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  • If you are the sort of person looking for a realistic film or one with a strong and believable plot, then this film is NOT for you. Nope--you'll hate it. However, for those who like sweet, slightly screwball comedies, then you'll have a nice time watching this slight film.

    Tony Randall works for the IRS and he investigates a very nice farmer who never realized he needed to file an income tax return. However hard he tries to convince them of the seriousness of his visit, everyone in the family is thrilled to have company. They dote on him and treat him like one of the family,...and have plans on getting him hitched to their daughter, Debbie Reynolds. That's really about all the plot there is. But the film gets high marks for a fun script and decent acting. A really nice little curio from the late 1950s.
  • In the 1950s and 1960s, Americans especially were more concerned about taxes than at any other time. At least, that's what Hollywood might lead one to believe, based on the number of films it turned out in those years with tax-related themes. Of course, we should be concerned about taxes. But, comedies such as "The Mating Game" helped put taxes into perspective. Toss in doses of romance, good-naturedness, neighborliness, friendships, and resentment and greedy wealth, and one has the makings of an entertaining and funny movie.

    This film is an American version of the Larkin family. It's based on a 1958 short novel, "The Darling Buds of May," by British author H.E. (Herbert) Bates. In the book, the Larkins reside in rural Kent, the southeastern most county in England. Canterbury is located there. Yorkshire Television produced a TV series that ran from 1991 through 1993 in England under the original name of the book. This American adaptation made significant changes, mostly to accommodate for the culture differences. So, the setting here is in rural western Maryland. Apparently it was all shot in the MGM studios in California.

    All the cast are excellent in this farcical story. Another reviewer thought Tony Randall was miscast as Lorenzo Charlton, but I agree with others who saw him as the perfect reticent and reluctant object of romance for Debbie Reynolds' Mariette Larkin. The two ogres in this film are played by Fred Clark (as Oliver Kelsey) and Philip Ober (as Wendell Burnshaw). They were a couple of the best character actor villains in those days. The chasing scenes involving Mariette are a lot of fun, and the exchanges with Lorenzo over taxes are very funny. But two actors stand out – Paul Douglas and Una Merkel as Pop and Ma Larkin. They steal every scene in which they appear.

    This was indeed a fine performance by Douglas, who often played tough guy roles or serious parts in films. It was his last film. Douglas died a few months after this film came out. He suffered a heart attack at age 52.

    People who want all the details of movies to make sense or to be realistic may not enjoy this film. But those who love comedy will get many smiles and laughs from "The Mating Game."
  • Energetic romp overseen by that veteran of slapstick George Marshall. This is not his best, but he does keep things moving. Enjoyable for the most part if you can get past owlish Tony Randall as the answer to a maiden's dream (Debbie Reynold's). He certainly looks the part of an IRS collections tiger, but it's a stretch in the romance department. Lots of barnyard innuendo as earthy farmer Paul Douglas and his obstreperous family manage a living outside the money economy. He barters things in shrewd fashion, while enjoying life's simple pleasures. That is, until snobby neighbor neighbor Philip Ober sics the IRS on him in an attempt to grab his property after Douglas refuses to sell.

    Really clever premise, with a provocative subtext that pits the older agrarian way of life against the modern complexities. Bureaucrat Randall must collect a lifetime of back taxes from throw-back Douglas who, of course, has never dealt in money. But Randall, all officiousness, has never encountered the likes of the artful farmer and his bursting-with-life family that keep him perpetually off-balance. At the same time, comely daughter Reynolds works her wiles in typical spirited fashion. Some funny set-ups, especially when the barnyard critters turn on the hapless bureaucrat.

