Cast & Crew
Middle-aged Pasadena housewife Kitty Weaver arrives in San Francisco for a romantic tryst with Larry Gilbert, the husband of a good friend, and recalls the events that led her to her current indiscretion: Two months earlier, Kitty attends the country club's annual Halloween Ball. Although her husband Jack is, as usual, gambling in the club basement, her friends Connie Mason and Mary Gilbert sit with her, while Mary's husband Larry acts as the emcee. Kitty, who considers Larry a bore, is visibly unamused by his stale jokes, to Larry's consternation. On the drive home, after complaining about Larry, Kitty berates Jack for losing more money and he promises never again to gamble. At home he plans to make love to her, but by the time she finishes readying for bed, he has fallen asleep. Meanwhile, Larry grumbles to Mary about Kitty, and later presses Mary to make love, but she protests that she is too busy. The couples prepare for a joint trip with Connie and her husband Doc to Acapulco the next day, but when the Gilberts' son Bobby comes down with a fever, Mary refuses to leave him and sends Larry on alone. At the same time, Jack learns that he must stay home for a business emergency, and sends Kitty without him. In Acapulco, Doc and Connie immediately contract a violent stomach ailment, leaving Kitty and Larry reluctantly paired. Larry has rented a fishing boat, so the two spend the day on the ocean, and although their conversation is at first stilted, they warm up to each other upon discovering that they attended the same high school and had the same home room teacher. Soon after, Kitty hooks a 150-pound marlin, and Larry puts his arms around her to help her reel it in. Their success so enthuses Kitty that she spontaneously kisses Larry. Suddenly aware of a strong mutual attraction, the two share an unavoidably isolated evening at the romantic resort, then finish with a moonlit swim. Afterward, they are about to kiss, but Kitty is cold from the swim and her sneezes interrupt their ardor. Over the next week, they fight their attraction, but finding themselves repeatedly drawn together, they inevitably fall in love. On the last night of the trip, they confess their feelings but agree that it was only "a beautiful dream" and they must strenuously avoid each other back home. At home, each is increasingly unsatisfied. Kitty learns that Jack is still gambling, while Larry's family ignores him when he talks. Weeks go by, during which Kitty and Larry are continuously thrown together against their will at social events, stoking their attraction anew. Soon after at another club celebration, the two fall into a reminiscence about their trip. When they dance, he whispers urgently that they must meet, and she tries to resist but cannot. They agree to rendezvous the following evening, but as Larry is leaving the house, Mary informs him that he must lead Bobby's YMCA meeting. There, Larry tries to rush the children through the meeting, but one boy, a slow reader, insists on reciting a long report on smoke signals. Finally, Larry is able to join Kitty in her car, and with nowhere else to go, they enter a drive-in theater. They are kissing when the neighborhood dry cleaner, Thompson, pulls up next to them and sees Kitty. To hide Larry's face and avoid having Thompson identify him, they pull out and drive away, still kissing. However, the next morning, Thompson announces to Larry and Mary that he saw them at the drive-in, and Larry is saved only by Mary's good-natured disbelief that anyone would have an affair with him. Once again, Larry and Kitty's social schedule throws them together repeatedly, and when one night they each show up unaccompanied to a club dance, they end up drinking too much and leaving for a motel. At the desk, a flustered Larry signs the register as "Mr. and Mrs. G. Washington," after which a drunken Kitty asks him to buy her some coffee. Larry drives to a coffee shop, but upon his return cannot remember which of the many motels was the one they chose, and mistakenly enters a stranger's room. After he has been gone for two hours, Kitty gives up and takes a cab home. Soon after, Larry convinces Kitty to join him for a weekend in Monterey. Wracked with guilt, she sees Jack off on his skiing trip and then leaves him a note, revealing her affair and asking for a divorce. Back in the present, Kitty meets Larry at the San Francisco airport, where she confesses that she has left Jack. Although alarmed, Larry promises to leave Mary but remains more focused on the weekend ahead. They drive to the cabin in a rented convertible, and when it begins to rain, the car's top refuses to lift. Although Kitty wants to drive to a garage, Larry insists on fixing it himself, despite his ineptitude. By the time Larry admits failure, Kitty is drenched, and upon reaching their cabin, they discover that it is full of leaks. As a result of the combined discomforts of the trip, Larry and Kitty grow testy, the other's faults becoming more and more apparent. Kitty's poor cooking annoys Larry, while Larry's cheapness frustrates Kitty. Finally, a careful consideration of the financial burden of divorce convinces them that they have been too hasty, and they decide to rush back to Pasadena to dispose of the note before Jack can read it. With the storm blocking off most of the roads and sure to cut short Jack's skiing trip, they have only a few hours to make it home. Using fake names, they buy tickets on the last flight out and drive to the San Francisco airport. Once there, however, they are joined by neighbors Hamilton and Myrtle Busbee, and therefore cannot identify themselves by their fake names. Their tickets are given to another passenger, and all looks lost until Larry, who knows Hamilton's reputation as a philanderer, privately urges him to give his seat to Kitty in order to join Larry on a "date" with two San Francisco waitresses. In this way, Kitty is able to rush home, but once there, she sees that Jack has already arrived. She asks him if he has read her note, and he nonchalantly replies that he has not yet opened it. Kitty asks Jack to burn the letter, and when she leaves the room, he throws the opened envelope into the fire. Months later, while dancing at a club gathering, Kitty and Larry bid a fond farewell to "Mr. and Mrs. Washington" and happily return to their spouses.
