Wednesday, October 09, 2013

cinema obscura: Charles Walters' "Ask Any Girl" (1959)

Michael Gordon's "Pillow Talk," released by Universal in October of 1959, is largely regarded as something of a first - "the fluff sex comedy," a modern subgenre of the time-tested battle-of-the-sexes romps. It was a huge hit, both a turning point in Doris Day's career and an on-going source of references for subsequent comedies trying to be just like it.

But predating it by a few months was Charles Walter's "Ask Any Girl," a working-girl lark released by Metro in May of that year. Shirley MacLaine, in a role that Day would patent, plays a career woman and romantic naif caught between two men - her bosses who also happen to be brothers. She's interested in nabbing dashing Gig Young, see, and leans on his older brother, stuffy David Niven, for pointers and guidance, not realizing that he's really the guy for her and that, in fact, he's interested.

On the sidelines is Rod Taylor, delightfully on the prowl.

"Ask Any Girl," a bit of wispy fun with a distant relationship to "Pygmalion," doesn't have the legendary reputation of "Pillow Talk." It virtually has no reputation at all and, for the most part, is almost impossible to see. But it's worth searching out, if only for the ace supporting cast - Elisabeth Fraser, Dodie Heath (fresh off "The Diary of Anne Frank"), Jim Backus, Claire Kelly, and the inimitable Carman Phillips.

There are a couple interesting connections here: MacLaine previously appeared with Niven in Michael Anderson's "Around the World in 80 Days" (1956) and with Phillips in Vincente Minnelli's "...Some Came Running" (1958). Niven would play opposite Day a year later in Walters' "Please Don't Eat the Daisies" (1960), and Young, of course, was something of a Day staple, appearing with her in Gordon Douglas' "Young at Heart" (1954), George Seaton's "Teacher's Pet" and Gene Kelly's "Tunnel of Love" (both 1958) and Delbert Mann's "That Touch of Mink" (1962).


Marie said...

I have fond memories of this movie. MacLaine is cute as ever but you sense that she is far too smart for this role. Day would have been, too. Debbie Reynolds is probably the only one who would have made it palatable, but it's fine as it is.

mtngeyser said...

Where is this movie? It has not been seen or shown anywhere for decades.

Philippe said...

It must have made some impression, because the great songwriting team of Holland/Dozier/Holland used the movie's title for a Supremes' song title in 1964. Between that time and 1978, when I bought the 3-record Supremes anthology, the movie disappeared from the cultural radar screen, because I remember being surprised when I later discovered the song took its title from an earlier movie. Funny how these things happen. (I still haven't seen the movie, come to think of it.)

Cherly M. said...

Always loved "Ask Any Girl" but thought that it was a less sophisticated (or maybe I should say downmarket?) version of the love triangle of Audrey Hepburn torn between William Holden and Humphrey Bogart in "Sabrina.

joe baltake said...

Hey Cheryl! Great analogy. Could we say that "Ask Any Girl" simply ripped off "Sabrina"? It seems like an urban version of the same basic material. Good catch.