizabeth Wilson (Miss MacCracken); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Martin Melcher/Joseph Fields; MGM; 1958)
“The actors are game, but the film was flat and not a bit funny.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Gene Kelly (“Hello, Dolly!”) directs this suburban comedy about a childless couple adopting a baby; it’s adapted to the screen from the Broadway hit by Peter DeVries and Joseph Fields. During its day it was considered a racy comedy, but is quite tame by modern standards. This is Kelly’s last film for MGM and he got to direct it with the stipulations it was to be shot in black & white, use only one main set, shot in three weeks and for a cost of less than $500,000.

Augie Poole (Richard Widmark) is an aspiring cartoonist. His wife Isolde Poole (Doris Day) is upset that after five years she can’t get pregnant. The Westport, Connecticut residents apply for a child to the Rock-a-Bye adoption agency, and are encouraged by their friendly next-door neighbors, Dick and Alice Pepper (Gig Young & Elisabeth Fraser), who have three children and a fourth in the oven. Dick is the womanizing editor of The Townsman magazine, a big-time New York zine, and arranges for Augie to write gags for his publication, but Isolde insists that Augie hold out for a more important offer. In the meantime her wealthy family supports the couple.

Things take a wrong turn when the social worker from the adoption agency, Estelle Novick (Gia Scala), a striking babe, visits the Pooles’ neighborhood and is mistaken by Dick as a charity worker. He makes a pass at her and then delivers her to a tipsy cocktail drinking Augie, when the upset Novick reveals her true identity and calls off the interview because Dick is the couple’s reference and has acted inappropriately. Later Novick pays a visit to Augie and offers another interview if he gets a new reference. The two end up hitting the town in celebration and a drunken Augie has a one-night stand with the social worker and supposedly ends up impregnating her. The couple end up adopting what’s taken for Augie’s illegitimate son, who bears a striking resemblance to him. But this is the 1950s, and it turns out that the married Novick actually gave birth to a girl. This makes things alright in Westport, and wouldn’t you know it–Isolde after the adoption becomes pregnant. The play left the paternity issue in question instead of making everything as rosy as the film.

The perky Doris manages to sing the title song and “Run Away, Skidaddle Skidoo.” The actors are game, but the film was flat and not a bit funny. It bombed in the box office, as the public couldn’t accept the serious actor Widmark in a lighthearted comedy role even though he was the best actor in the film.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”