    However, some of the slapstick goes on too long for my liking, suggesting that Marshall is indeed past his prime. Nonetheless, Douglas is near perfect as the good-natured hick, while Reynolds manages the spunk without too much excess. Look for outlaw biker Bill Smith as a muscle-bound rowdy, and of course the great Fred Clark in one of his typical bah-humbug roles. All in all, there are some genuine guffaws, but in some ways the movie is more interesting than anything else. Come to think of it, comedy aside, the movie can be viewed as a must-include at any hippie or Libertarian film retrospective.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I have always liked this comedy as one of the few ever seriously trying to deal with the U.S. Government's yearly demand for taxes. Ever read a tax code?: it is quite a trial to follow it's multiple clauses that our congressmen and senators push in to help their financial backers and various interest groups. Despite claims that it is fair, the tax code has always laid the lion share of the burden on the middle and working classes rather than the rich and influential. Most of the various special clauses are meant for their use - go through the average 1040 or 1040A form and look at the variety of different investment and business ventures all of which have a different set of rules. Most people will never have any use for these.

    The story here is that a wealthy landowner (Philip Ober) uses his influence to tip off the IRS that his neighbors (Paul Douglas and Una Merkle) have not payed taxes in 20 years. The Baltimore office of the IRS is under Fred Clarke, and he is snapping to attention for Ober with his influence. He sends Tony Randall to check out the situation.

    Randall finds that Douglas, Merkle, and their three girls and two boys are pretty decent people, who rarely have need for cash (they get along on their farm produce and barter with their neighbors). But Randall, trained in the clear (to the IRS) lines of the tax code tries to pin down the family to fundamentals. But gradually Douglas notes that Reynolds is fond of Randall, and he keeps sidetracking Randall from his chore, eventually getting him drunk. He also makes it difficult for Randall to leave by having the motor of his car removed "for repairs" by his two sons.

    The plot follows the growing attraction and frictions between urban, vaguely ambitious Randall, and countryside, life loving Reynolds. They make a cute couple actually. Eventually, after Ober complains, Randall is sent back in disgrace and Clarke (a tougher cookie) gets down to brass tacks. And comes up with a very large tax bill, that will possibly ruin Douglas's family.

    The film does not end there - it does end happily, but it does remind us that the power to tax is the power to destroy, and that the Government does, all too frequently, go in for destruction. A chance in a million reversal saves the family, but it is so rare that we know it is just a dramatic trick. More realistic is how Clarke's boss, (Charles Lane) cuts to the essence regarding Ober's "help" by suggesting that next year his taxes will be looked at more carefully. After that Ober is rather green.
  • thecob-124 February 2006
    Excellent farce! Which, of course, is all it is intended to be. Thankfully there is neither a social or political message, nor is there the slightest attempt in that direction. Could the plot actually take, or have taken place in any particular time or location? Unlikely, for, after all, this is simply, merely, a movie, and movies spring from imagination, not from reality. The only goal of this movie is to entertain, certainly not to educate, and entertain it does, with reality delightfully and lightheartedly tossed to the winds. I think most would agree that from documentaries we expect enlightenment and authenticity. But for entertainment I want what is nowadays described as a "no-brainer," which The Mating Game is in all respects. For a few chuckles and an outright laugh now and then, this is fine fare fantasy.
  • I saw this movie in 1959 when I was 11 years old at a drive-in theater with my family.

    Way back then, I thought it was very funny . . . even though I was too young to understand 90% of what makes this marvelous movie such a delight! I saw it again this morning on "Turner South". As I watched it, I was absolutely convulsed with laughter! "The Mating Game" is a unique classic from a by-gone age. If you're too young to have experienced the enchanting period in history that produced this film, I feel very sorry for you. There's no way you can watch movies like this and understand how they can (even today) deliver such a delightful slice of heaven to "old timers" like me.

    Having said that, all I can do is respectfully request that younger people refrain from commenting on films like "The Mating Game".

    Movies like this were made for the generation that preceded the current group of your people. And as such, these films speak a very different language than any of you can understand.

    In other words – if you don't understand the issues the film is addressing, please don't embarrass yourself by offering comments which – frankly – make no sense.
  • Mating Game is a charming, wonderful movie from an era gone by. Hollywood needs to consider a charming remake of this movie. My wife and I would go see it.

    It is an excellent romantic comedy that my wife and I watched on AMC.

    This movie has Tony Randall at his best. Debbie Reynolds is great, as always.

