The Facts Of Life (1960)

MELVIN FRANK

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

USA, 1960.   Screenplay by Melvin Frank, .   Cinematography by .   Produced by Norman Panama.   Music by .   Production Design by , .   Costume Design by , , , .   Film Editing by .   Academy Awards 1960.    Golden Globe Awards 1960.  

and make the perfect onscreen team as bored suburbanites who are both married to other people and are part of a group of three couples who do all their socializing together.  They’re dreading the same annual trip to Acapulco but then something out of the ordinary happens: Ball’s husband can’t make it, neither can Hope’s wife (Ruth Hussey in her final film) and the third couple are in their hotel room with food poisoning, leaving our two stars stuck with each other.  Trouble is, they’ve never liked each other, he finds her abrasive and she finds him obnoxious, but there’s no use in wasting their vacation, so they make the most of it.  They make so much, actually, that they fall in love while frolicking in the sun and sand of Mexico’s beautiful beaches, initiating a full-blown affair that gives them a new reason to get spruced up every evening now that the home fires have died to mere embers in their respective home lives.  As this is a comedy from the team of Norman Panama and Melvin Frank, however, the narrative set-up is an excuse for a series of increasingly clever complications that poke great fun at the state of modern-day marriage in the dullness of post-war American prosperity: these two spend the whole movie trying to have sex and absolutely everything gets in their way, even when they come back home and try to keep seeing each other there’s just nothing that can go right, including a very funny sequence at a drive-in movie theatre and a disastrous attempt to take a secluded cabin together.  The film never actually crosses the moral line that movies of the time required be maintained, but it never insults anyone’s intelligence in maintaining it either, there’s a delicious tease to the way it points out the appeal of sinning, and a weary and wise manner in which it admits that eventually even the dirtiest of fantasies become hopelessly banal.  Hope’s jokey, thin style of performance is perfectly suited to the plot’s machinations, while Ball, coming off the success of her decade on television, is mesmerizing, projecting a confident stillness that radiates depths of longing when she isn’t taking part in the film’s zany humour.

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