Cast & Crew
At the beginning of the spring semester at Custer College, science professor Charles Osman explains to his new colleague, ethics professor Leon Sullivan, that alumni funds support their winning basketball team and thus support the college's academics as well. Soon after, home economics major June Ryder sideswipes the two men on her bicycle and then explains she has transferred to Custer for the sole purpose of marrying basketball star Ray Blent, adding that she hopes they will help her. Soon after at the gymnasium, the love-struck June finds Ray's jacket and follows him into the men's locker room to return it, but soon flees when she discovers a player emerging from the shower. Meanwhile Coach Sandy Hardy extols Ray's skill to a reporter, but Ray's scientific approach to making baskets bewilders him. Later, June attends both Charles's and Leon's classes and wrangles a seat next to Ray and a position as his lab partner. She easily seduces the studious Ray by speaking only of her intellectual interests and joins the pom pom team to show off her physique on the court. One day Ray and June's chemistry lab experiment explodes because of June's miscalculations, wounding them both and forcing them to publicly wear face bandages, a sign of their blossoming relationship. Days later, Ray, who drives a taxi in his free hours, takes June to Leon's house to baby-sit and, to Leon's chagrin, praises June's eagerness to learn, stating that the other female students are only interested in getting married. Leaving Ray there to help June study, Leon, Leon's wife Myra and Charles go to dinner at Mike's restaurant, where Leon complains that June is using his classroom as a "matrimonial agency." Meanwhile, Charles and Myra ask Mike, who has ties to a gambling ring, to place a bet that Custer will win the game against the world-famous Russians Sputniks. Late that night, June wonders what her and Ray's children would look like, couching the discussion in genetics terms, and then suggests a laboratory experiment to test the power of the Japanese belief that the most seductive kiss is one on the back of the neck. Flush with excitement from the first kiss, Ray wants a "basis for comparison" and kisses June on the lips. June then suggests they visit her newlywed friends Fred and Frieda Jensen, who live in a trailer that they wish to sell. After Fred gives them a tour of the cramped quarters, June and Ray squeeze into the shower compartment, where Ray proposes to her. Anxious to marry before the game, Ray and June ask to buy the trailer but are unable to come up with the required $1,500 to pay for it. Realizing that it will take up to a year before they can save enough money to be able to have a place of their own and thus will not be able to consummate their relationship until then, June cries that their position is comparable to that of elephants, who mate only every seven years. Later, a stranger contacts Ray on his taxi radio and offers the basketball player $4,000 to fix the game in the Sputniks' favor. Ray refuses but the stranger insists that he has no choice, as $1,500 is already in the taxi's glove compartment. A distraught Ray decides to flunk Leon's midterm exam, thus disqualifying himself from the game, and then lies to June that his uncle has given them the money. Despite the students' protests and college president Harmon Nagel's diplomatic tactics, Leon refuses to change his mind about Ray's failing grade. On the night of the big game, Ray finds the remaining bribe money in the glove compartment and takes it to Charles's house where he explains to June, Myra, Leon and Charles that because he had no way of giving back the money, he flunked Leon's exam deliberately, knowing the ethics professor would never give him the option for a make-up test, thus preventing Ray from playing. Realizing now that Custer will lose without him and he will still be accused of fixing the game, Ray begs for an oral exam. When Leon refuses, Ray pleads that even if he reveals the truth to the public and gives back the money, he will still be expelled. Seeking to return the money to the racketeer, Leon and Charles go to Mike's and approach two suspicious men whom they believe to be the culprits, but discover they are district attorney police officers searching for the gambling ring. Leon and Charles are promptly arrested on gambling charges and brought to the game where District Attorney Davis is watching the competition. Realizing that the Sputniks are ahead by six points, June suggests to Davis that he release the men on the condition that Leon give Ray an oral exam on the spot, explaining that Leon, just like Ray, "gave the appearance of doing something wrong" without actually having committed a crime. When Leon once again refuses, Charles calls him an "ethical snob," but Ray, far from being angry, plans to emulate Leon's ethical life. Realizing the limits of his own philosophy and not wishing to foist it on young Ray, Leon relents and gives Ray ten questions on ethics history. After Leon asks Ray to tell him "everything you know about Socrates" and Ray stumbles at the enormity of the task, June logically reminds Leon that Ray told him "everything he knows," even if it is only a small amount. When Ray is stumped by the definition for the categorical imperative, June whispers the answer in Ray's ear, prompting Leon into a tirade about June snaring the unsuspecting Ray into marriage by using him and Charles. Horrified that she has been revealed, June flees while Leon, guilt-ridden by his outburst, gives Ray a passing grade. The star player rushes into the game where he helps lead the team to a one-point victory. Despite the celebrations that evening, Ray is sullen because of June's manipulation, but Myra reassures him that even she had a "master plan" to ensnare Leon and then guides Ray to June's side. Meanwhile, after Davis suggests that they forget the whole incident, Leon and Charles promptly slip the bribe money into June's coat pocket to help the couple begin a new life. Finding the money, June claims it is from her aunt and the couple rush to marry and buy the trailer.
