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James Garner made several pictures before this sex comedy, but his greatest success up to 1962 had been his hit TV Western series, Maverick (1957-1960). After Boys' Night Out (1962), however, his movie career took off with a shot. Over the following two years, he made seven pictures, including the Doris Day comedies The Thrill of It All (1963) and Move Over, Darling (also 1963 and a remake of the 1940 Cary Grant - Irene Dunne classic, My Favorite Wife); The Americanization of Emily (1964), opposite Julie Andrews; and one of his most famous roles in The Great Escape (1963), with Steve McQueen. He has remained a solid presence in motion pictures and television ever since.
As important as Boys' Night Out was for Garner, co-star Kim Novak had a lot more riding on the movie. Novak had been groomed and controlled by Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn since the start of her career in 1954. Upon Cohn's death in 1958, the studio underwent a lot of shake-ups. At 29, Novak was no longer top box office and realized she had to move away from her love goddess image to something more substantial. She formed her own company in partnership with Filmways Productions. Boys' Night Out was the first (and as it turned out, last) production of Kimco Filmways Pictures. Although not a huge box office hit, it proved to audiences the sexy blonde was capable of being more than just a pretty face. Novak displayed a delightful talent for comedy and showed her co-workers how professional and knowledgeable she was about making films.
Novak stars as a sociologist researching the sex life of the typical suburban man. For her thesis, she rents an apartment to share, on different nights, with four men. Although moving toward the more freewheeling sexuality beginning to crop up in movies of the 60s, the film definitely comes out in favor of love, commitment, and marriage, as Novak fends off the men's amorous advances and gets them to open up about their lives. Three of the men are married, and although they all lie to each other about their "hot" nights with the gorgeous blonde, the truth is quite different. During their nights at the apartment, Tony Randall talks incessantly about himself, Howard Duff obsesses about his do-it-yourself projects, and Howard Morris, who has been forced to conform to his wife's starvation diet, stuffs himself with food. Garner plays the one bachelor in the group, and it's not giving too much away to say that he and Novak end up falling for each other and screwing up the whole experiment.
In addition to the leads, the comedy is enlivened substantially by a cast of character actors and comic professionals, including William Bendix, Fred Clark, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Jim Backus (best known as Thurston Howell on TV's Gilligan's Island, 1964-67, and as the voice of the cartoon character Mister Magoo). The film also features singer Patti Page, who recorded the hit title song.
Although Garner went on to a busy, successful career, Novak made films only sporadically after this one. Never having bought into the whole Hollywood glamour-girl route she was groomed for, she preferred to get away from the scene and spend most of her time at her Big Sur ranch sculpting, writing poetry, tending to her menagerie of animals, and walking barefoot in nature.
Boys' Night Out was directed by Michael Gordon, who had been blacklisted in the early 1950s. He returned to big screen directing with the first of the Doris Day - Rock Hudson comedies, Pillow Talk (1959).
Director: Michael Gordon
Producer: Joseph E. Levine, James C. Pratt, Martin Ransohoff
Screenplay: Arne Sultan, Marvin Worth, Marion Hargrove, Ira Wallach
Cinematography: Arthur E. Arling
Editing: Tom McAdoo
Art Direction: George W. Davis, Hans Peters
Music: Frank DeVol, Jimmy Van Heusen
Cast: Kim Novak (Cathy), James Garner (Fred), Tony Randall (George), Howard Duff (Doug), Howard Morris (Howard), Oscar Homolka (Dr. Prokosch), Janet Blair (Marge Drayton), Patti Page (Joanne McIllenny), Jessie Royce Landis (Ethel Williams), Jim Backus (Peter Bowers), William Bendix (Slattery), Fred Clark (Mr. Bohannon), Zsa Zsa Gabor (girlfriend of the boss).
C-113m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Rob Nixon