Cast & Crew
When impulsive and reckless Laura Califatti totally wrecks a sports car belonging to tourist Carlo Cofield, she invites the distraught young man to spend the night on the couch of her Malibu Beach apartment. But he is thrown out by Laura's "patron," Rod Prescott, a pompous businessman who runs a swimming pool company owned by his wife. After sleeping on the beach, Carlo goes for a swim, nearly drowns, and is saved by a seductive surfer-skydiver, Malibu, who gives him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Captivated by the girl, Carlo decides to settle down in the area. Since he has failed to get any compensation for his sports car, he uses his knowledge of Rod's indiscreet affair with Laura to get a lucrative job as a pool salesman. Then, to further his romance with Malibu, Carlo bribes an astrologist, Madame Lavinia, into telling Malibu's body-builder boyfriend, Harry, that sex is bad for his physique. The romantic entanglements become even more involved when Rod's wife, Diane, announces that she is suing for divorce, naming Laura as corespondent.
Eventually, all six participants become trapped in Carlo's cliffside house during a rainstorm. As it tips over and slides down the incline to the muddy beach below, Malibu is reunited with the muscle-bound Harry, Diane agrees to drop her divorce proceedings, and Laura and Carlo discover they are made for each other.
Mary Grace Canfield
George W. Davis
Eric Von Stroheim Jr.
Don't Make Waves
Based on the Ira Wallach novel, Muscle Beach, which poked fun at health and fitness fanatics, the film focuses on Carlo Cofield (Tony Curtis), a drifter who loses his car and all of his possessions in a freak accident within minutes of arriving at the coast. (In the book, Carlo is a recently fired college professor). In short order, he moves in with the woman (Claudia Cardinale) who caused the accident, the Italian mistress of a married businessman (Robert Webber), and bluffs his way into a job with her lover as a swimming pool salesman in Los Angeles. Along the way he encounters a variety of California "characters" including assorted bodybuilders and a female skydiver named Malibu (Sharon Tate). Carlo's lucky streak ends with the acquisition of a scenic hillside home overlooking the Pacific, a situation which has a comic payoff in the film's climactic mud slide.
Producer Martin Ransohoff recruited British director Alexander Mackendrick for Don't Make Waves which might seem like an unlikely choice at first glance. But Mackendrick had already proven himself a sharp and witty observer of human foibles in such screen comedies as Whiskey Galore! (aka Tight Little Island, 1949), The Man in the White Suit (for which he received an Oscar® nomination in 1952), and The Ladykillers (1955). It also helped that he had worked well with Tony Curtis, the film's star, in a previous film, the highly acclaimed noir drama, Sweet Smell of Success (1957). The actual truth is that Mackendrick was tricked into making Don't Make Waves. As he revealed in Lethal Innocence: The Cinema of Alexander Mackendrick by Philip Kemp (Methuen), "That whole operation was Hollywood at its worst. I had an agent at that time - he's dead now - who was a buddy of Ransohoff's. The pair of them went to Tony [Curtis] and told him, "Sandy has this subject he's dying to make, and he got on very well with you - so he wants to know if you would do it, because it's something that's very dear to his heart." And then they came to me and said, "Tony Curtis has this subject that's very dear to his heart," and so on. We later found out both of us thought the material was absolute rubbish."
From the very beginning, making the film proved to be an ordeal for Mackendrick. Ira Wallach, who based the screenplay on his novel, was forced to revise his script three times before leaving the project in frustration. The producers then brought in another writer, George Kirgo, who did not get along with the director. Mackendrick even tried to get taken off the project but was threatened with a lawsuit if he quit so he stayed and tried to make the best of a bad situation. Tony Curtis, in his autobiography co-written with Barry Paris, recalled that "Erich von Stroheim, Jr. was the assistant director on Don't Make Waves. He and Mackendrick hated each other...I think that experience with Erich junior was one of the things that soured Mackendrick on the business." Introducing another chaotic element into the mix was co-producer John Calley who brought in author and satirist Terry Southern (Candy, 1968) to provide additional dialogue during the final stages of production. According to Kemp's book on Mackendrick, it was common knowledge that Calley and Southern got high and sat up all night "writing funny, outrageous lines of dialogue. All the funniest stuff in the film, such as it was, was ad-libbed by Calley and Southern."
Despite Mackendrick's own harsh assessment of Don't Make Waves, the film is often surprisingly funny and full of incidental pleasures. For one thing, Curtis is perfectly cast as the shyster pool salesman; his Carlo Cofield could be a distant cousin of Sweet Smell of Success's Sidney Falco, albeit a more benign and ineffective version. Philip Lathrop's bright, sun-kissed cinematography perfectly captures the Malibu vibe and Ms. Tate, in one of her final films (despite a screen credit that reads "Introducing Sharon Tate"), is both enigmatic and vacuous as Carlo's sexual fantasy; her trampoline scene is a voyeuristic high point. There are also amusing cameo appearances by Jim Backus (playing himself as a potential customer of Carlo's), comedian Mort Sahl, and, strangest of all, ventriloquist Edgar Bergen as "Madame Lavinia," a syndicated newspaper astrologist. The sight gags are also occasionally inspired, especially one involving Carlo's cliffside house which at the film's end is about to slide into the sea. Mackendrick admits that the scene was a steal from Chaplin's The Gold Rush (1925) but it works beautifully in conveying the fragile, quixotic nature of life in Southern California. The skydiving sequence is also memorable though the parachute jump required 35 attempts before they got a perfect take and in a tragic turn of events, one of the stuntmen, Bob Buquor, drowned off the Malibu coast while shooting this sequence.
Don't Make Waves opened to mostly mixed reviews but Andrew Sarris of the Village Voice called it "one of the most underrated comedies of the season" and another reviewer called it "the one gem out of nine million bad Tony Curtis comedy vehicles." The jury is still out on whether the film will ever attract a cult following but this much is certain - it marked the end of Mackendrick's film career. After completing it, he tried - and failed - to raise financing for two long-cherished personal projects - Rhinoceros and Mary Queen of Scots - which eventually were made without his involvement. Instead, Mackendrick retired from filmmaking and began a teaching career at the California Institute of the Arts.
Producer: Julian Bercovici, John Calley, Martin Ransohoff
Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Screenplay: George Kirgo, Maurice Richlin, Terry Southern, Ira Wallach (novel)
Cinematography: Philip H. Lathrop
Film Editing: Rita Roland, Thomas Stanford
Art Direction: Edward C. Carfagno, George W. Davis
Music: Chris Hillman, Jim McGuinn, Vic Mizzy
Cast: Tony Curtis (Carlo Cofield), Claudia Cardinale (Laura Califatti), Robert Webber (Rod Prescott), Joanna Barnes (Diane Prescott), Sharon Tate (Malibu), David Draper (Harry Hollard).
C-97m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Jeff Stafford
Don't Make Waves
Location scenes filmed in Southern California.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1967
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1967