Tall Story is a 1960 American romantic comedy film made by Warner Bros., directed by Joshua Logan and starring Anthony Perkins with Jane Fonda, in her first screen role. It is based on the 1957 novel The Homecoming Game by Howard Nemerov, which was the basis of a successful 1959 Broadway play titled Tall Story, by the writing team of Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. The film was a considerable departure from Logan's previous two projects, the drama Sayonara, which won multiple Academy Awards, and the blockbuster South Pacific. It was Robert Redford's first film — he played a basketball player in an uncredited role.
Original 1960 film promotion poster
|Directed by||Joshua Logan|
|Produced by||Joshua Logan|
|Written by||Russel Crouse|
Julius J. Epstein
|Music by||Cyril J. Mockridge|
|Edited by||Philip W. Anderson|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$1,700,000 (US/ Canada)|
The film is a farcical social satire of American campus life, making fun of the way college life can become a marriage market for some students. Fonda portrays a character who is the complete opposite of the independent liberated woman she later personified.
At Custer University, Ray Blent is an honor student and college basketball star. June Ryder has come to the university to study home economics and to find a husband. Both students and faculty are scandalized by Ryder's unashamed pursuit of Blent. She joins the pom-pom girls and attends all the classes taken by Blent to ensure she has maximum contact with him. Everyone is aware of her designs on the sexually naive Blent except for him. She succeeds in convincing him that she has an intelligent, inquiring mind that he admires, although this is all done through deception. She eventually gets Blent to fall for her and propose marriage. However, they need several thousand dollars to set up a home.
Blent is secretly propositioned, via a radio message, by a gambling syndicate to lose a key game with a visiting Russian team. He refuses to do this, but is unable to return the money as he does not know who is behind the bribe. Rather than deliberately throw the game, he decides to deliberately fail an ethics exam, which automatically disqualifies him from playing. He is the best student in class, and the only way he can fail is by copying Ryder's paper. He realizes too late that his not playing is tantamount to ensuring his team will lose and that he has given the gamblers exactly what they want.
Meanwhile, his ethics professor, Leo Sullivan, is coming under extreme student and faculty pressure to reverse the failure and give Blent a passing grade. He refuses to do this on principle, but finally consents to give Blent an oral retest while the game is in progress. Blent passes and plays for the last few minutes, achieving a one-point victory for the school.
The film's working title was "The Way the Ball Bounces". Producer/director Joshua Logan originally intended the film to be a vehicle for both Jane Fonda and Warren Beatty to make their screen debuts, but Warner Bros. would not approve the unknown Beatty for the part, and Logan had to settle for his second choice, Anthony Perkins.
Fonda had hated the Broadway play, but was pleased that her part in the film script had been expanded. Logan was a good friend of her father Henry Fonda and saw Jane as a potential major star. He wanted to guide her through her first film experience – she had been modelling for several years – but Fonda found it a "Kafkaesque nightmare," explaining in her autobiography My Life So Far that during the making of Tall Story she suffered from bulimia, sleepwalking and irrational fears that she was "boring, untalented and plain." In 2019, Fonda stated both she and Logan were in love with lead actor Anthony Perkins at the time of filming, causing tension during an already difficult shoot.
Campus scenes were filmed at Occidental College in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles.
On its release in 1960, the film was neither a commercial nor a critical success. A Time magazine reviewer wrote: "Nothing could possibly save the picture, not even the painfully personable Perkins doing his famous awkward act, not even a second-generation Fonda with a smile like her father's and legs like a chorus girl."
- "Rental Potentials of 1960", Variety, 4 January 1961 p 47. Please note figures are rentals as opposed to total gross.
- "Tall Story (1960) - Screenplay Info - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies.
- The Broadway League. "Tall Story â€" Broadway Play â€" Original". IBDB. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
- "Tall Story (1960) - Notes - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies.
- "Tall Story (1960) - Articles - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies.
- "Jane Fonda & Lily Tomlin Answer the Web's Most Searched Questions | WIRED". YouTube. Wired. Retrieved 15 February 2019.