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For years, Warner Bros. had owned a script called How To Make Love and Like It that somehow never made it into production. After the studio also purchased the rights to Helen Gurley Brown's best-selling sex guide Sex and the Single Girl, it was decided to dust off the old script and update it with topical references to the sexual revolution as documented by Brown. As it turned out, the studio's fee to Brown of $200,000 essentially covered just the title and the use of her name. After yet another rewrite by novelist Joseph Heller (Catch-22), Sex and the Single Girl became a film with Natalie Wood as a sexologist named Helen Gurley Brown and Tony Curtis as a scandal-sheet editor who schemes to seduce her and expose her as an inexperienced virgin only to fall in love, of course.
Curtis and Wood may have been top-billed, but most critics agreed it was second leads Henry Fonda and Lauren Bacall who stole the show as Curtis' bickering neighbors. Fonda plays a pantyhose manufacturer who becomes entangled in Curtis' schemes, and Bacall is his shrewish, chinaware-throwing wife. Among other amusing things, the older couple is required to do the "twist" to the music of Count Basie during a dance-floor spat. "When these two get down to some good old-fashioned domestic brawling," wrote film historian Lawrence J. Quirk, "they practically jump off the screen into the audience like a couple of forces of nature." Critic Howard Thompson added that Bacall had "the wittiest lines and all but pierces the picture with her buzzsaw growl."
Although Warner Bros. acknowledged that Sex and the Single Girl was a "satire on a provocative subject" that was merely "suggested" by Brown's book, the public was sufficiently intrigued by the saucy title and subject matter to turn the film into the fifteenth top-grosser ($4 million) of its year.
Producer: William T. Orr
Director: Richard Quine
Screenplay: Joseph Heller, David R. Schwartz, Leslie H. Martinson (uncredited), Joseph Hoffman (story), suggested by book by Helen Gurley Brown
Production Design: Cary Odell
Cinematography: Charles Lang
Editing: David Wages
Original Music: Neal Hefti
Principal Cast: Tony Curtis (Bob Weston), Natalie Wood (Helen Gurley Brown), Henry Fonda (Frank Broderick), Lauren Bacall (Sylvia Broderick), Mel Ferrer (Bob Weston), Edward Everett Horton (The Chief), Fran Jeffries (Gretchen), Otto Kruger (Dr. Marshall H. Anderson).
by Roger Fristoe