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The Facts of Life

The Facts of Life(1960)

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The film begins with the names and pictures of Bob Hope, then Lucille Ball, then the title credit, followed by a brief sequence in which Ball, as "Kitty Weaver," wonders in voice-over about the events that led her to embark on an affair with her friend's husband. Then the animated credit sequence, designed by Saul Bass, plays to the title song. Voice-over narration by Ball continues sporadically throughout the film. Although Wally Harton is typically credited as a costumer, in the onscreen credits he is listed with the makeup and hair credits.
       According to a December 1960 Los Angeles Examiner article, producing-directing-writing team Norman Panama and Melvin Frank conceived of the story for The Facts of Life in 1951. At that point, they wrote the story as a drama, and considered James Stewart and Olivia de Havilland to co-star. Unsatisfied with the script, however, they put it aside, and upon unearthing it in 1959, rewrote it as a comedy. After interesting Hope and Ball in the project, the Los Angeles Examiner article adds, they secured the financing from United Artists.
       The Facts of Life marked the twenty-third of twenty-six films written by Panama and Frank, and the third of four features to co-star Ball and Hope. According to a May 23, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item, Frank shot one unit at Desilu, while Panama shot the other on location in San Francisco and Monterey, CA. On July 5, 1960, Hollywood Reporter noted that Ball had fallen on the set and seriously bruised her leg and face. As a result, production shut down for two weeks, resuming on 18 Jul. Several other on-set mishaps occurred, as noted in an August 1960 Newsweek article: Hope hurt his finger, Frank sprained his ankle, Don DeFore injured his back and was placed in traction, and a set caught on fire. A New York Times article quoted Hope's quip that "This film should have been shot at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital."
       Hollywood Reporter news items add the following actors to the cast: Karl Lucas, Norman Leavitt, Billy Booth, Leon Alton, Pryor Bowen, George Ford, Katie Regan, Frank Edwards, Hal Taggart, Dorothy Abbott, Ruth Tannen, King Lockwood, Earl Brindle, Eddie Baker, Steve Carruthers, Christine Christian, Ricky Kelman, Mickey Sholdar, Elizabeth Fraser, Ed Allen, Rudy Germane, Renita Reachi, Sally Yarnell, Mary Barnes, Beryl McCutcheon, Joe Roach, Bob Jellison, Carol Sandifer, Steve Slingsby, Larry Mancine, Maxime Seamon, Robert Hernandez, Luis Delgado, Hans Moebus, Bernie Sell, June Jay, Coco Morris, Vickie Vann, Snub Pollard, George Bruggeman, Dick Cherney, Hadley Gray, Maxime Taylor and Audrey Allen. However, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. In addition, modern sources add Bernard Fein, Hazel Pierce, Jeffrey Sayre and Bert Stevens. The Facts of Life marked the final feature film appearance of Ruth Hussey (1911-2005), who continued to act on television for many years.
       Reviews for the film were mixed. According to the New York Times critic, The Facts of Life was "a grandly good-natured picture, full of sparkling repartee and word-gags and sight-gags that crackle with humor and sly intelligence." The New Yorker, however, stated that the film marked "the latest and possibly the most vulgar model of the Hollywood sex comedy." Edith Head and Edward Stevenson won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design for the picture; other nominations included Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (J. MacMillan Johnson, Kenneth A. Reid and Ross Dowd), Best Cinematography (Charles Lang), Best Original Song (Johnny Mercer) and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay (Panama and Frank). Panama and Frank were also nominated for the Writers Guild of America award for Best Written American Comedy.
       The Facts of Life was broadcast on ABC-TV on October 6, 1964, but the next day, Daily Variety reported that Bob Hope Enterprises and Lubar Productions had petitioned the court to keep the film from been shown again. The original contract with United Artists had stipulated that the film should not be shown on television until 1966. The disposition of the suit is not known.