    Loved it. We plan on ordering on DVD to add to our growing collection of movies.

    Too bad Hollywood does not make movies like this anymore.

    Hey Hollywood....time to dig some of these type of scripts out of the old safe, update them a bit (without spoiling the original movie and script as you have done with other remakes), and hold a casting call.

    A remake would be a big hit on the silver screen, DVD, and on cable/SATTV.

    SN Austin, TX
  • Warning: Spoilers
    If you watch this movie and then watch the first episode of the much later, and very beloved, British TV series "The Darling Buds of May" starring David Jason and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and which made her a star in the UK, you will be struck with a feeling of having seen this before. That wonderful series is about the Larkin family, as is this movie, taken from stories by British author H.E. Bates. I knew it as soon as I heard the name 'Larkin'. For those whose reviews center on the IRS and whether or not the movie is realistic versus American tax law, be aware it was originally written in relation to British law and may just suffer from poor translation. The author's works were also used for movies such as David Lean's "Summertime", 1955, with Katherine Hepburn; and "The Purple Plain", 1954, with Gregory Peck. At any rate this is still an enjoyable movie, and as it turns out, was Douglas' last movie.
  • Rambunctious Debbie Reynolds (as Mariette Larkin) gets the urge to mate with tax collector Tony Randall (as Lorenzo Charlton). And, he wants to mate with her! - How? - Well, farming father Paul Douglas (as Sidney "Pa" Larkin) doesn't pay taxes; he trades things, and raises piglets. Maryland "Ma" Una Merkel raises children, and bakes blueberry pies. Ms. Reynolds rides a pig into wealthy neighbor Philip Ober (as Wendell Burnshaw)'s mansion, prompting Mr. Ober to summon Mr. Randall from the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). Will Randall collect taxes, Reynolds, or both?

    Reynolds and Randall are not a very convincing romantic couple. They should have considered casting, perhaps, Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue. Randall dances a drunken melody of "Frère Jacques" / "I've Got You Under My Skin". This is followed by an impossibly implausible (even for this type of film) implied sex scene, with Reynolds. Director George Marshall gives it an appropriate feature-length "sit-com" treatment; but, the material makes the increasing slapstick more painful than funny (witness the "barn" fight scene). The supporting cast, with its old pros and fresh faces, is a treasure trove, however.

    ***** The Mating Game (4/29/59) George Marshall ~ Debbie Reynolds, Tony Randall, Paul Douglas, Una Merkel
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Young mother Debbie Reynolds with 2 kids under 5 still looks plenty energetic to play the daughter of a farm couple in trouble with the IRS. While Tony Randall was already 39. 12 years older than Reynolds, the age difference does not look that great here.

    When you add veteran actor Paul Douglas, and character actors Fred Clark and Charles Lane to a good supporting cast you get a fun comedy. Randall is the evil IRS agent auditing the farm family because they have not filed taxes in 20 years and owe the IRS big time. The plot while a little thin holds enough to make it a decent picture.

    The happy ending is here, as the couple winds up 14 million ahead when all is set and done and gives it back to the Government. Somehow it works out quite well and Reynolds looks great.
  • The Mating Game's plot is based entirely on the premise that in the mid 20th century, a family could live on the barter system and hence not come up on anyone's radar including the IRS. It was forced then, but in today's computer world with the increasing use of credit cards, it would be impossible to make.

    Yet that is what we are to believe about the Larkin clan led by Paul Douglas and Una Merkel and their five kids, oldest being Debbie Reynolds who dusts off her Tammy character for this film. A neighbor, Philip Ober, who is a little tired of the Larkin's Tobacco Road ways, has finally ratted them out to the IRS and Tony Randall's been sent to investigate the situation.

    The rest of the film is about the Larkin income tax situation and how everything is ultimately resolved in the end. The best scenes in the movie involve Tony Randall getting smashed on some of the Larkin's concocted schnapps.