Robert F. Simon
J. Walter Daniels
J. Macmillan Johnson
Hal C. Kern
Charles Lang Jr.
Kenneth A. Reid
Best Costume Design
Best Art Direction
Best Writing, Screenplay
The Facts of Life
Sunday, February 8, 2009 5:30 am ET
Bob Hope described The Facts of Life as "the story of two handicapped people who fall in love. Their handicaps are his wife and her husband." Indeed, the movie finds Hope and Ball falling in love despite the fact that each is married to someone else and the two couples are friends with one another. Attempts to consummate their passion lead only to comic disasters in motels and mountain lodges. Along the way there is plenty of comic philosophizing, and the picture becomes something of a satire on suburban boredom and sexual yearning.
The film began as a 1951 dramatic screenplay by Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, written for William Holden and Olivia de Havilland as an American variation on Brief Encounter (1945). It never came together, and Frank and Panama put their script aside. In 1959 they resurrected it as a comedy intended for Bob Hope, and United Artists came aboard with financing. Hope, Frank and Panama enjoyed a long association over the years. Hope had given the writing-producing-directing duo their big break in 1938 by hiring them to write for his radio show. Soon they had a contract at Paramount, where they made such films as Road to Utopia (1946), for which they were Oscar®-nominated. In the years to come, Frank and Panama would write (and sometimes produce and direct) eight pictures for Hope.
Despite that history, The Facts of Life set was not lacking in creative tension. Hope and Frank fought fiercely over Hope's performance. Frank, who was directing, wanted it to be a more serious and three-dimensional character, and not the usual shtick that Hope was famous for (as in his Road movies). In the end, Frank shot two versions of many scenes, one his way and one Hope's gag-filled way. Frank used mostly his versions in the final edit.
Another problem on set was a rash of freak injuries. Ball fell eight feet in a boating scene and suffered leg and facial bruises, shutting down production for two weeks. Even when she returned, she required heavy makeup to hide her injuries. The next day, Melvin Frank broke his ankle playing golf. A couple of weeks later, actor Don DeFore strained his back. Then a set burned down. And finally Hope injured his finger in a doorjamb. "This film should have been shot at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital," he quipped.
Nonetheless, The Facts of Life came together in the end. The New York Times found it "hilarious," adding, "it is full of thoroughly sparkling repartee and word-gags and sight-gags that crackle with humor and sly intelligence... It is not to be taken too seriously nor too lightly, either."
The Facts of Life received five Academy Award nominations, for Original Story and Screenplay (Panama and Frank), Black-and-White Cinematography (Charles Lang, Jr.), Song ("The Facts of Life" by Johnny Mercer), Black-and-White Art Direction, and Black-and-White Costume Design, winning for the latter. As usual, there was no Oscar nomination for Hope, though he did receive a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor, one of only two such nominations he ever received. He was never nominated for an Academy Award, receiving instead many special Oscars over the years.
Hope joked about this constantly over his many stints as Oscar® host, but the truth is that despite his on-set battles with Frank, Hope felt that The Facts of Life was one of four pictures in his career for which he really did deserve a nomination. The others were Monsieur Beaucaire (1946), The Seven Little Foys (1955) and Beau James (1957). Even though the latter two titles contain some of Hope's most dramatic roles, overall Hope rarely took on straight dramas. In a 1961 interview, Lucille Ball said of her co-star, "Bob just didn't believe in his abilities as a dramatic actor. That was unfortunate because in my humble opinion he could have been a really fine one if he'd believed in himself. He should have branched out, given himself a chance."
