Cast & Crew
Mamie Van Doren
The Collins College's state-of-the-art computer, Sequential Auxiliary Modulator (S.A.M.) or Thinko, has searched databases for the perfect new science department head. With a photographic memory, thirteen college degrees and fluency in eighteen languages, Dr. Mathilda West sounds like the perfect candidate; however, when the welcoming committee meet her at the train station, they are shocked by her buxom figure and platinum blonde hair, having expected a studious professional. Dr. West is so stunning that football team captain Woo Woo Grabowski faints, while college dean Dr. Myrtle Carter believes West's inappropriate appearance will jeopardize their research support from the McPherson family. Much to Carter's chagrin, her boyfriend, public relations director George Barton, and Thinko's creator, Dr. Ernest Zorch, are both smitten with the young woman. Meanwhile, French exchange student and aspiring researcher Suzanne spots gangster Legs Raffertino and his oafish sidekick Boomie exit the train and insists that she interview them for her book on the sex lives of American men. Although their interest is piqued, the men are on a mission to find "Sam Thinko," whom they assume to be a bookie who has been stealing from their boss. Later, college student Jody cuts her bra strap to convince Woo Woo, with whom she is in love, to loan her his fraternity pin to mend it. Although he consents, Woo Woo almost faints when she asks for a kiss and then tells her that she is only his "buddy." Just before West's first class, a jealous Carter sets loose chimpanzee Abraham Q. Voltaire onstage to ensure his antics distract from the lecture. West easily wins the students' attention, though, as she shoots pistols on stage to demonstrate the applied psychology notion of fear. Later, Woo Woo has a therapy session with West to resolve his fear of women, but when she asks about his fantasies, he warns her that his thoughts involve an affair with her. Soon after, science professors Towers and Watts, anxious to flirt with West, invite her to a "meeting" at the Passion Pit nightclub that evening. Meanwhile, Legs and Boomie, disguised in college letter sweaters, find Zorch at the computer lab, accuse him of being "Sam" and "muscling in" on their boss's operation, then knock him out. Later on the football field, West's presence as a spectator is such a distraction that Woo Woo misses a pass and Barton suggests that West stay away from the players for the sake of the game. Meanwhile, Jody jealously calls West a menace and tells her that she loves Woo Woo, but cannot compete with the sexy professor. That night at the Passion Pit, while Watts and Towers are entertaining West, Suzanne, the club's photographer, loans Carter her sexy work clothes as a disguise so that the dean can spy on benefactor Adm. Wildcat McPherson and Barton, who are also meeting there. As Suzanne pursues Legs for a rendezvous to report, Carter becomes entangled with the camera straps and accidentally ties herself up with Boomie. Meanwhile, Zorch tells Barton about Thinko's latest confusing printouts showing the next three winners of the Kentucky Derby. Soon after, Barton brings McPherson to the club, where the boisterous man mistakes West for Watt's wife. Having researched West's past, Barton secretly confronts her about her previous life as the "Tallahassee Tassle Tosser," a striptease dancer. Angered by Barton's insinuation that she cannot teach because of her past, West introduces herself to the rest of the men as the Tallahassee Tassle Tosser, a title McPherson eagerly recognizes. Using one of her old stage tricks, West then hypnotizes Watts, Towers, McPherson and Zorch with a pocket watch and orders them to mimic her as she performs a striptease dance for the club crowd and then hits Barton over the head with a conga drum. Meanwhile, Carter accidentally fires Boomie's machine gun, alerting the police, who arrest McPherson for exhibitionism. Later at the Thinko lab, West apologizes to Barton and explains that she used her photographic memory, a gift she discovered while performing a mind-reading act, to become a teacher, the noblest of professions. Her good intentions only serve to intensify Barton's crush on West, who demurely returns his loving gaze. Suddenly, Legs and Boomie enter the lab looking for the gambling mastermind. Zorch remembers that he tested Thinko on gambling, but still cannot explain the bets. As Thinko prints out his latest wins in horse racing, the Mexican national lottery and Pan Arab bingo games, a Mexican bookie, an Arab bookie and Bullets, a Mafia bookie, arrive to stop "Sam's" racket. Chaos ensues as a fistfight breaks out between the bookies, professors and students. Woo Woo, having been prescribed monitored sleep by West, enters the room sleepwalking and flips Thinko's switches until the machine smokes and begins to break down. After waking, Woo Woo explains that he was subconsciously placing bets while sleepwalking, resulting in a series of wins disrupting the other bookie's operations. After using her ingenious skills to help repair Thinko, West resigns herself to returning to her dancing profession. In the meantime, Woo Woo and Jody decide to marry and leave town in a new convertible, purchased with his huge gambling wins. Carter dyes her blonde and exchanges her suits for a sexy wardrobe to snare McPherson, who asks her to marry him. Freed from Carter, Barton steals a fire engine and rushes to the train station, where he proposes to West, who eagerly accepts.
Mamie Van Doren
Woo Woo Grabowski
Charles Chaplin Jr.
Harold Llyod Jr.
Jose Gonzalez Gonzalez
Noel De Souza
Fred Harpman Jr.
John Scott Maitland
Sex Kittens Go to College
Over the objections of U-I executives, Zugsmith cast Van Doren in the equivalent of the Grace Kelly role in Star in the Dust (1956), the studio's answer to High Noon (1952). The pair would make seven pictures together, albeit mostly away from Universal City. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had hired Zugsmith to produce a series of films catering to the tastes of teenaged moviegoers. First out of the gate was High School Confidential! (1958), with Van Doren contributing little more than an alluring cameo as protagonist Russ Tamblyn's highly inappropriate aunt. By the mid-Fifties, the predatory Hollywood gossip mag Confidential had accrued such a compellingly nasty reputation even in Middle America that producers began to cash in on the brand, resulting in such films as Phil Karlson's Kansas City Confidential (1952), Russell Rouse's New York Confidential (1955), and Sidney Salkow's Chicago Confidential (1957). Zugsmith chased High School Confidential with College Confidential (1960) and capped the academic trilogy with Sex Kittens Go to College (1960), both of which elevated Van Doren from special effect to star of the show.
