How To Be Very, Very Popular (1955)

89 or 95 mins | Comedy | July 1955

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Sleep It Off. According to HR news items and other contemporary sources, Marilyn Monroe was originally cast in the film but turned down the role and was suspended by Twentieth Century-Fox. According to a modern biography of writer-director-producer Nunnally Johnson, he wrote the part of “Curly Flagg” specifically for Monroe. Dec 1954 items in HR ’s “Rambling Reporter” column indicated that the studio wanted Monroe to appear in the film with Jane Russell, her co-star in the studio’s highly successful 1953 production Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. In Jan 1955, the studio cast Sheree North as Curly and Betty Grable as “Stormy Tornado.” Grable, a longtime Fox star, made her final screen appearance in How to Be Very, Very Popular. The film also marked the motion picture debut of comedian Orson Bean, and North’s first starring role.
       According to a 25 Feb 1955 HR news item, Archer MacDonald was originally cast as “Eddie Jones,” but was forced to leave the production due to ill health. Three days of scenes between MacDonald and North had to be re-shot. Although a 9 Mar 1955 HR news item announced that the title song from the 1954 Fox hit Three Coins in the Fountain would be sung by Grable and North in How to Be Very, Very Popular, it does not appear in the final film. One of the included songs, "Shake, Rattle and Roll," which was written in 1954 by Ken Darby and Lionel Newman, was one of the most popular rock and roll songs of the 1950s.
       HR ... More Less

The working title of this film was Sleep It Off. According to HR news items and other contemporary sources, Marilyn Monroe was originally cast in the film but turned down the role and was suspended by Twentieth Century-Fox. According to a modern biography of writer-director-producer Nunnally Johnson, he wrote the part of “Curly Flagg” specifically for Monroe. Dec 1954 items in HR ’s “Rambling Reporter” column indicated that the studio wanted Monroe to appear in the film with Jane Russell, her co-star in the studio’s highly successful 1953 production Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. In Jan 1955, the studio cast Sheree North as Curly and Betty Grable as “Stormy Tornado.” Grable, a longtime Fox star, made her final screen appearance in How to Be Very, Very Popular. The film also marked the motion picture debut of comedian Orson Bean, and North’s first starring role.
       According to a 25 Feb 1955 HR news item, Archer MacDonald was originally cast as “Eddie Jones,” but was forced to leave the production due to ill health. Three days of scenes between MacDonald and North had to be re-shot. Although a 9 Mar 1955 HR news item announced that the title song from the 1954 Fox hit Three Coins in the Fountain would be sung by Grable and North in How to Be Very, Very Popular, it does not appear in the final film. One of the included songs, "Shake, Rattle and Roll," which was written in 1954 by Ken Darby and Lionel Newman, was one of the most popular rock and roll songs of the 1950s.
       HR news items include the following actors and dancers in the cast, although their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed: Gus Lax, Bob Melton, Virgil Johansen, Jesse Lucas, Willard Mack, Jean Acker, Gertrude Astor, Leah Baird, Gertrude Carr, Myna Cunard, Minta Durfee, Gertrude Mack, Eva Novak, Dorothy Phillips, Ida Pratt, Arline Pretty, Harry Denny, Paul Power, Reginald Simpson, Colin Ward, Dan Dowling, Tom Gibson, Harlan Hoagland, Colin Kenny, Buck Russell, Scott Seaton, Bernard Sell, William Raisch, Pat Cortland, Susan Brown, Beverly Jordan, Barbara Goodrich, Roy Clark-Lee, Charles Bondi, Ricky Riccardi and Edgar Johnson. Modern sources add Leslie Parrish ("Girl on bus") to the cast.
       According to biographies of Johnson, he took the subplot of “Curly” being hypnotized from the Lyford Moore and Harlan Thomspon play Sleep It Off. Edward Hope’s novel and Howard Lindsay’s play were earlier used as the basis for two films: She Loves Me Not, a 1934 Paramount production directed by Elliott Nugent and starring Bing Crosby, Miriam Hopkins and Kitty Carlisle (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ); and the 1942 Paramount picture True to the Army, directed by Albert Rogell and starring Judy Canova, Allan Jones and Ann Miller (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ). As noted in modern sources, the 1959 United Artists release Some Like It Hot, directed by Billy Wilder and starring Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, bears a strong resemblance in plot to the Hope and Lindsay play and novel, which present the predicament of a witness to a murder who must mask her identity to hide from the killer. Another film employing a similar theme was the 1992 Touchstone Pictures comedy Sister Act, directed by Emile Ardolino and starring Whoopi Goldberg. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
23 Jul 1955.
---
Daily Variety
15 Jul 55
p. 3.
Film Daily
15 Jul 55
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jul 1955
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Dec 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Dec 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Dec 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jan 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jan 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 1955
p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Feb 1955
p. 3, 7.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Feb 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Mar 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Mar 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Mar 1955
p. 2, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 1955
pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Mar 1955
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Apr 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Apr 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
2 May 1955
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
12 May 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 May 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
16 May 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 1955
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jul 55
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
18 May 1954.
---
Los Angeles Times
16 Jan 1955.
---
Los Angeles Times
30 Jul 1955.
---
Motion Picture Daily
18 Jul 1955.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
23 Jul 55
p. 521.
New York Times
23 Jul 55
p. 10.
Saturday Review
6 Aug 1955.
---
Variety
20 Jul 55
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward dir
Cost des
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
DANCE
Choreog
"Shake, Rattle and Roll" staged by
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair styling
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Dial coach
Scr supv
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play She Loves Me Not by Howard Lindsay (New York, 20 Nov 1933), the novel She Loves Me Not by Edward Hope (Indianapolis, 1933) and the play Sleep It Off by Lyford Moore and Harlan Thompson (production date undetermined).
SONGS
"How to Be Very, Very Popular," music and lyrics by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn
"Shake, Rattle and Roll" and "Bristol Bell Song," music and lyrics by Ken Darby and Lionel Newman
"Bunny Hop," music and lyrics by Ray Anthony.
COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Sleep It Off
Release Date:
July 1955
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 22 July 1955
Los Angeles opening: 29 July 1955
Production Date:
21 February--14 April 1955
addl seq late April--mid May 1955
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
15 July 1955
Copyright Number:
LP5238
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Lenses/Prints
lenses by Bausch & Lomb
Duration(in mins):
89 or 95
Length(in feet):
8,055
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17444
SYNOPSIS

