Cast & Crew
In a rural area outside of Baltimore, Maryland, affable farmer Sidney "Pop" Larkin borrows wealthy neighbor Wendell Burnshaw's prize winning hog to mate with his sow, and upon returning it, cheerfully promises Burnshaw the pick of the litter. Outraged by Pop's blithe attitude, Burnshaw summons his lawyer David DeGroot to discuss how he might force Pop and his large family, comprised of eldest daughter Mariette, brothers Lee and Grant and twin girls Susan and Victoria, off their land. Long disgusted by Pop's method of trading for all of the family and farm needs, Burnshaw suspects that the Larkins have great wealth and DeGroot offers to check their tax filings. The following day, Burnshaw and DeGroot meet with Internal Revenue Service district chief Oliver Kelsey and learn that the Larkins have never filed a tax return. Kelsey assigns his best investigator, clever Lorenzo Charlton, to the case. That same afternoon, Lorenzo is warmly greeted at the Larkin farm and invited to coffee by Ma before he can explain his visit. Upon learning of Lorenzo's job, Pop immediately declares that he has never paid taxes and Lorenzo patiently explains that anyone earning more than six hundred dollars must pay. Pop admits that currently he has just under two hundred dollars, the most money he's had in many months. Unnerved by Mariette's buoyant charm, Lorenzo struggles to maintain a professional attitude and sternly demands to see the family's financial books. Pop explains there are no books due to the long-time Larkin tradition of trading for all their necessities, including furniture and appliances. As an example of the difficulties wrought by using money, Pop tells Lorenzo that during the Civil War, the government took the family's horses and never paid for them, despite a written guarantee. Sensing Lorenzo's frustration, Mariette offers to help him inventory of the property. After proudly relating that the farm has been in the family for over one hundred and fifty years, Mariette then takes Lorenzo to a spot by the river and declares it offers the most priceless thing the Larkins own: peace and contentment. Unwillingly calmed by the restful setting, Lorenzo confides his ambition of gaining a law degree to serve in Congress in order to instill responsibility in the nation's citizens. When Mariette questions him, Lorenzo admits that he is motivated by seeing the many people he audits, including the Larkins, who do nothing, provide nothing and are nothing. Fascinated by Lorenzo's unusual character, Mariette abruptly kisses him and, startled, Lorenzo slides into the river. Returning to the house, Lorenzo is disturbed that Lee and Grant have cleaned his car, but they explain that helping others is natural. Just then, Kelsey telephones Lorenzo for news and encourages Lorenzo to remain firm with the Larkins. Meanwhile, Ma tells Pa that she thinks that Mariette likes Lorenzo and they wonder how they might encourage him to remain longer. Overhearing the conversation, Grant and Lee offer to tamper with the car, but Ma reminds them it is a government vehicle. After hanging up with Kelsey, Lorenzo lectures the Larkins that cheating the government is like cheating your family because the government is made up of the people. When Pop asks if government property belongs to everyone, Lorenzo replies affirmatively, which sends Lee and Grant sneaking out to his car. As dinner time approaches, Lorenzo begins listing the family's assets, while, at Ma's suggestion, Mariette changes out of her work clothes and Pop puts together a specialty cocktail. When Lorenzo announces that he has determined that the organ the family acquired provides five hundred dollars of taxable profit, Pop counters that he donated it to the church. Confounded by the Larkins continual ability to evade firm financial earnings, Lorenzo accepts Pop's cocktail and soon is dancing wildly with Mariette to music from the record player. That night when Kelsey calls and realizes that Lorenzo is drunk, he orders him to check into a hotel and finish the audit the following day. After Lorenzo discovers that Lee and Grant have removed his car's engine, he passes out and Pa and Ma place him in Mariette's room for the night, while Mariette moves to the living room. The next morning, Mariette tiptoes back to her room to retrieve clothes and, waking, Lorenzo is shocked, believing they have spent the night together. Stunned when Ma and Pa appear blasé about the previous night, Lorenzo is further unsettled when Reverend Osgood and police chief Guthrie arrive. Lorenzo blurts out that being drunk, he has no recollection of his actions. The confused pastor reveals he only stopped by to express his gratitude for the organ, which Chief Guthrie plays in church. Insulted by Lorenzo's suspicions, Mariette storms off on her horse, ignoring Lorenzo's apologies. When Pop offers Lornezo advice on women, Lorenzo wearily asks for the property probate file, hoping to learn the value of the farm when it was inherited. Later that day, a subdued Mariette finds Lorenzo going through the family files in the barn and is delighted to find the 1862 government receipt for the Larkin horses. A little later, three of Mariette's local boyfriends come visiting and, finding the couple kissing in a haystack, attack Lorenzo. Mariette summons the family to help defend Lorenzo and in the midst of the ensuing melee, Kelsey and Burnshaw arrive. Aghast at Lorenzo's disheveled state, Kelsey takes over the audit. Lorenzo returns to his office surprised that he is more upset about letting the Larkins down, than in potentially ruining his career. The following day, utilizing Lorenzo's figures, Kelsey returns to the farm to announce the family owes $50,000 and informs Pop that if he cannot pay, the government will sell the farm or auction off their property. Furious, Mariette takes Kelsey's car and races to the Baltimore revenue office where she bursts into Lorenzo's office seeking help. When Mariette suggests that Lorenzo counter the audit by making a claim on the horse receipt, he laments that bureaucracy would delay them. Undaunted, Mariette rushes off to Washington to confront Inspector General Bigelow. Lorenzo follows and when he finds Mariette being bodily removed from the building by the police, he provides a distraction, allowing the two to escape and break into Bigelow's office. Meanwhile, back at the Larkins', just as Pop agrees to sell the farm, townspeople arrive and offer to buy the property at inflated prices to provide Pop with money. Pop thanks his friends for their kindness, then is interrupted by the arrival of a helicopter carrying Bigelow, Lorenzo and Mariette. Brushing aside Kelsey's report, Bigelow informs Pop that the ninety-six-year-old horse claim reveals that, due to the interest accrued, the government owes the Larkins fourteen million dollars. As everyone bursts into cheers, Pop tells Bigelow he doesn't want the money if he and his family can simply remain tax free all their lives. After Bigelow agrees, Lorenzo follows Mariette to the haystack as Burnshaw's hog breaks out of his pen to rejoin the Larkin sow.
