Cast & Crew
When Collins College student Sally Blake returns home at three a.m., her father Ted berates her. Although Sally is defiant at first, her father's threat to throw her out prompts her to declare that she has been with Steve McKinter, a sociology professor conducting a survey on teenage morality. Pressed by Ted, Sally goes on to say that Steve invited her to his apartment and there asked her disturbing questions about her sex life, using "dirty words." The next morning, Ted storms into Steve's office to confront him, and finds the door locked. When Ted sees exchange student Gogo Laszlo inside perched informally on the professor's desk, he assumes that he has interrupted another assignation and accuses Steve of "indoctrinating young girls into sex practices." He refuses to listen when a perplexed Steve explains that his study, which covers not only sex but topics ranging from religion to language, explores how young people frame morality in a society on the brink of nuclear destruction. Ted finally leaves after Steve calls in his fiancée, Lois Addison, to confirm that he was with her the previous night. Although Steve discounts Ted's threats, Lois, the daughter of Steve's boss, sociology dean Henry Addison, is sure that Ted will cause trouble. As Lois questions Steve about Sally, she grows suspicious and declares that he must give up either her or the study. Henry supports Steve's resolution that he cannot abandon his work, but Lois remains adamant, and leaves town in anger. Later, Steve films the college students as they cavort by the lake, while local reporter Betty Duquesne, who has received an anonymous letter in protest of Steve's study, watches them. Upon learning of her interest, Steve asks Betty to attend a party at his apartment that weekend, at which he plans to show the students his home movies, in an effort to gain their confidence. At the same time, Sally admits to her best friend, Fay Grover, that she lied about Steve, and urges her boyfriend, Marvin, to attend Steve's party with her. Meanwhile, Steve brings Betty to his home, which she finds messy, but innocuous, and an attraction grows between them. When Betty questions Fay's father Sam, a grocer and part-time magistrate, about Steve, Sam calls him "odd but innocent," then shows her photos of Fay, whom he hopes will be a movie star. Steve's party proves disastrous after the punch is surreptitiously spiked and Steve becomes intoxicated, to the dismay of Betty and his students. Betty manages to control the group and convinces them to watch Steve's home movie show, but as the footage ends, a pornographic movie suddenly appears onscreen, prompting the horrified kids to flee. Soon after, the police arrive and bring Steve before Sam, who sets a low bail and admonishes the officers to proceed cautiously. A few days later, Betty finds Steve in a bar, where he berates her for suspecting him of wrongdoing and declares that he will soon leave town. Although she is unsure of his innocence, Betty urges him stay and fight. Days later the trial begins in Sam's store, where everyone in town is present except Steve. The prurient nature of the trial has attracted national attention, and many famous reporters attend, including Walter Winchell, Earl Wilson and Sheilah Graham. At the last moment, Steve shows up, and Gogo is called as the first witness. Despite her adoration of Steve, her testimony about the survey questions and Steve's familiar relationship with his students proves damning. Henry also plans to support Steve but is forced to admit that Lois suspected him of misconduct. Finally, Sally's statement that Steve asked questions about virginity draws shocked gasps from the crowd. Sam then reads the survey, declaring the questions "strong stuff." During a break, Henry urges Steve to plead to a misdemeanor, but Steve, who has been living for years with the secret of his former alcoholism, refuses to back down. While the crowd waits for the trail to continue, Sam distributes photos of Fay to the Hollywood reporters. When the trial resumes, Sam declares that, although Steve's judgment may have been poor, the "pornographic" movie was found to contain only clothed models, and so he has done nothing illegal. Sam dismisses the case, but Steve stands to address the crowd, insisting he be allowed to defend his name. He admits that he became an alcoholic during his study of Skid Row inhabitants, which required that he drink with his subjects. Steve then describes his current study, which features many more topics than just sex. Pointing out that questions about sex are only as dirty as the mind reading them, he declares that his sourcebooks included the Bible and Shakespeare, and concludes by asking the crowd if they would prefer ignorance over knowledge. Suddenly, a shelf in the store breaks, and when Betty surveys the debris she spots film canisters bearing the same name as that on the pornographic reel. Realizing that Sam framed Steve, she confronts him in front of the crowd. Sam confesses that he also tipped off the newspaper and spiked Steve's punch, hoping to garner national attention in order to propel Fay to stardom. Raving that he will not let Fay's life be wasted, as his was, Sam breaks down, and Steve slips away in the ensuing confusion. When Betty follows, the two leave Collins together.
William Wellman Jr.
Woo Woo Grabowski
Robert Montgomery Jr.
Mamie Van Doren
Malcolm F. Brown
Charles Scott Jr.
Waldon O. Watson
Frank H. Wilkinson
The Gist (College Confidential) - THE GIST
For College Confidential Zugsmith took on the directing chores and provided the original story, based on an actual California incident in which a college professor found himself in hot water for administering a social survey among his students which included questions on sexual mores. If Zugsmith wanted to sensationalize the topic for his movie (while covering his bases by making the sensationalism itself the crux of the story), then he could do no better than lead off with real-life columnist and broadcaster Walter Winchell saying, "at 11:00, just two minutes from now, a trial will begin that may shake American education. This case has been likened to the celebrated Scopes monkey trial, when the teaching of Evolution in the schools was being judged. Now, it is SEX on trial, and that is a subject which concerns everyone."
