Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971)

R | 91-92 or 95 mins | Comedy-drama | May 1971

Director:

Roger Vadim

Producer:

Gene Roddenberry

Cinematographer:

Charles Rosher, Jr.

Editor:

Bill Brame

Production Designers:

George W. Davis, Preston Ames

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
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HISTORY

In the opening credits, eight of the actresses portraying high school students in the film are introduced as "The Pretty Maids." The actresses' names, with character names, appear in a different order in the end credits. During the pier sequence near the end of the film, brief clips of alternate possibilities, such as "Tiger" choking "Ponce" and Ponce running for his life, are interspersed into the scene in which Tiger tries to justify the murders. During the film, portions of Molière's Don Juan and John Milton's Paradise Lost are quoted. According to a Nov 1968 DV news item, producer Jay Weston and director James B. Harris were planning to shoot a film version of Francis Pollini's novel for M-G-M and William Hanley was set to write the screenplay, which they planned to film in a midwestern town in early 1969. However, Weston, Harris and Hanley were not listed onscreen and it is unlikely that they contributed to the final film.
       Although most trade reviews list the running time of the film as 95 or 96 minutes, Filmfacts and LAT newspaper reviews listed the duration as 91 or 92 minutes. The HR review erroneously reported that the film was shot in Technicolor. As noted in Filmfacts , the film was shot "in and around Los Angeles." According to studio production notes, portions of the film were shot at Santa Monica Pier and Venice Marina. The notes also reported that the football sequence was filmed at Rancho La Cienega Park, using a local football team and school band. A modern source ... More Less

In the opening credits, eight of the actresses portraying high school students in the film are introduced as "The Pretty Maids." The actresses' names, with character names, appear in a different order in the end credits. During the pier sequence near the end of the film, brief clips of alternate possibilities, such as "Tiger" choking "Ponce" and Ponce running for his life, are interspersed into the scene in which Tiger tries to justify the murders. During the film, portions of Molière's Don Juan and John Milton's Paradise Lost are quoted. According to a Nov 1968 DV news item, producer Jay Weston and director James B. Harris were planning to shoot a film version of Francis Pollini's novel for M-G-M and William Hanley was set to write the screenplay, which they planned to film in a midwestern town in early 1969. However, Weston, Harris and Hanley were not listed onscreen and it is unlikely that they contributed to the final film.
       Although most trade reviews list the running time of the film as 95 or 96 minutes, Filmfacts and LAT newspaper reviews listed the duration as 91 or 92 minutes. The HR review erroneously reported that the film was shot in Technicolor. As noted in Filmfacts , the film was shot "in and around Los Angeles." According to studio production notes, portions of the film were shot at Santa Monica Pier and Venice Marina. The notes also reported that the football sequence was filmed at Rancho La Cienega Park, using a local football team and school band. A modern source adds sound editor Van Allen James to the crew.
       Pretty Maids All in a Row marked producer-writer Gene Roddenberry's first theatrical film and the only theatrical film he made that was not based on Star Trek , the television series he created. Actor James Doohan and costume designer William Ware Theiss also worked on Star Trek . Dawn Roddenberry, who portrayed "Girl #1" in the film, was Roddenberry’s daughter. The film marked director Roger Vadim's first American film and actor John David Carson's feature film debut. Also marking her film debut in Pretty Maids All in a Row was Topo Swope, future talent agent and daughter of actress Dorothy McGuire. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
20 Nov 1968.
---
Daily Variety
2 Mar 1971.
---
Filmfacts
1971
pp. 38-40.
Films and Filming
Jan 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jul 1968.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Sep 1968.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 1970.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Aug 1970,
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Oct 1970
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Mar 1971.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
12 May 1971.
---
Los Angeles Times
12 May 1971.
---
Motion Picture Herald
5 May 1971.
---
New York Times
3 May 1970.
---
New York Times
29 Apr 1971
p. 46.
Playboy
Jul 1971.
---
Time
10 May 1971.
---
Variety
3 Mar 1971
p. 22.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Orig mus
SOUND
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair styles
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Unit pub
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Pretty Maids All in a Row by Francis Pollini (New York, 1968).
SONGS
"Chilly Winds," music by Lalo Schifrin, lyrics by Mike Curb, performed by The Osmonds, recording produced by Rich Hall
"Oceanfront School Song," music traditional, lyrics by Gene Roddenberry, based on "Annie Lisle"
"America the Beautiful," music by Samuel A. Ward, original lyrics by Katherine Lee Bates.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
May 1971
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 28 April 1971
Los Angeles opening: week of 10 May 1971
Production Date:
10 August--25 October 1970
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Copyright Date:
23 March 1971
Copyright Number:
LP38904
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Metrocolor
Duration(in mins):
91-92 or 95
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Ponce de Leon Harper, a student at Los Angeles’ Oceanfront High School who is obsessed with sex although he has never had it, asks to be excused when he cannot concentrate in a class led by a sexy substitute teacher, Miss Betty Smith. After taking refuge in the boys’ restroom, Ponce finds the corpse of Jill, a cheerleader who has been murdered, in the neighboring stall. Pinned to Jill’s underpants is a note reading, “So long, honey.” Upset, Ponce runs past assistant principal Michael “Tiger” McDrew’s office, which has a lit sign over the door indicating that “testing” is in progress. Behind the locked door, Tiger, who is also the guidance counselor and football coach, is having sex with one of the students. When Ponce informs the principal, prim Mr. Proffer about Jill’s demise, Proffer contacts the police chief, John Poldaski. The racist Poldaski is inclined to suspect student Jim “Greenie” Green, because he is black, but would rather discuss the football team. Soon Capt. Sam Surcher, an investigator for the state police, takes over the case with his two colleagues. Although annoyed by Poldaski, who has detached the note from the corpse and allowed the crime scene to be trampled by curious onlookers, Surcher is honored to meet Tiger, who is a champion in several sports and is being sought by the university to teach psychology. While Surcher and his colleague Follo proceed with the investigation, Ponce, who is the football team’s student manager, reveals the frustration of his relentless sexual urges to Tiger. Afterward, Tiger returns to his office to mate with another coed and later has the energy ... +