J. Lewis Smith
Joseph J. Green
Philip Barry Jr.
Charles K. Hagedon
Robert R. Hoag
William A. Horning
John Mcsweeney Jr.
The Mating Game
Novelist H.E. Bates was a chronicler of English country life in books like Love for Lydia, though one could hardly tell that from this 1959 adaptation of his novel The Darling Buds of May. The first in a trilogy, the book recounts the adventures of the Larkins, a family of eccentrics running their farm outside the British socio-political system. When MGM decided to film the story, however, they transplanted it to America and turned the farm family from Kent into a group of hillbillies who never pay taxes because they never buy or sell anything. Their entire existence is based on a complicated barter system. Possibly the transition was inspired by Reynolds' success in the backwoods romantic comedy Tammy and the Bachelor (1957), a loan out to Universal that not only gave her (and the rival studio) a big moneymaker, but also inspired her hit recording of the title song.
Whether or not MGM was deliberately aping her earlier success, the previous film made her the logical choice for the female lead in the now-transplanted story. Her off-screen life at the time, however was a far cry from the on-screen merriment. Her husband, Eddie Fisher, had recently left her for a highly publicized affair with Elizabeth Taylor. The press mobbed her every time she left the house, and Taylor was publically begging her to divorce Fisher so the two lovers could marry.
During the period, Reynolds was hardly eating and had plummeted to a mere 90 pounds. When it came time to start making The Mating Game, she viewed it as a way to escape the uproar for most of the day. Alarmed at her weight loss, director George Marshall brought a blender to the set and made her milkshakes to keep her energy and health up. Shortly after filming wrapped, Reynolds finally took the time to file for divorce, hoping the furor would die down in the press so that she and her children could get on with their lives.
Her leading man, Tony Randall, had come to Hollywood on the heels of success in television, most notably as Wally Cox's best friend on Mr. Peepers. The scene-stealing character comic had only played one leading role before this one, in the film version of George Axelrod's Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957). Later in 1959, he would land his best-remembered film role, as Rock Hudson's romantic rival in Pillow Talk. Also in the cast were two comedy film veterans, Paul Douglas and Una Merkel, as Reynolds' parents. This would be Douglas' last film. He passed away a few months after the film's release. A freelance actress who frequently worked at MGM, Merkel had teamed with Reynolds twice before, on the musicals I Love Melvin (1953) and Bundle of Joy (1956), the latter the only film to team its star with husband Fisher.
The Mating Game got decent reviews, with Bosley Crowther in the New York Times comparing Reynolds favorably to French sex kitten Brigitte Bardot and particularly lauding Randall's drunk scene after he is treated to too much of Douglas' home-made whiskey. That was more than enough to send Reynolds' fans into theatres, and she and the studio were sufficiently pleased with the results to re-team actress and director three more times, on the comedies The Gazebo (1959) and It Started with a Kiss (1959) and the epic Western How the West Was Won (1962). Bates' story eventually made it back to England with a very successful TV adaptation that ran three years on ITV. The series drew on all three books about the Larkins and cast the young Catherine Zeta-Jones in Reynolds role.
Producer: Philip Barry, Jr.
Director: George Marshall
Screenplay: William Roberts
Based on the novel The Darling Buds of May by H.E. Bates
Cinematography: Robert J. Bronner
Art Direction: William A. Horning, Malcolm Brown
Score: Jeff Alexander
Cast: Debbie Reynolds (Mariette Larkin), Tony Randall (Lorenzo Charlton), Paul Douglas (Pop Larkin), Fred Clark (Oliver Kelsey), Una Merkel (Ma Larkin), Philip Ober (Wendell Burnshaw), Charles Lane (Bigelow).
C-97m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.
by Frank Miller
The Mating Game
The title song, "The Mating Game," is sung by Debbie Reynolds over the opening credits. The film had one location day of shooting in Hidden Valley, CA. The Mating Game was the last feature-film of actor Paul Douglas (1907-1959), who died of a heart attack on September 11, 1959. In 1991, the H. E. Bates novel The Darling Buds of May, on which the M-G-M film was based, was turned into a popular television series in Britain, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones as "Mariette Larkin."
Released in United States 1959
Released in United States 1959