Following this pre-credits sequence, we see a car speeding through the nighttime suburbs under the opening credits and a blaring, punchy jazz score (by Dean Elliott). From the car is dumped blonde bombshell college student Sally Blake (Mamie Van Doren), who must then explain to her parents (Elisha Cook, Jr. and Pamela Mason) why she was out until a quarter to three in the morning on a school night. During a high-pitched, screaming back-and-forth (a high-point of the movie and a virtuoso performance between Van Doren and Cook), Sally finally lies to her parents. She had been out late with boyfriend Marvin (Conway Twitty) but instead tells her folks that her sociology instructor at Collins College, Steve Macinter (Steve Allen), had taken advantage of her at his house in the guise of asking her questions for his sociological survey. Mr. Blake confronts Macinter the next day, but his alibi is backed up by his fiancée Lois (Theona Bryant) and her father and Steve's department head, Professor Henry Addison (Herbert Marshall). Later, Macinter continues his study of his students by bringing a 16mm movie camera to the lake where the kids are swimming and cavorting. There he meets Betty Duquesne (Jayne Meadows), a reporter who is investigating an anonymous letter sent to her paper to protest Macinter's methods. Macinter explains to her, and anyone else that will listen, that his 20-page survey only partially asks about sex, but also covers topics like morality, religion, and language. The kids all come to Macinter's cozy pad on a Friday night to have fun and watch the movies shot at the lake, but the punch bowl has been spiked and Macinter proceeds to get drunk. To make matters worse, the reel of movie film ends with seemingly pornographic images, which cause the kids to flee and Macinter to be arrested. The resulting hearing in front of town magistrate Sam Grover (Mickey Shaughnessy) draws national attention, and brings in Winchell as well as other real-life columnists Earl Wilson, Louis Sobol, and Sheilah Graham. (When Sally is brought to the stand, Winchell tells his radio listeners that Miss Blake is "the Mamie Van Doren-type"!)
College Confidential was one of seven films that Mamie Van Doren made with Zugsmith. Contacted for this article, Van Doren told TCM, "It was not my favorite of all the films I did with Zuggy. He was trying to follow up on the success of High School Confidential, and, like all such sequels, it fell short." Nevertheless, Van Doren certainly sets a highly-charged tone for the film in the opening sequence. In the book Atomic Blonde: The Films of Mamie Van Doren (McFarland), co-author Barry Lowe has justifiable praise for the emotional scene between Sally and her father: "Sally, realizing her diversionary tactics to protect her boyfriend's identity are not working, changes from a dominant position (on the staircase standing up to, and over, her father) to the more subservient one of sitting on the stairs. She changes tack and plays the teen girl in danger but safe because of the way her parents have brought her up. The about-face works and the parents buy it."
Story writer and director Zugsmith seems to have trouble in College Confidential in having it both ways. In most of his "youth pictures" he veers more towards the sensational in his hollow examinations of social issues, which, of course, makes for a much more fun and honest exploitation picture. As Lowe points out, though, in this instance "...the film pulls its punches, never daring to transgress the morality it is, in part, criticizing. The questionnaire is rather preciously described in academese as 'a social study of college-age youngsters and their reactions to a mechanistic environment that's poised with one foot in space and the other on the brink of nuclear destruction.'" Lowe points out other phony sensationalism presented in the script, such as the fact that "...the college kids never get to partake of the spiked fruit punch at the professor's party. Macinter imbibes freely himself; it's a plot point as he's a reformed alcoholic, but the kids are kept away from the cocktail so they are not corrupted by the filmmakers; the 'dirty' movie they witness and to which they have an aggressive (and totally unbelievable) aversion turns out to be fake." Lowe also notes the irony that 50 years later, Prof. Macinter would not have much of a leg to stand on: "...his behavior toward his students, filming them in swimming costumes, giving them free access to his house when he's not there, and having student parties for them, would severely compromise him today."
Steve Allen was no stranger to film acting, having starred in The Benny Goodman Story (1956), but in 1960 he was at the end of his run on The Steve Allen Show (1956-1960), his prime-time Sunday night sketch comedy program, and he was justly worried about taking on such a serious role. Just prior to the movie's release, Allen told an Associated Press reporter, "In the warm-up before our TV show, I usually answer questions from the audience. One lady asked me the name of my newest picture and when I replied 'College Confidential,' the studio audience howled. Just the mere mention of the title got a bigger laugh than any of the jokes on the show. I didn't know we had made a comedy. I took the role because it offered a chance at some serious acting."