Ponce de Leon Harper, a student at Los Angeles’ Oceanfront High School who is obsessed with sex although he has never had it, asks to be excused when he cannot concentrate in a class led by a sexy substitute teacher, Miss Betty Smith. After taking refuge in the boys’ restroom, Ponce finds the corpse of Jill, a cheerleader who has been murdered, in the neighboring stall. Pinned to Jill’s underpants is a note reading, “So long, honey.” Upset, Ponce runs past assistant principal Michael “Tiger” McDrew’s office, which has a lit sign over the door indicating that “testing” is in progress. Behind the locked door, Tiger, who is also the guidance counselor and football coach, is having sex with one of the students. When Ponce informs the principal, prim Mr. Proffer about Jill’s demise, Proffer contacts the police chief, John Poldaski. The racist Poldaski is inclined to suspect student Jim “Greenie” Green, because he is black, but would rather discuss the football team. Soon Capt. Sam Surcher, an investigator for the state police, takes over the case with his two colleagues. Although annoyed by Poldaski, who has detached the note from the corpse and allowed the crime scene to be trampled by curious onlookers, Surcher is honored to meet Tiger, who is a champion in several sports and is being sought by the university to teach psychology. While Surcher and his colleague Follo proceed with the investigation, Ponce, who is the football team’s student manager, reveals the frustration of his relentless sexual urges to Tiger. Afterward, Tiger returns to his office to mate with another coed and later has the energy to romance his wife Jean at the beachhouse he shares with her and their young daughter. To learn more about Jill’s life, Surcher talks to students Hilda Lee and Yvonne Millick, who imply that their generation is sexually unrestrained. Surcher also questions Tiger, who has been dictating on a tape recorder a book he is writing about his philosophy of unrepressed education. Tiger makes an appointment with sex-starved Betty, causing her to believe he is interested in her, but then asks her to “help” Ponce, whom he says is impotent and needs an adult woman’s guidance. Continuing his investigation, Surcher asks students Sonny Swingle and Pamela if anyone on campus has made “unnatural sexual advances,” to which they respond with laughter and evasion. Following Tiger’s instructions, Betty invites Ponce to her home to discuss his schoolwork, where her close proximity arouses him. Aware of his erection, which indicates to her that he is overcoming impotence, Betty compliments it to encourage him not to feel ashamed. Believing she has succeeded in her task, she sends the baffled and embarrassed Ponce home. Later, Surcher finds a letter written to Jill, which he believes was written by Greenie. Tiger confirms that the letter was written by Greenie, whose alibi places him near the boys’ restroom at the time of the murder, but insists that the student is not the killer. After hearing Ponce’s account of the night before, Tiger urges Betty to offer another invitation to the boy, but she is reluctant, admitting that, having had no boyfriend for thirteen months, she feels attracted to Ponce. Tiger dallies with Betty, kissing and fondling her, then suddenly stops, declaring that she understands the “general idea.” When he then opens the door for student Pamela to enter, Tiger suggests that they can talk more after Betty meets with Ponce. Tiger coaches football practice, during which Surcher takes note of his many female admirers. Afterward Tiger has a rendezvous with another student, who, during foreplay, informs him that she wants to be closer and knows he was intimate with Jill. The next day the student is found dead with a sign saying, “Keep cool, honey,” pinned to her clothes. When the teachers meet to discuss cancelling an important football game because of