    Unfortunately in order to make this work it would have to have been set maybe at the turn of the 20th century. Had they done so, the situations might have been believable. For instance, the Larkins have a television. I'd love to know just what they would have offered in barter every month for the electric bill. Or how did they manage to pay the phone bill.
  • This is an American version of British novels that were later made into a Brit-com called Darling Buds of May (starring David Jason and Catherine Zeta-Jones). The TV series was set in late 1950s Kent. In the original there was no lack of cash. It was the free-floating cash that got up the nose of the Inland Revenue (like the IRS). Pop Larkin (names were mostly unchanged) was always buying and selling, paid cash for everything. It would be possible today - ebay, auction sellers, yard buyers and sellers alike are "under the radar". They weren't living cashless, just creditless. Drinking was actually played down in the American version. The most unbelievable part of the British series was the non-stop imbibing, with contests to come up with the most potent drinks, yet no one got drunk - except Charley, the revenuer.
  • tedg26 August 2005
    I saw this together with "Every Girl Should get Married." Each is an example of a very large collection of movies about a charming girl plotting to get an innocent and succeeding. The game in this movie is to entice the audience into falling in love with the girl, thereby setting templates and expectations in so-called real life.

    The filmmaker has to make a decision: will she place the audience within the movie or outside? "Every Girl" placed the viewer in the movie. The tone of the thing is earnest and the girl's appeal is earnest. She is so natural and appealing one really does fall in love with her. Her costar did as well and married her.

    This is different. The whole thing is cast as a show, with some musical numbers. The situation is stagy: the city gent and the country lass. Debbie Reynolds does a stereotype rather than a real person. We don't fall for her in this movie because it lacks charm. But there are many examples of this approach where we do, or rather we fall in love with the stereotype.

    If you are a serious movie watcher, you too need to make a choice. We cannot escape falling in love or otherwise getting engaged with what we experience on screen. But we can decide which to approach seriously. You probably want to avoid these "outside" movies that play with love.

    Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
  • Labored comedy has I.R.S. agent Tony Randall investigating eccentric farm family in Maryland who have never paid their taxes; Debbie Reynolds is the tomboy farmer's daughter who puts the squeeze on the not-so-disinterested tax-man. Debbie certainly made her share of inferior theatrical sitcoms during this period--and this one's no better or worse than the rest. Picture begins brightly but flags at the halfway point, becoming frantic and witless. Randall isn't a bad match for Reynolds, but the vehicle itself defeats the chemistry. Based on the novel "The Darling Buds of May" by H.E. Bates, with a poor sound-mix causing all the actors to sound as if they're stuck in an echo chamber. ** from ****
  • Ma & Pop Larkins daughter, Mariette (Debbie Reynolds) is now of age and can marry. But where oh where will they find a top of the tree branch man worthy of her? Cue Tony Curtis as Lorenzo and IRS agent visiting to find out why the Larkins have paid no income tax. What follows are several romps in the hay and a story that will leave you laughing. Not so sure the story would work in current times. But take it for what it is and you will enjoy.
  • The premise is funny where straight well-educated Tony Randall is sent to get Paul Douglas and family to pay up their taxers. Douglas is a nice rural type who has never bothered to file taxes in over 20 years! Una Merkel is his farm wife and Debbie Reynolds plays the eldest of his children. Naturally, Randall falls for Reynolds.

    A vicious neighbor played by Philip Ober wants the Douglas homestead. He sends the IRS after the family. With Fred Clark and Charles Lane at the head of the IRS, you'd think the family is in for lots of trouble.

    Reynolds musical ability is put to task briefly.

    The film falls apart in a rather lengthy drunken sequence when Lorenzo Charlton (Randall) gets bombed out and parades around singing a Cole Porter tune. Other silly scenes is a brawl between Randall and a jealous suitor of Reynolds with his friends.

