Cast & Crew
Francis Ford Coppola
Bernard Chanticleer, a 19-year-old virgin, works as a roller-skating stack boy in the New York Public Library. His mother, Margery, dotes on him and tries to spoil him, while his father, I. H., the library's curator of rare books, is in a hurry to see his son grow up. Bernard, however, is happy only with his dog, Rover, whom he calls "Dog" against his parents' wishes. To become more independent Bernard moves into a roominghouse run by the eccentric Miss Thing, but opportunity for romance is restricted by a woman-hating rooster who guards the premises and refuses to allow any females to pass. One night Bernard goes to a Greenwich Village discotheque with two library employees: Raef, who has had considerable experience with sex and drugs, and the pretty Amy, who soon develops a crush on him. Bernard, however, is more captivated by Barbara Darling, an actress who works as the nightclub's go-go dancer. Having once been assaulted by a wooden-legged albino hypnotherapist, Barbara is a confirmed man-hater who occupies her time in a crazily decorated apartment dictating her memoirs to Richard Mudd, a dwarf. After sending Barbara a love letter, Bernard spends a disastrous night with her, and upon returning to her apartment the next day, he finds that Raef has moved in with her. Filled with despair, he goes to his father's office, steals the library's Gutenberg Bible, and runs into the street with nearly all involved in pursuit. Bernard is cornered in a department store and arrested, but Amy, accompanied by "Dog," brings him bail money and offers all her love. Revitalized, Bernard joins her in a carefree fling through Manhattan.
Francis Ford Coppola
Len De Carl
Theoni V. Aldredge
Francis Ford Coppola
John Vliet Lindsay
New York Public Library
Best Supporting Actress
You're a Big Boy Now
A basic plot description of You're a Big Boy Now might sound like another clichéd "coming of age" movie about a young innocent learning about life and love in New York City but Coppola transforms the story into a contemporary screwball comedy with touches of bittersweet romance and audacious visual pyrotechnics (from the long opening tracking shot through the reading room of the New York Public Library to a madcap chase through Macy's department store shot during store hours amid the surprised shoppers).
The project was first suggested to him by up and coming actor Tony Bill (Come Blow Your Horn, 1963), who was a fan of the original novel, written by David Benedictus. Coppola optioned the rights to the novel and began writing the screenplay adaptation of You're a Big Boy Now while he was on location in Europe for Seven Arts, collaborating with Gore Vidal and several other writers on the script for the big budget war epic, Is Paris Burning? (1966).
Independent producer Phil Feldman, a former business manager at Seven Arts, which was now merging with Warner Bros., recognized Coppola's immense talent and negotiated a deal for the young filmmaker. Seven Arts would pay Coppola $8,000 to direct You're a Big Boy Now on a twenty-nine day shooting schedule but he would receive no fee for the screenplay since he had written it on company time during his paid stint on Is Paris Burning?. Coppola rose to the challenge and was so excited to be making his own movie that he later admitted, "I would have done it for nothing."
First, Coppola changed the original premise of David Benedictus's novel, dropping the London setting and making the protagonist, Bernard Chanticleer, a stack boy at the New York Public Library instead of a shoe clerk. The entire focus of the movie becomes Bernard's attempt to break away from his overbearing parents and make a life for himself in Manhattan. This is a struggle because Bernard is shy, unassertive and completely naive in the ways of the world and it doesn't help that his egocentric father, I.H., the library's rare book curator, undermines his confidence on the job. Even moving into his own place is inhibiting because his nosy landlady agrees to spy on him and report any "female" activity to his mom. While the adults and authority figures in Bernard's life seem monstrous and controlling, his peers are often as alienating, offering him bad advice and competing with him under the guise of friendship. The fact that all of this is played as a theatre-of-the-absurd farce separates it from other generation gap/coming of age movies during the 1960s.
Even though Tony Bill was hoping to play the title role of Bernard, Coppola offered him a supporting role instead and cast newcomer Peter Kastner in the lead (The Canadian actor had recently won critical acclaim for his performance in his debut film, Nobody Waved Goodbye ). He also hired Karen Black (in her first major part) to play Amy, Bernard's adoring co-worker, and managed to convince such established, well-known actors as Geraldine Page, Rip Torn and Julie Harris to accept reduced salaries (he bypassed their agents and contacted them directly). Coppola's clever screenplay was part of the appeal; Geraldine Page admitted at the time, "I get scripts daily, but this one really made me laugh."
The real casting surprise of You're a Big Boy Now, however, was Elizabeth Hartman in the provocative role of Barbara Darling, a castrating, narcissistic actress with schizophrenic tendencies. Hartman's two previous films, A Patch of Blue (1965) and The Group (1966), depicted her as delicate, overly sensitive characters but Hartman creates an indelible impression here as a sexy but cruel femme fatale who moonlights as a go-go dancer in a nightclub.