Though it was released third, Sex Kittens Go to College was the second school-set film for Zugsmith and Van Doren, shot in November and December 1959 but vaulted for almost a year before being sent out to cinemas in October 1960, two months after College Confidential. The film had undergone a number of title changes, from Sexpot Goes to College to Teacher Versus Sexpot to Teacher Was a Sexpot, before Zugsmith and MGM compromised with the less salacious term "sex kitten." (The film would undergo yet another title change for television syndication, to The Beauty and the Robot.) Taking a tip from Howard Hawks' Ball of Fire (1941), the film posits Van Doren as Dr. Mathilda West, a stripper turned scholar who crashes the groves of academe as the newly-hired head of Collins College's science department. Her curvy corporeality a distraction to the student body, West is snubbed by the college deans but her insight into human psychology allows her to bewitch male colleagues John Carradine and Louis Nye, win the heart of public relations director Martin Milner, and save the school from gangsters Mickey Shaughnessy and Allan Drake, who want the school's master-computer THINKO to find them racetrack winners.
With its focus on teen hormones, organized crime, and weird science, Sex Kittens Go to College anticipated American International Pictures' Beach Party franchise (Annette Funicello would play a sexy biology prof in Ski Party in 1965) and Disney's Medfield College comedies (particularly 1969's The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes). Scripted by Zugsmith and Robert Hill, the film feels improvisational in execution and more than a little half-assed but one would have to have a heart of stone to be left unmoved by its Psychotronic excesses. In addition to the talent already mentioned, Tuesday Weld turns up in an early role (Weld was often seen around Hollywood riding bitch on the back of Van Doren's Vespa), as does Brigitte Bardot's kid sister Mijanou, country singer Conway Twitty, Jackie Coogan, Los Angeles TV horror hostess Vampira, the Westinghouse robot Elektro from the 1939 World's Fair, and the sons of Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. Zugsmith's oddest casting coup was hiring nightclub comic Allan Drake to play the gangster Legs Raffertino less than a month after Drake's wife, former Miss New Jersey Janice Hansen, was murdered in New York in the company of Genovese crime family caporegime Anthony "Little Augie" Carfano.
Conceived to divert the in-crowd out for kicks and entirely unconcerned with critical approbation, Sex Kittens Go to College fared poorly with critics. The film's dismal reputation followed it through the decades, with Leonard Maltin declaring it "shockingly unfunny" and All Movie Guide's Hal Erikson branding it "garbage." Zugsmith would complete one more film in conjunction with a major studio - The Private Life of Adam and Eve (1960) - before going rogue with the comic strip spinoff Dondi (1961) starring a pre-Fugitive David Janssen and Confessions of an Opium Eater (1962) starring Vincent Price, both distributed via Allied Artists. The maverick independent hired on to direct select scenes for the international co-production Dog Eat Dog (1964), starring Mamie Van Doren's bombshell rival Jayne Mansfield, and capped his picaresque career with a diversion into soft core pornography. He co-produced Russ Meyer's Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1964) before testing the waters with his own The Incredible Sex Revolution (1965), Psychedelic Sexualis (1966), and The Very Friendly Neighbors (aka The Outrageous, Un-Believable, Mechanical Love Machine, 1969). Zugsmith's final film was the grade-Z rape revenge tale Violated! (1974), starring hardcore porn actress Rene Bond.
By Richard Harland Smith
Playing the Field: Sex, Stardom, Love, and Life in Hollywood by Mamie van Doren (Starlet Suave Books, 2013)
Atomic Blonde: The Films of Mamie Van Doren by Barry Lowe (McFarland and Company, 2008)
"Albert Zugsmith's Opium Dreams" by C. Jerry Kutner, Bright Lights Film Journal, no. 20, November 1997
The Movies Go to College: Hollywood and the World of the College-Life Film by Wiley Lee Umphlett (Farleigh Dickinson University, 1984)
Engulfed: The Death of Paramount Pictures and the Birth of Corporate Hollywood by Bernard F. Dick (University of Kentucky, 2001)
Russ Meyer: The Life and Films by David K. Frasier (McFarland & Company, Inc., 1997)
Sex Kittens Go to College
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)
...which confirms the theory of relativity.- Dr. West
I'm so far out already, I'm on another planet.- Dr. West
The working titles for the film were Sexpot Goes to College, Teacher Versus Sexpot and Teacher Was a Sexpot. The CBCS refers to the actress known as Vampira by her real name, Maila Nurmi. According to a December 2, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, Aram Katcher, who was to play the role of "Dr. Ernest Zorch," quit the production and was replaced by Louis Nye.
Sex Kittens Go to College was the American film debut for Mijanou Bardot, sister of French film star Brigitte Bardot. Although the film included several songs by Conway Twitty, none of the titles have been verified. Albert Zugsmith also directed, produced and wrote a similar college romp in 1960 entitled College Confidential, which shared some of the same cast, including Mamie Van Doren, Mickey Shaughnessy, Woo Woo Grabowski, Pamela Mason, Arline Hunter and singer Conway Twitty (see entry above).
Released in United States Summer August 1960
Released in United States Summer August 1960