The Mating Game (film)

The Mating Game (1959) is an MGM comedy directed by George Marshall, and starring Debbie Reynolds, Tony Randall and, in his final film role, Paul Douglas. Reynolds sings the title song during the opening credits. The film was written by William Roberts and very loosely based on the 1958 British novel, The Darling Buds of May by H. E. Bates, which was later adapted into a more faithful 1991–1993 British miniseries, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones in the role that Reynolds plays in the film.

The Mating Game
Poster of the movie The Mating Game.jpg
theatrical poster
Directed byGeorge Marshall
Written byWilliam Roberts
Based onThe Darling Buds of May
1958 novel
by H. E. Bates
Produced byPhilip Barry, Jr.
StarringDebbie Reynolds
Tony Randall
Paul Douglas
CinematographyRobert J. Bronner
Edited byJohn McSweeney, Jr.
Music byJeff Alexander (score)
Release date
  • April 29, 1959 (1959-04-29) (U.S.)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,925,000[1][2]


Irritated neighbor Wendell Burnshaw brings the Larkin family to the attention of the Internal Revenue Service. Lorenzo Charlton is assigned to the case by his boss, Kelsey. Ma and Pop Larkin warmly welcome him to their family farm in Maryland, at first unaware of why he is there.

Lorenzo is aghast to learn that the Larkins have never filed a tax return. With their cooperation, he sets out to figure out what, if anything, they owe in the way of back taxes, a difficult task, as Pop usually just trades for what they need and keeps no records.

Lorenzo and the eldest Larkin daughter, Mariette, become attracted to each other, but he does not let that get in the way of his work, at least not at first. However, as time goes by, he begins to loosen up and lose some of his buttoned-down mentality—especially when Pop encourages him to drink a strong alcoholic beverage. When Kelsey and Burnshaw drop by to check his progress, Kelsey is displeased with this development. He takes charge of the investigation and sends Lorenzo back to the office in disgrace.

Kelsey calculates the Larkins owe $50,000. The Larkins are unable to pay such a large sum, so Kelsey tells them they can either sell the farm to Burnshaw or face foreclosure. The Larkins' many friends rally round them and offer to buy some of their junk for inflated prices, but Pop proudly turns them down.

Meanwhile, Mariette goes to see Lorenzo. The family's only hope is a receipt for 30 horses bought by the government in the American Civil War and never paid for. With great difficulty, they manage to see Inspector General Bigelow. His legal department calculates that the Larkins are owed, with all the interest that has accrued, over $14 million. Pop decides not to accept it, as he did nothing to earn it, but Lorenzo gets Bigelow to agree to apply it against all present and future taxes owing.



The film was shot in Metrocolor and CinemaScope.

Box officeEdit

According to MGM records, the film earned $2.6 million in the US and Canada and $1,325,000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $1,261,000.[1]

DVD releaseEdit

The film was released on DVD by The Warner Archive in March 2009.[3]


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. ^ US and Canada take see "1959: Probable Domestic Take", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  3. ^ The Warner Archive, WB Shop.

External linksEdit