But Not for Me


1h 45m 1959

Brief Synopsis

Russ Ward, after 30 years of producing Broadway plays, is ready to quit. His secretary, Ellie Brown, on being given notice, tells him she loves him. Russ proceeds to turn this into a hit play starring Ellie and romance her in a May-December affair.

Film Details

Release Date
Oct 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 2 Oct 1959; Los Angeles premiere: 6 Oct 1959
Production Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.; Perlsea Co.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
New York City, New York, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Accent on Youth by Samson Raphaelson (New York, 25 Dec 1934).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

Fifty-six-year-old Broadway producer Russell Ward returns to New York City from a business trip and is inundated with requests for his time from his ex-wife, former actress Kathryn Ward, alcoholic playwright Jeremiah MacDonald and Roy Morton, a magazine reporter. Russ boldly tells Roy that, contrary to rumors, his current play, Give Me Your Hand , is not having script troubles and that they will have a successful tryout run in Boston in five weeks. In reality, the play, about a middle-aged man having an affair with a twenty-two-year-old woman, is suffering from script problems, and the exhausted Mac, who has not had a hit in years due to his drinking, wants to quit. Russ is also pressured by his business manager, Miles Atwood, and lawyer, Charles Montgomery, who chide him about overextending himself financially. Russ is somewhat cheered by a genial, verbal sparring match with the sophisticated Kathryn, who gives him a music box to celebrate the fourth anniversary of their divorce. Russ and Mac ponder the script complications, which Russ believes stem from the dislike the audience will feel for the protagonist when he pursues the much-younger woman. Russ, who refuses to admit to his real age, instead insisting that he is in his early forties, encourages Mac to work harder, but when he goes home, tells his adoring, young secretary, Eleanor Brown, that he is retiring. Russ orders Ellie to lay off the staff and attempts to treat her to a lavish farewell gift, but Ellie retorts that she is in love with him and that he has "ruined" her for any other man. Inspired by Ellie's fiery speech, Russ dashes to Mac's to tell him that the solution to their quandary is to have the heroine pursue the protagonist rather than vice versa, thereby avoiding any implication of lechery on the part of the man. Soon after, Russ dictates Ellie's speech back to her as new dialogue for the play, and when she protests, he embraces her and assures her that they are going to build a future together. Energized, Russ, Mac and Ellie spend the next five weeks rewriting the play, although Mac reprimands Russ for playing with Ellie's emotions by allowing her to believe that he loves her. When they complete the script, Russ invites them to Kathryn's Long Island mansion for the weekend, and there they meet with Russ and Kathryn's longtime friend, movie mogul Demetrios Bacos. While reading a scene for Bacos, Ellie, a drama student, so impresses the others with her talent that Bacos decides to invest in the play and Kathryn encourages Russ to cast Ellie in the lead. Kathryn later admits to Mac that she still loves Russ, despite his perpetual search for youth and her frequent jibes about his real age. When Russ calls Miles to inform him that Bacos wants to invest in the play, Miles tells him that a mysterious new investment group, Angels, Ltd., has backed the show fully, and so rehearsals begin with Ellie in the lead. Gordon Reynolds, who has studied drama with Ellie and is in love with her, is cast as the young man who attempts to romance the heroine away from the protagonist. Still believing herself to be in love with Russ, Ellie proposes to him, but he gently tells her that they should wait until the play is running to decide their future. The play receives lukewarm reviews upon its tryout in Boston, sending Mac into a drunken binge and Ellie into a depression, but Russ and Kathryn encourage them both and soon the play is polished and ready for the New York opening. Their hard work pays off when the play is a success, and after opening night, Russ takes Ellie to Central Park to romance her. Russ again demurs when Ellie proposes, but while he is in California to discuss the play's screen rights with Bacos, he persuades himself that he should marry her despite the vast difference in their ages and rushes back to New York. When he goes to Ellie's apartment, however, he finds Gordon, drunk and passed out on Ellie's bed. Ellie explains that Gordon came by to protest his love for her yet again, although she maintains that she turned him down. Finally believing her, Russ sends her to the theater for an upcoming performance while he stays behind to sober up Gordon. At the theater, Kathryn gives Ellie a photo of Russ that she has kept for years in her own dressing room, and advises her that Russ is using her in his attempt to surround himself with youth. Stung by Kathryn's words, Ellie glumly compares her own recent photo of Russ to that of him as a vibrant young man. Back at Ellie's apartment, when Gordon bitterly declares that Ellie loves him, Russ proposes a test to determine which one of them Ellie loves. Russ tells Gordon to confess his love to Ellie after the play, and later that night, when Ellie comes to Russ's apartment, Russ will detail all the reasons why she should not marry him. After the performance, Gordon passionately confronts Ellie, who admits that she loves him more than she loves Russ, but still feels obligated to marry Russ if he wants her. Russ, thrilled at the idea of proposing to Ellie, greets her happily when she arrives, then, as he agreed with Gordon, tells her all the reasons why she should not marry him. Misunderstanding, Ellie assumes that Russ is ending their relationship so that she can be with Gordon, and Russ selflessly wishes her well. Several days later, Mac visits Russ, who has gone on a drunken bender but is now ready to face his age and responsibilities. Mac congratulates Russ and reminds him that Kathryn has been waiting a long time for him to mature emotionally. Russ agrees to go with Mac to the French Riviera to work on a new play, but while Mac is away buying their tickets, a distraught Ellie storms into Russ's apartment. Although she and Gordon were married only an hour earlier, Ellie is determined to obtain an annulment, as Gordon has decreed that they quit the theater immediately and move to his hometown in Montana. Russ hustles Ellie into the bedroom to hide when Gordon pounds on the front door, and after counseling Gordon to reconcile with his bride, ushers him into the bedroom, only to discover that Ellie has removed her clothes and climbed into Russ's bed in the hopes of making Gordon file for an annulment. Kathryn, who had been called into the city by Mac, enters and reasons with the bickering trio. While Gordon and Ellie resolve to stay married and remain in the theater, Russ reveals to Kathryn that he has uncovered that she is the owner of Angels, Ltd. Although Russ is exasperated with Kathryn for gambling her alimony on the play, she states that she had faith in him. Mac then returns, triumphantly waving three tickets to France, and a happy Kathryn and Russ decide to remarry.