Phillip Phillips Jr.
Lorrie Ann Stafford
Joe E. Ross
Philip W. Anderson
Julius J. Epstein
William L. Kuehl
Robert B. Lee
Cyril J. Mockridge
William A. Thompson
Logan had never intended for Tall Story to be positioned as a major film production. Instead it was originally conceived as a modestly budgeted showcase for Warren Beatty and Jane Fonda, neither of whom had yet appeared in films. Logan had first wanted to feature them in Parrish, a project he eventually abandoned due to script difficulties and was later made in 1961 by director Delmer Daves with Troy Donahue and Connie Stevens in the leads. Logan then optioned the popular Broadway play Tall Story by the distinguished writing team of Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse; it was a collegiate comedy about a university basketball star who falls in love with a cheerleader but faces a moral dilemma when he is bribed to let a visiting team from Russia win the decisive game.
Warner Bros., who was financing Tall Story (the working title was The Way the Ball Bounces), would not approve Beatty as the film's male lead despite his stage experience because he was an unknown actor. So Logan was forced to go with his second choice, Anthony Perkins, who had already established himself as a talented leading man in such high profile films as Desire Under the Elms (1958) opposite Sophia Loren, On the Beach (1959), and Friendly Persuasion (1956) which earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar® nomination.
Jane Fonda, who saw Tall Story on Broadway and hated it, was pleasantly surprised when she received the script and saw that her character June Ryder had been expanded into a larger role and was now, in fact, the major focus of the film. Logan, who was a longtime friend of Henry Fonda (he roomed with him during his bachelor years and directed him on stage in Mr. Roberts), always sensed that Jane had the talent to be a major star and wanted to prove his hunch by guiding her through her first feature.
The experience turned out to be, in Jane's words, "a Kafkaesque nightmare" which brought out all of her insecurities as an actress and also made her question her own identity, physical appearance and career on a more personal level. Although Jane had asked Logan and studio publicists to play down the fact that her father was Henry Fonda, that became the focus of the advance publicity along with an unwanted emphasis on her body. James Bacon of the Associated Press wrote, "Jane is one of those girls who exude sex appeal on screen - and off- without trying. That asset is helped immeasurably by a curvaceous, high-breasted figure. She's 5 feet 7 1/2 inches tall, weighs 112 pounds...She packs all that with a 123 IQ." Fonda was also unprepared for playing the part of the young Hollywood ingénue when it came to studio publicists. During a pre-production photo shoot for Tall Story, Fonda and Anthony Perkins were asked to nuzzle and caress each other by a studio photographer. "Jane turned pale," recalled Perkins. "It was her first encounter with one of the absurdities of the business, and it was as if she said to herself, 'My God, is this what being an actress means'. You could see her take a deep breath and say to herself, 'Well, I guess it is, so okay, let's get it over with.' (from Citizen Jane: The Turbulent Life of Jane Fonda by Christopher Andersen).
Fonda's trial by fire continued with her first day on the Warner Bros. lot. She recalled, "It was a bunch of makeup artists looking me over and it wasn't what they wanted. When they got finished with me, I didn't really know who I was. My eyebrows were like eagle's wings, and my mouth was all over my face. My hair was not the right color, and it had to be changed. Then Jack Warner, the head of the studio, sent a message to the set that I had to wear falsies because you couldn't become a movie star unless you were full-breasted." Fonda later wrote in her autobiography, My Life So Far, that "Logan suggested that after the filming I might consider having my jaw broken and reset and my back teeth pulled to create a more chiseled look, the sunken cheekbones that were the hallmarks of Suzy Parker, the supermodel of the time. "Of course," said Josh, touching my chin and turning me to profile, "you'll never be a dramatic actress with that nose, too cute for drama." From that moment on...my bulimia soared out of control and I began sleepwalking again as I had as a child....I would dream I was in bed, waiting for a love scene to be shot, and gradually I would realize that I'd made a terrible mistake. I was in the wrong bed, in the wrong room, and everyone was waiting for me to start the scene somewhere else, though I didn't know where...On one occasion I woke up on the sidewalk in front of my apartment building: cold, naked, searching in vain for where (and who) I was supposed to be."
