13 August 2003 | halmp-1
One basic flaw undermined this otherwise amusing film
There was quite a lot to recommend "Man's Favorite Sport?" In almost every category this was a solid, mildly humerous production. But, as Rock Hudson later suggested, one negative element undermined the effort...and the film's popularity. Most viewers undoubtedly grew weary, uncomfortable, and even irritated, with seeing someone with Hudson's imposing size and appearance constantly being put into deprecating situations by Paula Prentiss' constantly-on-the-edge character, Abigail Page. In Hudson's other two major romantic comedies, "Pillowtalk" and "Lover Come Back"---with Doris Day---viewers were happy to see Hudson's conniving playboy characters ultimately get their comeupance. But his Roger Willoughby character here did nothing to deserve his fate. Many members of the audience no doubt were saying to themselves, "Enough already. Let the poor guy alone." Willoughby, a fishing-oriented salesman/author at Abercrombie and Fitch, had never actually fished. Really a big crime. Page, hoping to cash-in on his name-recognition at a fishing tournament hosted by her friend's lodge, blackmails Hudson's character into competing in the tournament...threatening to expose his secret if he doesn't comply. Once at the lodge, Hudson is placed into one humiliating vignette after another...always under the thumb of Prentiss. Even in the matter of a kiss, which her character obviously enjoyed, Page nonetheless further undermines Willoughby's self-image by telling him that the kiss "...just wasn't any good." In "Pillowtalk" and "Lover Come Back," the audience was happy to see Hudson's characters justly reprimanded by Day in the end. At the climax of "Man's Favorite Sport?", we instead are happy to see big, strong Willoughby finally assert himself against the aggravatingly prickly Page. Prentiss, with her wholesome brunette beauty, athletic appearance and lively personality, expertly assimilates into her character. Cool, Germanic Maria Perschy, as her lodge-owner friend, and stunning, statuesque Charlene Holt, as Willoughby's ultimately former girlfriend, likewise give solid performances. As for Hudson, he deserves much credit for agreeing to play an accident-prone character such as Willoughby. The question is why did he do so. The answer is that Hudson obviously was a team player in his films. That is why he was popular among the performers with whom he worked. Character actors Roscoe Karns, John McGiver, Forrest Lewis, Regis Toomey and Norman Alden each adds professional support to "Man's Favorite Sport?" The Northern California fishing lodge locale likewise is a plus. Again, there is much to endorse the film. But the enterprise is undermined by what occurs to Hudson and his character virtually throughout.