18 November 2011 | EdgarST
Paradise in the Suburbs
Long time ago I was surprised when I realized that the director of "Bachelor in Paradise", was the same person who made the masterpiece "The Incredible Shrinking Man", and the one behind cult classics as "It Came from Outer Space", "Creature from the Black Lagoon", and "Tarantula"; not to mention fillers as "Monster on the Campus", and hundreds of TV episodes from all kind of series, from "Dr. Kildare" to "The Love Boat". Arnold was not new to comedy: there are indeed comic elements on all the horror movies mentioned above, but moreover, a year before he started shooting this MGM glossy adaptation of a story by Vera Caspary (the same lady who wrote both "Laura", and "Les Girls"), director Jack Arnold --who I guess Andrew Sarris must have classified very low in his Olympus of filmmakers-- had a hit with the British comedy "The Mouse That Roared", with Peter Sellers playing different roles, including the Duchess of Fenwick, the senile ruler of the littlest country in Europe. It is a story of little people and little minds, treated with affection and a kind of humor far from what audiences laugh about today. "Bachelor in Paradise" is somehow in the same vein: it is a funny and affectionate view of how little minds react when confronted with different attitudes about sex, which --up until the days of the reign of the Hays film code-- was treated rather hypocritically in American cinema. Everybody was doing all type of positions and gender combinations, with all kinds of adornments, except "Hollywood creatures". For the early 1960s, though not as radical as it may sound, "Bachelor in Paradise" suggested sex was more fun than accepted in regular films, and this was its main attraction, not Bob Hope, Lana Turner, or the new coupling of Paula Prentiss and Jim Hutton. Even I, who was 10 years old and lived in the city, far away from a suburb like Paradise, found it more daring than the comedies in which Doris Day played a virgin with tired facial tricks, as 1959's "Pillow Talk", which incredibly won the Best Screenplay Academy Award. I had not seen "Bachelor in Paradise" in decades... but when I did again I found it decidedly proto-Altmanesque, the kind of comedy that Robert Altman would have been doing in the early 1960s, probably with a more acerbic approach. Only the music industry had teased us with multiple releases of the music Henry Mancini composed for the movie. Now we can watch "Bachelor in Paradise" again, restored, in wide-screen and the flat color cinematography of those years (with few exceptions, everything was as bright and clear as the images in television sets). However it must be seen with a 1961 frame of mind. If you had not been born yet, do a little research. It does help a lot to appreciate a film about sexual life of the Americans without showing what they were doing in cars, bedrooms, and bushes, when the movie was made.