The filming of Tall Story wasn't much easier for Tony Perkins despite his experience of almost seven years in motion pictures. Popular among teenage girls for his boyish, all-American good looks and shy manner, Perkins lived in constant fear that his private gay life would be exposed by some tabloid reporter yet he played the Hollywood game well, even suggesting to Joshua Logan that he work privately with Jane Fonda on their love scenes in the film. "They worked very hard, devotedly in fact, on their intimate scenes," Logan wrote in his 1978 memoir. "When they showed them to me they were strangely slow and full of pregnant pauses, but apart from that quite attractive, so I filmed them as rehearsed. Unfortunately, when cut into the picture they were endless and, I think, hurt the picture..." Perkins said he felt that "too many love scenes lack warmth and reality" but that he "didn't have to do any acting when I kissed Jane for the first time...I couldn't convincingly kiss a girl, if I didn't like her."(from Split Image: The Life of Anthony Perkins by Charles Winecoff).
Perkins's other challenge was to be convincing as a star athlete. During filming he told a reporter, "I've been busy working out at the Warner Bros. gym, discovering what basketball is all about. I spend about an hour and a half a day dribbling, passing, shooting baskets, and going after rebounds. An hour and a half is about all I can take. It's exhausting." His hard work paid off and even his co-stars recognized his dedication. Ray Walston, cast as Professor Leo Sullivan in Tall Story, stated that Perkins "was on that court like he was born there. He always seemed to have an urgency in his movement. He had great ideas and he would express them to Josh in a very eager way, like a young boy wanting to please."
Tall Story, however, did little to advance Perkins' career and seemed like a step backwards for him since he had already graduated from playing collegiate types and was close to thirty years old. His wholesome screen image would change completely with his next film made the same year - Psycho.
When Tall Story went into general release, the critics were unusually hard on the picture. Time magazine wrote "Nothing could possibly save the picture, not even the painfully personable Perkins doing his famous awkward act, not even a second-generation Fonda with a smile like her father's and legs like a chorus girl." The Films in Review writer said, "The film wouldn't be reviewed in these pages but for the fact that Henry Fonda's daughter Jane makes her screen debut in it. She is a good-looking lass and she can act." Anyone viewing the film today however will probably enjoy it as a pleasant diversion in the same vein as the formulaic but highly popular Doris Day romantic comedies from the same period.
Fun Facts: Look for Tom Laughlin (writer/director/producer of Billy Jack (1971)) and Gary Lockwood (2001: A Space Odyssey ) in small roles. The theme song, composed by Andre & Dory Previn and Shelly Manne is sung by Bobby Darin.
Producer: Joshua Logan
Director: Joshua Logan
Screenplay: Julius J. Epstein, Russel Crouse (play), Howard Lindsay (play), Howard Nemerov (novel)
Cinematography: Ellsworth Fredericks
Film Editing: Philip W. Anderson
Music: Cyril J. Mockridge
Cast: Anthony Perkins (Ray Blent), Jane Fonda (June Ryder), Ray Walston (Professor Leo Sullivan), Marc Connelly (Professor Charles Osman), Anne Jackson (Myra Sullivan), Murray Hamilton (Coach Sandy Hardy).
by Jeff Stafford
Citizen Jane: The Turbulent Life of Jane Fonda by Christopher Andersen
My Life So Far by Jane Fonda
Split Image: The Life of Anthony Perkins by Charles Winecoff
The working title for the film was The Way the Ball Bounces. The Daily Variety review of the film noted that The Homecoming Game, the novel on which the film was based, focuses on the fact that college athletics provide the funds on which college academics depend, while the film's plot centers on "June's" college goal of acquiring a husband. Although a September 13, 1959 New York Times article noted that Tall Story was shot on location at "Glendale Junior College" in Glendale, CA, as noted in Hollywood Reporter news items, the film was actually shot at Occidental College, which also is located in Glendale.
Actor Marc Connelly reprised his original Broadway role for the film as the character "Professor Charles Osman." Tall Story marked the feature film debut of the then twenty-two-year-old actress Jane Fonda, who was actor Henry Fonda's daughter. Jane Fonda had been a model for several years, making the cover of Vogue, and though reviews were mixed for her performance in Tall Story, she went on to win two Academy Awards for Best Actress and became a box office star as well as a highly publicized political activist.
Released in United States on Video April 29, 1992
Released in United States Spring April 1960
Jane Fonda's film debut.
Released in United States Spring April 1960
Released in United States on Video April 29, 1992