The Facts of Life marked the final big-screen role for Ruth Hussey, who thereafter did television and theater work. She died in 2005. The animated main title sequence is by the great Saul Bass, whose credits include Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), West Side Story (1961), and The Age of Innocence (1993).
Producer: Hal C. Kern, Norman Panama
Director: Melvin Frank
Screenplay: Melvin Frank, Norman Panama
Cinematography: Charles Lang
Film Editing: Frank Bracht
Art Direction: Kenneth A. Reid
Music: Leigh Harline
Cast: Bob Hope (Larry Gilbert), Lucille Ball (Kitty Weaver), Ruth Hussey (Mary Gilbert), Don DeFore (Jack Weaver), Louis Nye (Hamilton Busbee), Philip Ober (Doc Mason).
by Jeremy Arnold
The Facts of Life Sunday, February 8, 2009 5:30 am ET
THE ROAD TO HONG KONG, THE FACTS OF LIFE and Other Comedies Are Featured in Bob Hope: MGM Movie Legends Collection
This is plainly visible in the sampling of his films on the DVD set Bob Hope: MGM Movie Legends Collection. Ranging over three decades, the films show Hope in full Hope mode whether he's rushing merrily through some trifling story or trying to heat up a script that somebody should have rethought. His film career started with several shorts in the mid-30s before moving to a few supporting spots and finally graduating to lead roles in 1938's Give Me a Sailor. (He gained a theme song in that February's The Big Broadcast of 1938 and then used it for a film title before the year was out: "Thanks for the Memory".) In 1940 he was teamed with Bing Crosby in Road to Singapore and Hope's place on the silver screen was assured. He consistently found time for a string of starring roles until 1972 and then settled into cameo appearances after that.
The earliest film here, 1943's They Got Me Covered, is also one of the best. Hope plays a hapless reporter in wartime Washington DC who blunders into a spy ring, dragging girlfriend Dorothy Lamour along with him. The film looks like it was shot quickly and has a charming disregard for reality: the Nazi spy base is an improbably large fashion salon and their safe house has--for no apparent reason--Donald Meek who believes he's protecting President Lincoln from the Confederates. But reality hardly matters. Hope is in fine form tossing off sharp gags and standing up to the spies when his first impulse is to flee in panic. Lamour matches him move for move and provides a solid foil for Hope's antics, not just a straight person to play against but a full and smarter partner.
Two more efforts toss Hope into genre films. The Princess and the Pirate (1944) imagines him as one of the world's worst touring actors accidentally captured by pirates and eventually rescuing disguised princess Virginia Mayo. In Alias Jesse James (1959), Hope is a New York insurance agent who unknowingly takes out a life policy on Jesse James and then has to head out West to be sure nothing happens to his client. Among the sagebrush, he gets tangled up with saloon girl Rhonda Fleming. You see the pattern of pairing him against beautiful leading ladies though neither Mayo nor Fleming are up to Lamour's standard, which could be due to the scripts. Both films are lively though Princess is clearly the funnier and more inventive of the two. Western fans will definitely want to see an inspired sequence at the end of Alias Jesse James that can't be revealed here without ruining the gag.
Moving into the 60s, studios seemed to have less idea of what to do with Hope. His comic approach never completely went out of style, just changed forms. Still, it was easy to see Hope as outdated when surrounded by the dissolving studio system, TV's challenges and the new breed of comics (Lenny Bruce, Nichols & May, Bob Newhart). Hope no longer fit into a clear position, something the later films in the set show. Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! (1966) imagines Hope as a bland, devoted family man who gets tangled up with Elke Sommer as a European sex kitten running away from the set of her latest film. Probably envisioned as a classic farce, this is really the type of film whose story would fall completely apart if Hope only revealed to his wife that Sommer was hiding in their cabin. Like many films of the period, it plays at being "naughty" or "free spirited" but is utterly conventional (even Hope's gags are more restrained). At least Phyllis Diller is on hand as an assertive housemaid to spark up the proceedings.
The same faux naughtiness can be seen in 1965's I'll Take Sweden where single father Hope packs teenaged daughter Tuesday Weld off to Sweden to keep her out of the hands of her layabout, quasi-beatnik boyfriend. It's an example of how far out of touch the film is that the layabout boyfriend is Frankie Avalon. There are a few halfhearted moves toward unmarried hankypanky and several jokes at the openness of Swedish romantic life as Sweden drifts among the same realm of supposedly free-spirted farce as Wrong Number. In the end nothing out of the ordinary happens unless you count Avalon's stop-the-story and never-campy-enough songs. The film does close with a classic door-slamming, in-and-out of room sequence but overall is pretty dreary despite the best efforts of Hope and Weld (but almost nobody else).
