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)|
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, at the age of 22. It is based on the 1957 novel "The Homecoming Game" by Howard Nemerov, which was the basis of a successful 1959 Broadway play, called 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 and was Robert Redford's first film ever, where he played an uncredited basketball player.
Tall Story 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 (Anthony Perkins) is an honor student and college basketball star. June Ryder (Jane Fonda) 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. Too late he realizes 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 (Ray Walston), 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.
- Marc Connelly, who co-stars as a Custer professor, reprising the role he played on Broadway, was better known as a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and a member of the famed Algonquin Round Table. This was his last acting role in a Hollywood film.
- Cast member Tom Laughlin was all but absent from motion-picture screens after this until late in the decade, when he created and starred as the popular film hero Billy Jack.
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."
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."