    The ending is contrived. Get out your civil war documents and watch the interest build up. Mainly for the silly at heart.
  • Disappointing Reynolds comedy, with a miscast Tony Randall as the potential

    romantic interest. The whole plot of the parents attempting to "rope in" a beau for daughter Reynolds would have been dated in 1959, and it certainly is cringe-worthy in 2004. However, the incident of having Randall think he has

    drunkenly slept with the young Reynolds does not gel with the rest of the film's innocence. The parent's decision to liquor up Randall in the first place is

    strange enough, especially when he starts "comically" running around the

    house in his underwear, with several of Reynold's young siblings present.

    Reynolds was wrapping up her divorce with Eddie Fisher during the filming of

    "The Mating Game," and her usual perkiness appears obviously forced in many


    WHY does my posting look like this????????
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The corn grows high and the cheese is stinky in this silly comedy about the joys of poverty and the dangers of money. A large family (think: Ma and Pa Kettle) lives on a squalid farm next to a snooty landowner who wants them out, so he gets an IRS man (Tony Randall) to investigate the family's back taxes. When the agent falls for the homespun charms of the oldest daughter (Debbie Reynolds), a happy ending is guaranteed.

    Talk about Hee Haw Gone Wild...the improbable pairing of ever-bouncy and man-hungry Reynolds with über-nerd Randall is way off-base. He's good as always but she's annoying and they have no chemistry. Paul Douglas, as her father, doesn't look or act like the yokel he's supposed to be. His never-ending platitudes about being happy without money get old fast and plot holes in the script abound.

    I can see this being a hit in 1959, with less sophisticated and demanding audiences, but for me it's just a tedious story that resorts to slapstick and animal mating jokes for humor.
  • Debbie Reynolds' screen test for the part of Elly May Clampett in the Beverly Hillbillies. Tony Randall keeps on being the addle-witted Randall -- ever the comedic foible that Hollywood thought would make us laugh. This movie was a dizzying, and sometimes frightful, albatross with the only question being: "How can they possibly go lower than this?" But, rest assured, they always do.
  • This is basically the Debbie Reynolds show. From my end, this is enjoyable to watch as Reynolds does her best Marilyn Monroe impressions throughout.

    The storyline is ludicrous and almost none of the story is believable.

    There are some other good actors in here. Paul Douglas, in particular, is impressive. Fred Clark is also impressive.

    This movie had the potential to be a 7 but it is just too campy.

    If you love Debbie Reynolds as I do you will enjoy this.
  • Lorenzo Charlton (Tony Randall) is an IRS agent from the city (Baltimore) who does things by the book. He is sent to audit a farmer known as Pop Larkin (Paul Douglas), who has never filed a tax return. Charlton, who is dubbed "Charlie" by the affable Larkin clan, should be impervious to the good-natured disposition of his target, but the Larkins have a secret weapon---their wholesome daughter, Mariette (Debbie Reynolds).

    Randall's Charlie is cut from the same cloth as Felix Unger, but he's less neurotic. His life is governed by rules and laws and orderliness. But he is no match for the charms of Mariette, or the Larkin family as a whole, who live a life of gentle harmony with nature and their neighbors. Their only rule is the Golden Rule. And they have little use for money or taxes, since they use barter in most transactions. This is a challenge for Charlie, who tries to monetize their bartering history.

    "The Mating Game" belongs to the same romantic comedy genre as the Doris Day/Rock Hudson films, which also featured Tony Randall. This is pure entertainment. The odd coupling of Randall and Reynolds works well, which should be no surprise. This film is fashioned from fluff and slapstick, and they are two of the best comedic actors of their time and are very adept at physical humor.
  • I read reviews here and was struck by the fact that reviews were so varied they seemed to be of different films- ranging from brainless but good fun to slapstick to clever. I thought I'd seen every movie from the 50's but somehow missed this. What a pleasant surprise. Very witty, with wry comments on how life is to be lived, taxes, the golden rule and most of all, SEX- many of which may have gone right over people's heads. How many of the scenes and lines got past the censors of the day I can't imagine- much closer to the bone than Doris Day films in the 60s. Example: teen daughter Debby Reynolds cavorts with three strapping young men in a haystack (one of them wonderful William Smith, the youngest I've ever seen him) while her parents laugh and comment on youngins sowing wild oats, and practice making perfect. The parents themselves hug and kiss, etc., refreshing to see 50-somethings appreciating each other in that way, very rare (in the movies, anyway). Don't get the idea the movie's in poor taste, it's not- it's charming, with an unusually appreciative attitude towards sex for the 1950s. The family is loving, resourceful, smart, supportive of one another, in many ways innocents in the world (NOT hillbillies though). I loved it- would've given it 10 stars but deducted one for the couple of Keystone Cops style chase scenes, of which I'm not a fan. Debbie Reynolds was radiant here (and did all her own stunt work- amazing). I was a big fan of Tony Randall, who did a great job but looked less handsome than usual, for some reason (any of you who have seen him on 50s game shows will remember him as handsome and suave, a class act).