One highlight of these later years is the seventh and final "Road" film, Road to Hong Kong from 1962. Dorothy Lamour, co-star of the previous films, was replaced by Joan Collins, probably because Collins was two decades younger but also due to a British production company wanting to showcase their own talent. As it turns out, Collins didn't showcase impressively and Lamour's brief cameo appearance proves she was smarter, funnier and simply more attractive. Nevertheless, while Hong Kong is the weakest in the series (the spies and space travel plot was barely enough for a TV skit and has dated badly) it shows why Hope and Crosby were such a good team and doesn't completely deserve its reputation as a stumbling end to the series. The duo's gags come across as actual dialogue rather than bits of something the writers concocted and both create a feeling of relaxed humor that many more aggressive comics would do well to emulate (if they can). Peter Sellers appears as an Indian doctor in a small segment that's a mini-masterpiece of double-talk. The film does have a couple of misguided sequences (one involving a feeding maching in the space capsule is particularly humiliating) and some comments about Asia are a bit dubious today but overall Hope and Crosby still displayed enough charm that you almost wish they could have done one more film.
The anomaly here is 1960's The Facts of Life, Hope's attempt at a more-or-less straight dramatic role. There are still jokes-Hope wasn't about to leap into a void-but this time they come from his character and even bring out criticism from others. Most notably that's Lucille Ball as a friend's wife who can't stand the humorous commentary and good-fellow cheerfulness in a critique, however mild, of Hope's usual persona. During a group vacation to Mexico where most of the group gets waylaid, Hope and Ball follow the Hollywood rule that opposites attract and start an affair. Played mostly straight, The Facts of Life is fairly reliable melodrama with a smear of comedy (one sequence where Hope gets lost among identical motels is clever) but never quite pulls together. The big problem is that Hope either didn't have this type of acting in him or needed more firm guidance from the director. Ball on the other hand is completely plausible as a lonely wife, almost single-handedly keeping the film from feeling by-the-book. Viewed today it's odd to think this gathered five Oscar® nominations, winning one for best black-and-white costume design.
Bob Hope: MGM Movie Legends Collection has each film on a separate disc in a slim clase. There are no extras beyond trailers though a couple of the later films have a choice of full-screen or letterboxed (but none are fully widescreen). The transfers are solid though there are a few moments in The Princess and the Pirate where it appears as if the Technicolor strips were briefly out of registration. Nothing major and a lot of viewers won't even notice. The set On The Road With Bob Hope And Bing Crosby which collects the first four "Road" films is still the best place to see Hope in action but this is a good if uneven follow-up.
For more information about Bob Hope: MGM Movie Legends Collection, visit MGM. To order Bob Hope: The MGM Movie Legends Collection, go to TCM Shopping.
by Lang Thompson
THE ROAD TO HONG KONG, THE FACTS OF LIFE and Other Comedies Are Featured in Bob Hope: MGM Movie Legends Collection
Louis Nye (1913-2005)
Nye was born on May 1, 1913, in Hartford, Connecticut to Russian immigrants. He began his career in theater in his native Hartford before moving to New York City to break into radio. After a stint in the Army during World War II, Nye returned to find a new medium dawning, television. His start was inauspicious, just a few appearances on the Cavalcade of Stars, but little did he realize that when he was picked up for The Steve Allen Show in 1956 that he, along with other talented comedians like Don Knotts, Tom Poston and Bill Dana, were courting stardom. The program was one of the first sketch series to take off on television. It was justly celebrated for the wacky characterizations that the cast invented, and Nye's Gordon Hathaway was no exception. Sure, his take on the country club elite was a touch prissy and effete, but Nye injected Gordon with a raffish charm and child-like sensibilty that never made the character offensive. If anything, Gordon Hathaway was endearing.
His stint on Steve Allen opened up the movie offers, the first of which, the garish Mamie Van Doren vehicle Sex Kittens Go to College (1960), was not exactly a highpoint in cinema comedy, but he soon settled into some good supporting parts in a slew of films: The Facts of Life (1960), The Last Time I Saw Archie (his best film role, a terrrific comic foil for Robert Mitchum, 1961), The Wheeler Dealers, Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (both 1963), Good Neighbor Sam (another great part as an inept detective, 1964), and A Guide for the Married Man (1967).
