The World of Henry Orient

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The World of Henry Orient
WORLDOFH-00AA1-poster hires.jpg
theatrical poster
Directed by George Roy Hill
Produced by Jerome Hellman
Screenplay by Nora Johnson
Nunnally Johnson
Based on The World of Henry Orient by Nora Johnson
Starring Peter Sellers
Paula Prentiss
Merrie Spaeth
Tippy Walker
Tom Bosley
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Boris Kaufman
Arthur J. Ornitz
Edited by Stuart Gilmore
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • March 19, 1964 (1964-03-19)
Running time
106 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office est. $2,100,000 (US/ Canada)[1]

The World of Henry Orient is a 1964 American comedy film based on the novel of the same name by Nora Johnson, who co-wrote the screenplay with her father, Nunnally Johnson. It was directed by George Roy Hill and stars Peter Sellers, Paula Prentiss, Angela Lansbury, Tippy Walker, Merrie Spaeth, Phyllis Thaxter, Bibi Osterwald and Tom Bosley.

Filming started in June 1963, wrapped that October, and the film premiered at Radio City Music Hall on March 19, 1964. In 1965 it was nominated for the Golden Globe Award in the category "Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy" and for a Writers Guild of America Award for "Best Written American Comedy."


Concert pianist Henry Orient (Peter Sellers) pursues an affair with a married woman, Stella Dunnworthy (Paula Prentiss), while two teenage private-school girls, Valerie Boyd (Tippy Walker) and Marian Gilbert (Merrie Spaeth), stalk him and write their fantasies about him in a diary.

Orient's paranoia leads him to believe that the two girls, who seem to pop up everywhere he goes, are spies sent by his would-be mistress's husband. When Val's mother, Isabel Boyd (Angela Lansbury), finds their diary, she suspects that Henry has acted inappropriately with her daughter. She contacts Orient and they end up having an affair. Val finds out about it, as does her dad (Tom Bosley). There is an unhappy ending for Val's parents' marriage, but Val and her dad start to develop a much closer relationship.



The pianist's unusual surname, "Orient", came about because Nora Johnson based the character on Oscar Levant, a real-life concert pianist, raconteur, and film actor. Since the word "levant" means Orient in French (literally the direction from which the sun rises), the name is a play on words. In the film, several allusions to the pianist's unusual name occur when his two teenage fans put on Chinese conical hats, address their idol as "Oriental Henry," kowtow to an Asian-style altar, and adopt vaguely Japanese-sounding names for themselves.


The World of Henry Orient was the official U.S. entry at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival.[2][3]

The film was well-received by critics and has an 88% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. In his review for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther wrote that it was "one of the most joyous and comforting movies about teenagers that we've had in a long time".[4]

It was voted one of the Year's Ten Best Films by the National Board of Review in 1964.[5]

Musical adaptation[edit]

A Broadway musical adaptation of The World of Henry Orient called Henry, Sweet Henry, with music and lyrics by Bob Merrill, book by Nunnally Johnson (the father of Nora Johnson), direction by George Roy Hill and choreography by Michael Bennett, opened at the Palace Theatre on October 23, 1967. It starred Don Ameche as Henry Orient, Neva Small as Marian Gilbert, Robin Wilson as Valerie Boyd, Milo Bouton as Mr Boyd, Carol Bruce as Mrs. Boyd and Louise Lasser as Stella. Pia Zadora also appeared in the role of a student. The show ran for 80 performances and closed on December 31, 1967, receiving less than stellar reviews.[6] William Goldman, in his study of the 1967-68 theater year "The Season", claimed that the musical was of high quality but was old fashioned, and "had the misfortune" to open just a week after all the critics "were overcome by Hair," which had a modern sound.

Although the show was not a success, one of its performers, Alice Playten, received a 1968 Theatre World Award, and was nominated for a Tony Award for "Best Featured Actress in a Musical" for playing the role of Kafritz, which was enlarged substantially for the play. In addition, Michael Bennett was nominated for a Tony for "Best Choreography."[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1964", Variety, 6 January 1965 p 39. Please note this figure is rentals accruing to distributors not total gross.
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The World of Henry Orient". Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  3. ^ "The Girls of Henry Orient". Time. May 15, 1964. Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  4. ^ Crowther, Bosley (March 20, 1964). "2 Girls Chase Sellers in Henry Orient". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  5. ^ "National Board of Review Top Ten Films". National Board of Review. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  6. ^ Henry, Sweet Henry at the Internet Broadway Database
  7. ^ IBDB Awards

External links[edit]