After burlesque dancers Stormy Tornado and Curly Flagg finish performing in a San Francisco strip club, they are followed on stage by headliner Cherry Blossom Wang. While dancing, Cherry Blossom is shot and killed by a bald man, who escapes through the window in Stormy and Curly’s dressing room. Having been threatened by the killer, Stormy and Curly are unwilling to go to the police and, still wearing their skimpy costumes, exit through the same window. With their costumes covered by overcoats, the two blondes board a bus but have only enough money to reach College City, near Los Angeles. Pouring rain and hunger force the women to seek shelter, and as they peer through a window, they spot a woman devouring a large salami. Stormy sneaks into the building first, but before she finds the woman, she is tempted by the scent of fried chicken and enters the room of Fillmore “Wedge” Wedgewood, a student in his late thirties. Wedge explains to Stormy that she is in a men’s dormitory at Bristol College and, having seen the headlines about the murder and the missing witnesses, deduces her identity. Stormy calls Curly’s father Cedric for help, but the addled Cedric does not understand and hangs up. Frustrated, Stormy beckons to Curly, but when Curly sneaks into the dorm, she is distracted by Eddie Jones, who is attempting to hypnotize his roommate, Toby Marshall. Eddie’s amateur efforts fail on Toby but work on Curly, and the young men are amazed to see the stranger standing in their doorway. Eddie realizes what has happened and kisses the somnolent Curly, although Toby declines his turn and suggests that they ask ... +