the murders, Tiger vetoes the idea. Increasingly suspicious of Tiger, Surcher listens as he coaches students in a reading of Don Juan . Embarrassed about the previous evening, Ponce calls on Betty and awkwardly presents her with a chocolate duck filled with liquor. Later that evening he returns, and although dressed for bed in a revealing gown, Betty invites him in and then seduces him, pushing him onto a table to kiss him passionately. When Ponce smashes the chocolate duck laying there, soiling his pants, Betty washes his clothes and helps him bathe. Meanwhile, Tiger is making out with a student in a car parked on the football field, when Poldaski, who is patrolling, spots him. In the morning, as Ponce and Betty embark on another round of sex, Poldaski and the girl are discovered dead on the playing field, the latter bearing a note that reads, “Poor, poor honey.” Reporters flock to the school, where everyone is concerned about the murders and the upcoming game. While parents demand an end to the murders, Hilda has a counseling session in the nude with Tiger. Surcher confides his suspicions about Tiger to Follo, who suggests that the captain is simply jealous. Hoping to catch Tiger in flagrante delicto , Surcher breaks into his office while the “testing” light is on, but finds Tiger and Ponce deep in discussion. After Surcher apologizes and leaves, Tiger tells Ponce that he hopes to be principal at Oceanfront someday and that Ponce will be his assistant principal. When Tiger returns home after school, he, Jean and their daughter fantasize about owning a boat and going to an exotic locale. On the day of the big game, a mass funeral is held for the victims. Between the funeral and the game, Sonny slips into Tiger’s office and takes a Polaroid photo of herself in the nude and then records a message on his tape recorder directing him to look in the drawer in which she has hidden the snapshot. When Tiger walks in on her, the machine is still recording while they have sex. Spying on them, Surcher sees them leave the office separately to go to the game. By half-time, Oceanfront is far behind their rival team. Proffer unsuccessfully attempts to lead a moment of silence in memory of the deceased, while, in the locker room, Tiger rails at the team to do better. During the final half, Oceanfront repeatedly scores and wins the game. While Tiger is detained by fans and reporters, Ponce waits in his office and inadvertently discovers, and then listens to, the tape documenting the sounds of Tiger and Sonny’s coupling. When Tiger arrives, he snatches the tape and announces he will drive Ponce home. Meanwhile, Surcher orders his men to pick up Tiger and several of the female students for a lie detector test. That night, while parked on an ocean pier, Tiger explains his philosophy to Ponce that sex is the best way to “reach” girls, while he uses sports to relate to the boys. When Ponce, who is frightened that Tiger will kill him, reminds him that he murdered the girls, Tiger admits that was a mistake and tries to justify his action. Acknowledging that Ponce cannot remain silent about what he knows, Tiger drives the car into the ocean. Later, when a memorial service is held for Tiger, he is lauded for his many contributions, including saving Ponce’s life by thrusting him out of the sinking car. As Tiger’s body was never found, Surcher remains skeptical and carefully watches Ponce and Jean, both of whom exhibit a secretive excitement. When Jean opens her purse, Surcher briefly glimpses Brazilian Airline tickets. After the service, a sexually confident Ponce consoles female students, one by one, suggesting that Tiger would want them to comfort one another. Surcher tells Follo that he was obviously wrong about Tiger and that he needs a vacation in Brazil. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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