Cast & Crew
Nick Conover, a callous Chicago youth, arrives in Kentucky horse country to stay with his uncle Jed and aunt, Henrietta Bruce, at their horse ranch. Nick is on probation for stealing a car, and consequently, his mother has sent him to her sister Henrietta in hopes of shielding him from the evil influences of the city. Nick, sullen and resentful, clashes with the gruff Jed, who has grown distant and irritable ever since the death of his beloved son Jed Junior in the Korean War. Soon after, Liz Templeton, the tomboyish daughter of a neighboring rancher, invites Nick to her family's ranch. In contrast to the austere Bruce ranch, the Templeton ranch is teeming with beautiful race horses gamboling on well-manicured pastures. Liz explains that after his son's death, Jed retreated from life and sold all his horses except the high-spirited Tugfire, Jed Junior's favorite. At the ranch, Nick meets Fran, Liz's glamorous sister, when she drives up in her sports car with her boyfriend, Al Turner. Nick, an avid mechanic, admires Fran's car and she offers him a ride, but is soon stopped for speeding by Joe, the local constable. That evening, Nick sneaks into his uncle's garage and fixes the broken-down tractor. After presenting Jed with the now-running machine, Nick asks for permission to work on the old jalopy. Liz, who has developed a crush on Nick, invites him to join her at the dance, but soon realizes that he is infatuated with her sister. After repairing the jalopy, Nick races it around the farm, spooking Tugfire, who jumps the fence of his corral and gallops off. When the horse falls and becomes entangled in the underbrush, Nick frees the animal and they become friends. Nick then leads Tugfire home, and Jed, astounded by Nick's newfound rapport with the horse, decides to train the boy to drive a sulky. As Nick masters the handling of the trotter, Jed renews his interest in racing and life. One day, Liz invites Nick to join Fran and Al for a barbecue at the Templeton ranch. When Nick drives up in his jalopy, Fran challenges him to a race that ends when she crashes her car through a fence. Feeling guilty, Nick confesses to Liz that he had his driver's license suspended for stealing a car. Back at the Bruce ranch, Nick, stung by his uncle's harsh criticisms about his horse-racing abilities, becomes angered and forgets to put Tugfire back in his paddock. As a result, the horse is stranded in a rainstorm and falls critically ill. Although Nick blames himself, Jed forgives the boy for his mistake. Liz consoles the devastated Nick, who has become devoted to the horse. The two fall asleep during an all-night vigil at Tugfire's sickbed, and when Tugfire stands up and nuzzles Nick the next morning, Liz kisses Nick in delight. The day of the big race at the Bentonville fair arrives, and Jed, once again excited about racing, accompanies Tugfire and Nick. At the fair, Nick invites Liz to join him for a ride on the ferris wheel and they kiss. As Nick readies for the race, Joe appears with orders to send Nick back to Chicago for violating the court prohibition against driving, but Dan Templeton, Liz's father, convinces Joe to wait until after the race for Jed's sake. When Nick is knocked from his sulky during a qualifying heat, Jed decides that he is not ready to enter the finals, but Nick begs for the chance to prove his ability. After Jed relents, Nick proudly guides Tugfire to victory as Jed, tears of joy streaming down his face, cheers. When Joe delivers the bad news that Nick must return to Chicago because Fran's accident report stated that he was driving a car, Liz claims that the report was mistaken and that she was driving. After Fran, Al and Henrietta all support her story, Nick tells the truth, but Joe accepts Liz's version and drops all charges. The group then drives home, singing.
Earl Teater Jr.
L. B. Abbott
Cyril J. Mockridge
William B. Murphy
Edward B. Powell
Walter M. Scott
Paul Francis Weber
Lyle R. Wheeler
Fox studio executives were so happy with the rushes from Boone's first film, Bernardine (1957), that they green-lit him for April Love before Bernardine had even finished shooting. Boone, then almost 23 years old, was thrilled when he read the script. "This is what Bing Crosby would have done," he later remembered thinking. "It was a great script... tailor-made for me."
Shirley Jones was also 23 but more experienced, having already performed in two big Fox musicals: Oklahoma! (1955) and Carousel (1956). But she was concerned about being pigeonholed in the genre, and after Carousel, she was turned down for serious parts again and again -- when she was even considered in the first place. She demanded to know why, and was told, "Because they weren't musicals."