On his website "Trailers from Hell" director Joe Dante remarks that Steve Allen was an odd choice to play the lead, but admitted that Allen was "...the hippest guy on TV. He had a show opposite the least hip guy on TV, who was Ed Sullivan. But all of us kids thought that Steve was pretty cool - he had people like Lenny Bruce on his show, he was a contributor to Mad Magazine, and I was always a big fan of Steve Allen. I actually worked with him on a picture once, and asked him, 'What were you thinking when you made College Confidential?' And he said, 'Well, they told me it was going to be so progressive,' and I guess that was the bill of goods that Al Zugsmith sold to Steve to get him to do this along with his wife Jayne Meadows."
While not a musical, College Confidential, like most of Zugsmith's other films, is peppered with musical numbers. Randy Sparks performs two songs: "Playmates," and the folk-calypso-inspired title track, the lyrics of which were written by Steve Allen himself:
Hey, it's strictly confidential, keep it under your hat,
Yeah, you shouldn't go around discussing things like that.
Call it adolescence or whatever you please,
It's fundamental, like the birds and the flowers.
And that's why we go to college.
(Allen was a prolific songwriter, and had previously penned lyrics to George Duning's "Theme from Picnic," from the 1955 movie). Sparks was a solo singer-songwriter and had already appeared in musical parts in the films Thunder Road (1958) and The Young Land (1959); he went on to found The New Christy Minstrels in 1962. Conway Twitty actually enjoys a meaty acting role in the film and only performs one song, the rocking "College Confidential Ball," on acoustic guitar at the Professor's party. None of the Allen, Sparks, or Twitty songs, however, were on the College Confidential soundtrack album released on the Chancellor label. That release consisted of the film's jazz score by Dean Elliott, which featured some of the best West Coast jazz players of the period. Despite the high regard for this score, the vast majority of Elliott's other film and television scoring was done for animated cartoons.
Critical reviews of College Confidential were scarce, but in the New York Times, Howard Thompson wrote that "Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows are such personable, alert performers that it is truly painful to find them co-starring in a piece of movie claptrap like College Confidential. ...In a picture best described as punk, Mr. and Mrs. Allen do very well indeed." Thompson compares the film to High School Confidential, saying "the students this time seem even more adolescent, apparently never touch a book, continually grasp each other instead, or slither around mouthing a kind of steamy, beatnik jargon. The leaders are Ziva Rodann, Conway Twitty... and that pneumatic leftover from High School Confidential, Mamie Van Doren. ...The sight of Mr. Allen and Miss Meadows... intelligently sauntering through the picture is as diverting as it is exasperating. May they not be aboard the next time Mr. Zugsmith launches a new 'Confidential' vehicle, like a loud, rusty fire engine."
Zugsmith was to stay in a "College" mode, however, if not a "Confidential" one. His next release was another independent production, Sex Kittens Go to College (1960), distributed by United Artists. This film marked the return of Van Doren, Twitty, and Mickey Shaughnessy in a Zugsmith film, co-starring with Tuesday Weld, Louis Nye, Jackie Coogan, and Vampira.
Producer: Albert Zugsmith
Director: Albert Zugsmith
Screenplay: Irving Shulman; Albert Zugsmith (story)
Cinematography: Carl E. Guthrie
Music: Dean Elliott
Film Editing: Edward Curtiss
Cast: Steve Allen (Steve 'Mac' Macinter), Jayne Meadows (Betty Duquesne), Mamie Van Doren (Sally Blake), Rocky Marciano (Deputy Sheriff), Mickey Shaughnessy (Sam Grover), Cathy Crosby (Fay Grover), Herbert Marshall (Professor Henry Addison), Conway Twitty (Marvin), Randy Sparks (Phil), Pamela Mason (Edna Blake), Elisha Cook (Ted Blake), Theona Bryant (Lois Addison)
by John M. Miller
The Gist (College Confidential) - THE GIST
The working title of this film was Confidential Report on Collins College. Albert Zugsmith's opening credit reads: "Produced and directed by Albert Zugsmith." According to a January 13, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item, Tuesday Weld was originally cast in College Confidential, but withdrew to appear in 1960 Twentieth Century-Fox film High Time (see below). In the trial scene, when Mamie Van Doren's character, "Sally Blake," stands to testify, Walter Winchell identifies her as "the Mamie Van Doren type." At the end of the scene, "Steve McKinter" quotes from Act I, Scene 5 of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Although a January 28, 1960 Hollywood Reporter item states that Hearst feature writer Dorothy Kilgallen would play herself, she does not appear in the final film.
Hollywood Reporter news items add Skip Garner, Irwin Berke, Herb Silvers, Bunni Bacon, Gerrie Bender, Harold Lloyd, Jr., Barbara Baxter and Rhoda Williams to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
College Confidential followed Zugsmith's 1958 M-G-M production, High School Confidential!, which was directed by Jack Arnold, starred Russ Tamblyn and January Sterling and featured Van Doren.(see below). Zugsmith also directed, produced and wrote another college romp in 1960, Sex Kittens Go To College, which shared some of the same cast as College Confidential, including, Mamie Van Doren, Mickey Shaughnessy, Woo Woo Grabowski, Pamela Mason, Arline Hunter and singer Conway Twitty (see below).