Among the many obstacles Coppola encountered during the making of You're a Big Boy Now was the refusal of officials at the New York Public Library to allow filming on the premises. They felt the movie crew would upset the daily routine of staff workers as well as public visitors but took greater offense at the suggestion that the library housed a secret vault stocked with suggestive objects d'art and erotica; in the film, Rip Torn plays Bernard's father, I.H., the library's self-important rare book curator who relishes his "private collection." With the help of Mayor John Lindsay, Coppola was able to overrule the library board's veto and secure a shooting permit.
Although You're a Big Boy Now was in production at the same time as Mike Nichols' The Graduate (1967), the latter was released first and when Coppola's film came along later, it was often unfairly lumped with other imitators trying to capitalize on the success of that megahit. Roger Ebert pointed out that "The Graduate is, of course, the masterpiece of the genre. But You're a Big Boy Now is more amusing than 17 [a Danish coming-of-age film] and half a length better than the miserable Benjamin [a French costume drama about a young's man initiation into sex]."
According to Coppola, The Graduate was not even on his radar when he was preparing You're a Big Boy Now. "By the time I got to make it," he recalled, "I didn't know whether I wanted to make it anymore. Because one of the great pities was that I had written You're a Big Boy Now before Dick Lester's The Knack  came out and yet everyone said it was a copy. It was definitely influenced by A Hard Day's Night . But it was all there already before I even saw A Hard Day's Night. One of the troubles of the film business is that you're always sort of forced to do things three years later, like with Big Boy."
While Coppola confessed to watching You're a Big Boy Now in recent years and hating it, one can't help but be impressed with the movie's playful, freewheeling approach and willingness to experiment with a variety of stylistic devices, many of which succeed brilliantly from musical montage to overlapping dialogue to rapid editing effects to a psychedelic nightclub sequence. "You're a Big Boy Now is a flashy movie to some extent," Coppola admitted. "I have since been more subtle than that. But flashy films do attract attention, and that was what I wanted to do when I was making my first film for a studio."
In spite of Coppola's own opinion of the film, You're a Big Boy Now was chosen as the only U.S. entry to the Cannes film festival in 1967 where it was nominated for a Palm d'Or. It also garnered a surprise Best Supporting Actress Oscar® nomination for Geraldine Page as Bernard's neurotic, overbearing mom. Even if the film is uneven, swinging between broad caricature and offbeat whimsicality, it provides many moments of pure pleasure with its time capsule portrait of New York City in the mid-sixties (the music score by Robert Prince and featuring songs by The Lovin' Spoonful may be a matter of taste for some) and a wickedly funny, scene stealing performance by Elizabeth Hartman in the most atypical role of her too brief career (she committed suicide in 1987). Best of all, You're a Big Boy Now was an impressive enough calling card for Coppola that the Hollywood studios took notice. Warner Bros. offered him another directing job, the big budget musical, Finian's Rainbow  and 20th-Century-Fox employed him as screenwriter on their 1970 film biography, Patton.
Producer: Phil Feldman
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Screenplay: Francis Ford Coppola (written for the screen by); David Benedictus (novel)
Cinematography: Andrew Laszlo
Art Direction: Vassele Fotopoulos
Music: Robert Prince
Film Editing: Aram Avakian
Cast: Elizabeth Hartman (Barbara Darling), Geraldine Page (Margery Chanticleer), Peter Kastner (Bernard Chanticleer), Rip Torn (I.H. Chanticleer), Michael Dunn (Richard Mudd), Tony Bill (Raef del Grado), Julie Harris (Miss Nora Thing), Karen Black (Amy Partlett), Dolph Sweet (Patrolman Francis Graf), Michael O'Sullivan (Kurt Dougherty The Albino Hypnotherpist).
by Jeff Stafford
Francis Ford Coppola: Interviews edited by Gene D. Phillips & Rodney Hill (University Press of Mississippi)
Godfather" The Intimate Francis Ford Coppola by Gene D. Phillips (University Press of Kentucky)
The New York Times
You're a Big Boy Now
Remember my promise: If you don't smoke until you're 21, I'll give you a special no-smoking present. Say goodbye to Rover, he's heartbroken.- Margery Chanticleer
Goodbye, Dog.- Bernard Chanticleer
Don't eat too much, don't stay out too late, don't go to suspicious places to play cards, and stay away from girls. But most of all, Bernard, try to be happy.- Margery Chanticleer
Whammo!- I. H. Chanticleer
Oh, don't you think it's very odd, That we should kneel and pray to god, When by all accounts, we might, Send our problems up by kite!- Raef Del Grado
Last week I was 19. Today I'm 42. If I had an eggshell for every day I'd spent alone, I'd have a lot of eggshells.- Miss Thing
Margery, your lint is settling on the Guttenberg Bible.- I. H. Chanticleer
Aw, to hell with you're Guttenberg Bible. I hate your Guttenberg Bible!- Bernard Chanticleer
The nightclub has scenes from Dementia 13 (1963) (also directed by Francis Coppola) projected onto the wall.
Location scenes filmed in New York City.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1966
Film also served as part of Coppola's Master's Thesis at UCLA.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1966