"The studio's idea of consoling me," she later said, "was the role of the leading lady in April Love, another musical, with Pat Boone." Soon, however, she'd get the chance to dazzle in the drama Elmer Gantry (1960), opposite Burt Lancaster, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
The most famous anecdote involving April Love involves "the kiss" -- or, more accurately, "the near-kiss." For a scene on a Ferris wheel, Boone was supposed to kiss Jones, and Boone, married in real life, wouldn't do it for religious reasons. At least that's the way the story was told at the time. Indeed, as late as 1996, Jones told People magazine that Boone "was very religious, and his wife had decided that he wasn't allowed to kiss another actress. We had this scene on a big Ferris wheel -- we were supposed to have a big kiss -- and he wouldn't do it. I said, 'But you're an actor.' He still wouldn't. The terrible thing was that in his very next film, he kissed the girl."
But in a 2010 interview with the Los Angeles Times' Susan King, Boone explained that the incident was actually a little more complicated. The kiss, he said, was not in the script but was ordered by director Henry Levin on the day of shooting. As he didn't want to kiss Jones because he was worried about offending his wife, he asked Levin to delay the shot for one day so he could discuss it with her. Boone claims that his wife relented, with the proviso: "You just have to promise me you won't enjoy it that much." So Boone returned to the set "puckered up and ready to go."
But the story had been leaked overnight, with religious reasons cited for his refusal to kiss Jones. Now Boone realized that if he really did kiss her, it would look to the world like he was going against his religious convictions -- so he again refused to do it. Indeed, Boone recalled that letters and telegrams poured into 20th Century Fox telling him to stick to his guns.
Levin solved the problem on set by having the screen kiss be interrupted at the last moment by a taunting bystander. But the studio refused to reveal this to the press or the public, saying they would have to wait to see the final movie to find out how "the kiss" had been resolved. It became an unexpected publicity angle. When the film opened, audiences debated whether Boone had been overly moralistic or if the whole thing had just been a gimmick, and Fox enjoyed a healthy box-office gross of over $4 million.
April Love was shot in and around Lexington, Kentucky. For the song "Clover in the Meadow," five acres of Kentucky Blue Grass were dyed yellow to be more visually appropriate. Boone and supporting actor Arthur O'Connell became lifelong friends as a result of this film. They even bought a racehorse together that they saw on a farm used for filming, and named her April Love. (Unfortunately, the horse turned out to be a money-loser.)
While audiences lapped the movie up, critics were more restrained. Trade paper Variety deemed the film "a good family entertainment with emphasis on teenage audience tastes... Boone is a more assured performer in this second film, turning in an easy, affable performance."
But The New York Times chided, "Now what could be more apt on Thanksgiving Eve than a wholesome, pretty little family picture about a girl, a boy and a horse in the Blue Grass sector? If only April Love had a modicum of spunk, say that of a fiery old turkey gobbler resisting fate. It has, instead, Pat Boone and Shirley Jones, two of the nicest-looking young singers to be found anywhere, a batch of pleasant tunes, some nifty Kentucky scenery in good color and absolutely no plot... Mr. Boone no more suggests a mild, urban delinquent than he does John Dillinger. But it's high time they gave such a nice lad a picture with a few teeth to it."
Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster's title song, sung by Boone, became a million-selling hit weeks before the film even opened. It was nominated for an Academy Award but lost to "All the Way," from The Joker Is Wild (1957).
By Jeremy Arnold
Richard D. Kibbey, Pat Boone: The Hollywood Years
Shirley Jones and Marty Ingels, with Mickey Herskowitz, Shirley & Marty: An Unlikely Love Story
George Agnew Chamberlain's novel first appeared as a serial in The Saturday Evening Post 18 October-November 8, 1941. According to production notes contained in the AMPAS Library file on the film, exteriors were filmed on location in Lexington, KT, and the Crown Crest Farm outside Lexington served as the Templeton Ranch in the film. The notes add that the chorus in the county fair sequence was comprised of the citizens of Lexington. The normally green fields were dyed yellow to coincide with the "Clover in the Meadow" song lyrics "sky of blue, field of yeller..."
An August 1957 Daily Variety news item stated that Pat Boone initially refused to do the the kissing scenes between him and Shirley Jones because his religion forbade him physical contact with any woman other than his wife. Boone eventually relented, however. A July 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that Boone's brother Nick was to play a small role. His appearance in the released film has not been confirmed, however. The song "April Love" was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song. Chamberlain's novel was previously filmed by Fox in 1941 as Home in Indiana, starring Walter Brennan, Charlotte Greenwood and Ward Bond and directed by Henry Weinberger (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50).
Released in United States Fall November 1957
Released in United States Fall November 1957