    Human nature is deftly dealt with in this gem. Reminded me a lot of the novel "Pioneer, Go Home" from the same year. I was surprised by a lot in this film, many unexpected lines and behaviors. I found it clever, delightful and highly original. Another reviewer opined that it is ripe for a remake- I think so too.
  • A zany 50's comedy starring Debbie Reynolds & Tony Randall. A home owner returns a pig he borrowed to his neighbor much to his surprise since he didn't know his pig was borrowed in the first place which enrages him. To get even (& since he's been after his land for years) he decides to call the IRS on him. Randall, who plays the fed, has his work cut out for him since he doesn't realize this particular homesteader has practically no use for money (he barters pretty much every thing) & his oldest daughter becomes smitten w/him during the audit making his life a living hell. If you don't dwell on the silliness of the story, its charm more than compensates.
  • SnoopyStyle28 January 2019
    The Larkins own a farm in a Maryland area which has become home to the ultra-rich. Mariette Larkin (Debbie Reynolds) is their oldest offspring. Their rich neighbor Wendell Burnshaw wants them out and decides to call up the IRS. Tax collector Lorenzo Charlton (Tony Randall) discovers that Pop Larkin has never filed a tax return and sets out to collect all the back taxes. Anybody who has more than $600 annual income has to file but Lorenzo has trouble showing that Pop has any income at all since he barters for everything. Mariette falls for Lorenzo and the Larkins scheme to keep him at the farm.

    Debbie Reynolds is at her energetic self. There is fun with the premise. Tony Randall could do more to promote the romantic chemistry. He's playing a stick in the mud and it lasts too long. There are a couple of moments when he needs to give in to her a lot easier. He needs to show his lust for her in a bigger way. She's doing most of the work. He needs to match her in some way. There is also the It's a Wonderful Life ending which is cut short. I'd prefer the It's a Wonderful Life ending except the church folks should pay the bill directly. Even the kids could throw in their flower money. It's a more meaningful solution. Overall, Debbie Reynolds works hard to not let the wacky fun fade by her will power and the barn fight is oddly slapstick hilarious. It's lovely and light fun.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Ripping off the plot twist from that famous George M. Kaufman play, this sitcom like film is as inconsequential and unbelievable as comedies go. IRS employee Tony Randall shows up at Paul Douglas's farm, realizes that they have never paid taxes, and is manipulated into staying, all because Douglas and his wife (Una Merkel) believe that there's a possibility of romance between him and their daughter (Debbie Reynolds). Douglas, trying to explain their philosophy of trade, can't understand that Randall is intent on giving them a huge bill. This just gets sillier as it goes on, with Randall getting drunk, staying the night, and finding himself further involved in the life of this hayseed family.

    Even sprinkled with modern sensibilities of the late 1950's, thus is very mid '30s in mood and style. A split screen with his boss (Fred Clark) is missing the split, making it appear that they were right next to each other when the scene was filmed. While everybody is charming enough, the premise to set up romance and other conflicts is simply absurd. Ma and Pa Kettle were far more worldly than the more well off Douglas family. Randall, not your typical leading man, is full of pep, really going all out in a very funny drunk scene. This works simply for moments, and if if wasn't for the fantastic cast, gorgeous country settings and a few genuine laughs, I would rank this as 3/10.
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