Nye's career cooled in the '70s, with an occasional television appearance (Laverne & Shirley, Fantasy Island) and mediocre flicks (Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), Harper Valley P.T.A. (1978). Eventually, he found solace in voice work for many animated shows, the most popular of them being his long run on Inspector Gadget (1985-99). Still, just when you thought he was out of the limelight, he returned as a semi-regular in the critically acclaimed HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm where for two seasons (2000-2002), he was hilarious as comic Jeff Garlin's sardonic father. Give Mr. Nye his due, he left the stage near the top of his game. He is survived by his wife, Anita; and a son, Peter.
by Michael T. Toole
Louis Nye (1913-2005)
The film begins with the names and pictures of Bob Hope, then Lucille Ball, then the title credit, followed by a brief sequence in which Ball, as "Kitty Weaver," wonders in voice-over about the events that led her to embark on an affair with her friend's husband. Then the animated credit sequence, designed by Saul Bass, plays to the title song. Voice-over narration by Ball continues sporadically throughout the film. Although Wally Harton is typically credited as a costumer, in the onscreen credits he is listed with the makeup and hair credits.
According to a December 1960 Los Angeles Examiner article, producing-directing-writing team Norman Panama and Melvin Frank conceived of the story for The Facts of Life in 1951. At that point, they wrote the story as a drama, and considered James Stewart and Olivia de Havilland to co-star. Unsatisfied with the script, however, they put it aside, and upon unearthing it in 1959, rewrote it as a comedy. After interesting Hope and Ball in the project, the Los Angeles Examiner article adds, they secured the financing from United Artists.
The Facts of Life marked the twenty-third of twenty-six films written by Panama and Frank, and the third of four features to co-star Ball and Hope. According to a May 23, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item, Frank shot one unit at Desilu, while Panama shot the other on location in San Francisco and Monterey, CA. On July 5, 1960, Hollywood Reporter noted that Ball had fallen on the set and seriously bruised her leg and face. As a result, production shut down for two weeks, resuming on 18 Jul. Several other on-set mishaps occurred, as noted in an August 1960 Newsweek article: Hope hurt his finger, Frank sprained his ankle, Don DeFore injured his back and was placed in traction, and a set caught on fire. A New York Times article quoted Hope's quip that "This film should have been shot at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital."
Hollywood Reporter news items add the following actors to the cast: Karl Lucas, Norman Leavitt, Billy Booth, Leon Alton, Pryor Bowen, George Ford, Katie Regan, Frank Edwards, Hal Taggart, Dorothy Abbott, Ruth Tannen, King Lockwood, Earl Brindle, Eddie Baker, Steve Carruthers, Christine Christian, Ricky Kelman, Mickey Sholdar, Elizabeth Fraser, Ed Allen, Rudy Germane, Renita Reachi, Sally Yarnell, Mary Barnes, Beryl McCutcheon, Joe Roach, Bob Jellison, Carol Sandifer, Steve Slingsby, Larry Mancine, Maxime Seamon, Robert Hernandez, Luis Delgado, Hans Moebus, Bernie Sell, June Jay, Coco Morris, Vickie Vann, Snub Pollard, George Bruggeman, Dick Cherney, Hadley Gray, Maxime Taylor and Audrey Allen. However, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. In addition, modern sources add Bernard Fein, Hazel Pierce, Jeffrey Sayre and Bert Stevens. The Facts of Life marked the final feature film appearance of Ruth Hussey (1911-2005), who continued to act on television for many years.
Reviews for the film were mixed. According to the New York Times critic, The Facts of Life was "a grandly good-natured picture, full of sparkling repartee and word-gags and sight-gags that crackle with humor and sly intelligence." The New Yorker, however, stated that the film marked "the latest and possibly the most vulgar model of the Hollywood sex comedy." Edith Head and Edward Stevenson won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design for the picture; other nominations included Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (J. MacMillan Johnson, Kenneth A. Reid and Ross Dowd), Best Cinematography (Charles Lang), Best Original Song (Johnny Mercer) and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay (Panama and Frank). Panama and Frank were also nominated for the Writers Guild of America award for Best Written American Comedy.
The Facts of Life was broadcast on ABC-TV on October 6, 1964, but the next day, Daily Variety reported that Bob Hope Enterprises and Lubar Productions had petitioned the court to keep the film from been shown again. The original contract with United Artists had stipulated that the film should not be shown on television until 1966. The disposition of the suit is not known.
Released in United States Winter December 1960
Released in United States Winter December 1960
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1961 New York Times Film Critics.