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Ever wonder why some actors don't follow up a critical and commercial success with equally worthy film choices? You can usually blame it on the studio for calling the shots. A Ticklish Affair (1963) was a perfect example of Shirley Jones' growing frustration with her career. She had won an Academy Award in 1960 for a dramatic turn in Elmer Gantry and had thought that she'd finally be allowed to do serious roles. "Before and after Gantry, I did a string of comedies including The Courtship of Eddie's Father [(1963)] with Glenn Ford, A Ticklish Affair with Gig Young, and my favorite, Bedtime Story [(1964)] with David Niven and Marlon Brando. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of doing comedy. The studios usually referred to them as 'sophisticated comedies.' Too often they were neither."
A Ticklish Affair, directed by George Sidney, had originally been planned as a vehicle for Jean Simmons under the title Moon Walk. Written by Ruth Brooks Flippen, the film was based on a story by Barbara Luther about widowed Amy Martin (Jones) and her three young sons. When one of the boys accidentally sends out a SOS in Morse code using his bedroom blinds, it's seen from a passing Naval vessel and the Navy investigates. The Commander (Young) naturally falls in love with Amy but she isn't sure she wants to live the life of a naval wife. Friends and family conspire to bring the couple together. In the cast were Carolyn Jones, Red Buttons, Billy Mumy, and Get Smart's chief, Edward Platt.
The film was shot on location in San Diego, California, the site of a large naval base. Serving as the official liasion to the production was former actor Frank "Junior" Coghlan, who had left films after serving in the Navy in World War II. Like so many actors returning from the war, he found that he had been replaced by Hollywood with younger actors and so he remained in the service, eventually acting as the head of the Navy Public Affairs Office in Hollywood; at the time A Ticklish Affair was shot, he was in charge of the Motion Picture Section of ChInfo (Chief of Information). His job was to arrange for naval vessels and equipment approved for use in film production as well as appointing technical advisers and coordinating script approvals.
A Ticklish Affair was released on August 18, 1963, and was not a success with critics, like reviewer Colin Bennett of The Age who called it, "the kind of glossy, sentimental family comedy which is made with the Entire Cooperation of the United States Navy. Characters and situations are from a well-tried formula [...] The piece-de-resistance of this shatteringly wholesome affair is the rescue by the said navy of one small boy floating out to sea dangling from a cluster of balloons."
Shirley Jones would soon take a break from Hollywood and go to Broadway, but within a few years, she was back making wholesome family fare on television such as The Partridge Family, for which she is best known today.
Producer: Joe Pasternak
Director: George Sidney
Screenplay: Ruth Brooks Flippen (writer); Barbara Luther (story)
Cinematography: Milton R. Krasner
Art Direction: Edward C. Carfagno, George W. Davis
Music: George Stoll, Robert Van Eps (uncredited)
Film Editing: John McSweeney, Jr.
Cast: Shirley Jones (Amy Martin), Gig Young (Key Weedon), Red Buttons (Uncle Cy), Carolyn Jones (Tandy Martin), Edgar Buchanan (Captain Martin), Eddie Applegate (Yeoman Corker Bell), Edward Platt (Captain Hitchcock), Bill Mumy (Alex Martin), Bryan Russell (Luke Martin), Robert Foulk (Policeman).
C-89m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.
by Lorraine LoBianco
Bennett, Colin "Is This Civilization or Are We Just Primates?" The Age 7 Oct 63
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