Film Details

Release Date
Oct 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 2 Oct 1959; Los Angeles premiere: 6 Oct 1959
Production Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.; Perlsea Co.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
New York City, New York, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Accent on Youth by Samson Raphaelson (New York, 25 Dec 1934).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Several late 1957 and early 1958 Daily Variety and Variety news items incorrectly reported that this film was based on an original story by screenwriter John Michael Hayes. As noted in modern sources, the lead character of Samson Raphaelson's original play, on which the film is based, was changed from a playwright to a producer at the request of star Clark Gable. Although a December 10, 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Kurt Kasznar had been signed for a "featured lead" in the film, he did not appear in the released picture. According to a December 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item, Barry Coe was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox for the production. As noted by reviews, portions of the film were shot on location in New York City.
       In the film's opening sequence, "Russell Ward" makes telephone calls on the two mobile telephones in his car, which, according to a August 13, 1959 LA Mirror-News article, was a "local" joke about the two telephones that late producer Michael Todd reportedly had in his car. The article praised the many other "inside jokes" in the picture, including one about "popcorn `saving' the movie industry."
       According to an September 11, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, But Not for Me was the first film to be advertised on Jack Paar's popular late-night television talk show. The news item noted that Paar was "to participate" in the advertisements, and that Paramount had an option for exclusive use of the Paar show for the film's television ads, as well as an option for spots for future films. The picture's Los Angeles invitational premiere, held on October 6, 1959, was a benefit for the 8 Ball Welfare Foundation of the Los Angeles Press Club. But Not for Me marked the first film appearance since 1953 for actress Lilli Palmer.
       Numerous reviews of the picture praised Gable, who was fifty-eight at the time of its release, for his comedic acting and willingness to be portrayed as a middle-aged man. Bosley Crowther, the New York Times critic, stated: "The quaint but refreshing thing about Clark Gable is that he is willing to act his age. What's more, he is willing to make jokes about it and let his script writers make jokes about it, too." The Hollywood Reporter reviewer did not concur, however, commenting that the film invited the viewer "to laugh at Gable rather than with him. It's a devise [sic] that's quite unnecessary, since Gable still has a rugged vitality and a convincing air of authority." The film received three Golden Globe nominations: Best Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical, Best Motion Picture Actor-Musical or Comedy (Gable) and Best Motion Picture Actress-Musical or Comedy (Palmer).
       Paramount produced two earlier films based on Raphaelson's play. The first, directed by Wesley Ruggles and released in 1935, was entitled Accent on Youth and starred Sylvia Sidney and Herbert Marshall (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). The second, Mr. Music, was a 1950 musical directed by Richard Haydn and starring Bing Crosby and Nancy Olson (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). As noted in the Filmfacts review of But Not for Me, the play and the two earlier films end with the older man and younger woman continuing their romance.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1959

Released in United States on Video June 10, 1991

VistaVision

Released in United States 1959

Released in United States on Video June 10, 1991