Tall Story (1960)

“Here’s everything and everybody that made Broadway blush at the howling stage smash!” A typical cheesy college comedy, Tall Story is notable as Jane Fonda’s film debut. If you can believe Fonda as an obsessive, husband-hunting coed infatuated with college basketball star Anthony Perkins (not kidding!) then you will enjoy this fairly entertaining but mindless romp, which was based on a successful Broadway play written by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse (itself loosely based on Howard Nemerov’s 1957 novel The Homecoming Game). Directed by Joshua Logan (South Pacific), Tall Story takes place at the basketball-obsessed Custer College shortly before a big exhibition game against the Russian “Sputniks” traveling team. Star player “Ray Blent” (Perkins) faces an ethical dilemma after getting offered an anonymous bribe to throw the game. As the innocently manipulative “June Ryder,” Fonda is quite charming (although she later described the entire experience as “a Kafkaesque nightmare”). Although not quite believable as big man on campus “Ray Blent,” Perkins does an admirable job although he occasionally gives off that creepy “Norman Bates” vibe. The supporting cast included Ray Walston as “Professor Leo Sullivan” (basically a younger version of his role as the dour “Mr. Hand” in Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and Marc Connelly (a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and key member of the Algonquin Round Table) as “Professor Charles Osman.” Also look for Murray Hamilton (the idiotic mayor from Jaws) as “Coach Sandy Hardy” and Tom “Billy Jack” Laughlin, as the obnoxious “Fred Jensen,” who (in my favorite scene for the record!) gives June and Ray a tour of the extremely cramped trailer he shares with his wife, “Frieda” (Barbara Darrow). Another highlight is when Sullivan gives Ray an impromptu philosophy test during halftime of the basketball game to find out if he’s eligible to play in the second half. Both Warren Beatty and Clint Eastwood were considered for the role of “Ray Blent.”

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