After burlesque dancers Stormy Tornado and Curly Flagg finish performing in a San Francisco strip club, they are followed on stage by headliner Cherry Blossom Wang. While dancing, Cherry Blossom is shot and killed by a bald man, who escapes through the window in Stormy and Curly’s dressing room. Having been threatened by the killer, Stormy and Curly are unwilling to go to the police and, still wearing their skimpy costumes, exit through the same window. With their costumes covered by overcoats, the two blondes board a bus but have only enough money to reach College City, near Los Angeles. Pouring rain and hunger force the women to seek shelter, and as they peer through a window, they spot a woman devouring a large salami. Stormy sneaks into the building first, but before she finds the woman, she is tempted by the scent of fried chicken and enters the room of Fillmore “Wedge” Wedgewood, a student in his late thirties. Wedge explains to Stormy that she is in a men’s dormitory at Bristol College and, having seen the headlines about the murder and the missing witnesses, deduces her identity. Stormy calls Curly’s father Cedric for help, but the addled Cedric does not understand and hangs up. Frustrated, Stormy beckons to Curly, but when Curly sneaks into the dorm, she is distracted by Eddie Jones, who is attempting to hypnotize his roommate, Toby Marshall. Eddie’s amateur efforts fail on Toby but work on Curly, and the young men are amazed to see the stranger standing in their doorway. Eddie realizes what has happened and kisses the somnolent Curly, although Toby declines his turn and suggests that they ask for help. Stating that he wants to test Curly for scientific reasons, Eddie plants a hypnotic suggestion that whenever she hears the word “Salome,” Curly is to dance. Wedge and Stormy eventually find Curly in Eddie’s room and there learn of her condition. Irritated by Eddie’s callousness, Wedge orders him to break the trance, and when Eddie refuses, Wedge threatens to destroy the diploma that Eddie forged for Toby, who was expelled four months earlier. Unwilling to lose the money that Toby paid for the diploma, Eddie agrees, and Toby then asks if he can have the kiss he declined earlier before Eddie brings Curly out of her trance. An earthquake rocks the college while Toby and Curly are kissing, and the stimulus prompts the couple to fall in love. Eddie then attempts to awaken Curly but fails. The next morning, Wedge reads a newspaper account identifying an insane, bald barber as Cherry Blossom’s killer, and reporting that the witnesses have been seen at the college. Wedge relays the news to Stormy, who is protecting the still-hypnotized Curly in an empty dorm room. When Stormy questions whether his concern is for her or himself, Wedge admits that as long as he is in college, he is supported by a trust fund, and that his “gravy train” will be cut off if he is expelled. Believing that Stormy needs better protection, Wedge visits the college’s president, Dr. Tweed, but Tweed is preoccupied with a letter he has received from B. J. Marshall, Toby’s wealthy father. Unaware that Toby has been expelled, Marshall has offered to give the school a large endowment at Toby’s graduation. After Wedge leaves, a bald San Francisco police sergeant named Moon arrives and receives permission to search the campus. At the dorm, when house mother Miss “Syl” Sylvester enters Eddie’s room, she finds Toby embracing Curly. Eddie explains Curly’s presence by stating that she is Toby’s stepmother and is behaving oddly because of jet-lag. Fearing that Tweed will discover the lie, Toby retreats to his basement hideout, while at Tweed’s office, the president welcomes the just-arrived, bald-headed Marshall. Tweed pretends that Toby has been a model student, though Marshall is upset to hear that the shy youth has not been socially active. Miss Syl interrupts Tweed to inform him that Toby’s mother is in Eddie’s room, and Tweed dashes off to the dormitory. There, Eddie has convinced Curly that she is a rich socialite and must be nice to Tweed for Toby’s sake. Following Eddie’s instructions, Curly strokes Tweed’s hand and sits in his lap, much to his bewilderment. Believing that Curly knows about Toby’s predicament, Tweed is asking her not to tell Marshall when Marshall pokes his head in the room. Not recognizing Curly, Marshall leaves, but an aghast Tweed chases him. Soon after, Wedge searches for Curly and Stormy, only to discover that they have left the dorm. Outside, as the students prepare for graduation, Cedric, who is bald, arrives to find Curly, and is arrested, along with Marshall, on suspicion of being the killer. The men are released in time for the graduation ceremony, during which Curly, still in her trance, ascends the stage, and Stormy, hoping to avoid the police, joins her. During the ceremony, a speaker mentions the Battle of Salamis, and Curly, believing that he said “Salome,” begins to dance wildly around the stage. The students are appreciative of Curly’s talents, while in the audience, the bald barber recognizes her and shoots in her direction. After his first shot misses, the barber is subdued by Moon, although chaos ensues when he escapes and is pursued by the police. A frightened Stormy seeks refuge with Wedge in Eddie’s room, while Eddie finds Curly and takes her to Toby’s basement. When Wedge sees Cedric approaching, he knocks him unconscious, but Stormy does not recognize him as either the killer or Curly's father. Wedge also knocks out Marshall, then drags him to Miss Syl’s room. When Marshall awakens, he learns from Miss Syl that Toby was expelled for leading a panty raid, and Marshall is thrilled by his son’s shenanigans. Meanwhile, in the basement, Curly snaps out of her trance exactly twenty-four hours after Eddie hynotized her. Curly is suspicous of Toby’s claim that he loves her, but as he kisses her, another earthquake hits, and she remembers that she loves him, too. Curly and Stormy then exit the building with their boyfriends, but are arrested by the police. At the police station, the women are protesting their predicament when Moon informs the officials that he has captured the barber. After Stormy and Curly identify the murderer, they board a bus with the celebrating college students. All appears to be going well until Eddie, attempting to hypnotize a redhead, mistakenly hypnotizes Stormy and Curly instead. +

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

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