You're a Big Boy Now

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You're a Big Boy Now
You're a Big Boy Now poster.jpg
Directed byFrancis Ford Coppola
Produced byPhil Feldman
Screenplay byFrancis Ford Coppola
Based onYou're a Big Boy Now
by David Benedictus
StarringPeter Kastner
Elizabeth Hartman
Geraldine Page
Rip Torn
Michael Dunn
Tony Bill
Karen Black
Julie Harris
Dolph Sweet
Michael O'Sullivan
Music byRobert Prince
CinematographyAndrew Laszlo
Edited byAram Avakian
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • December 9, 1966 (1966-12-09)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States

You're a Big Boy Now is a 1966 American comedy film written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Based on David Benedictus' 1963 novel of the same name, it stars Elizabeth Hartman, Peter Kastner, Geraldine Page, Rip Torn, Karen Black, and Julie Harris.

Geraldine Page was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe Award for her performance.


Bernard Chanticleer, called "Big Boy" by his parents, is 19 but still lives with his overbearing, clinging mother and his commanding, disapproving father, who is curator of incunabula at the New York Public Library. Bernard also works as a low-level assistant at the library, where his father is constantly monitoring and admonishing him. His father decides it's time he grew up and moved out of the family home in Great Neck, New York and into his own Manhattan apartment. His mother is not happy about letting him go, but acquiesces to her husband and arranges for Bernard to live in a rooming house run by nosy, prudish Miss Nora Thing. Miss Thing inherited the building on the condition that her late brother's aggressive pet rooster be allowed to occupy the fifth floor, which Bernard must pass to get to his room. Miss Thing reassures Bernard's mother that the rooster only attacks girls, especially young pretty girls, to which Bernard's mother responds that her son isn't interested in girls yet, but arranges that Miss Thing will spy on Bernard and report any "female" activity. Bernard's mother also constantly mails locks of her hair to Bernard at his new residence.

Actually, Bernard is very interested in girls, but due to his upbringing he's a naive, immature virgin. He is smitten from afar with the coldly beautiful actress Barbara Darling. Meanwhile, Amy Partlett, Bernard's grade school classmate who now works in his father's office, confesses to Bernard that she has a crush on him. Bernard's worldly co-worker Raef Del Grado encourages him to date Amy because she's a "sure thing"— a girl that will sleep with him — but discourages him from trying to pursue Barbara. Amy and Bernard go on a date to a discotheque, but when Bernard sees Barbara performing as the featured go-go dancer, he is mesmerized by Barbara and loses all interest in Amy. Amy tries to win him back by kissing him and offering to spend the night with him, which Bernard accepts although he's thinking of Barbara the entire time. When they try to go to Bernard's room, the rooster attacks Amy, causing a commotion in which Miss Thing falls down the stairs and breaks her arm. Bernard's mother blames Amy, calling her a tramp and forbidding Bernard from seeing her again.

Bernard writes Barbara a gushing fan letter, to which she responds inviting him to visit her at the theater where she's appearing in a play. Barbara is a narcissist, who hates men after being sexually assaulted as a young girl by an albino, one-legged hypnotherapist. Not knowing all this, Bernard is thrilled to hear from her, rushes to the theater to meet her, and bumbles his way through an evening at her apartment. Barbara, enjoying her control over Bernard's emotions, teases him and later tries to seduce him, but he can't perform and is upset about it though Barbara seems to be understanding and even invites him to move in with her. Meanwhile, Amy has been calling Bernard's rooming house all night looking for him.

Miss Thing goes to the library to tell Bernard's father that Bernard was out all night and that a girl called him every 15 minutes. Miss Thing and Bernard's father accidentally get trapped in a timelocked vault full of rare erotica, which horrifies her and causes her to rush out in disarray when the vault opens, giving the impression that Bernard's father made a pass at her. Bernard's father has made a pass at Amy, who gets upset and tells Bernard. Miss Thing evicts Bernard, so he moves in with Barbara, although he still can't perform with her and she's starting to treat him badly. His parents wrongly have concluded that he's spending nights with Amy, but when they discover Amy hasn't seen him, his father sends Raef to find him, leading to Raef and Barbara becoming engaged and Barbara throwing Bernard out of her apartment.

Bernard, followed by Raef and Barbara, returns to the library where his parents and Amy are waiting for him. Miss Thing and her new boyfriend, police officer Francis Graf, who also lives in her boarding house, also arrive to confront Bernard's father about what happened in the vault. Bernard finally rebels against his parents, telling them he's leaving and wants to get away from them, and then grabbing and running away with his father's most prized library item, the Gutenberg Bible. A slapstick chase through a street parade and a department store follows, ending when Barbara knocks Bernard out with a mannequin's leg. Barbara is featured in the newspaper for stopping a rare book thief and saving the Gutenberg Bible for the City of New York. Elated with her newfound fame, Barbara dumps Raef. Bernard is jailed, but Amy bails him out and he realizes she's the girl for him, and they leave happily together.



The idea for the film came from Tony Bill, who was a fan of David Benedictus' novel and hoped to play Bernard, but was cast as his duplicitous co-worker Raef Del Grado. Coppola made the film for a fee of $8,000 and on a budget of $800,000 as his thesis project for UCLA. The film ended up going over budget and costing close to $1 million, which it did not recoup until sold to television.[2][3]

Coppola wrote the screenplay while on location in Europe for Seven Arts Productions working on Is Paris Burning? The screenplay changed some aspects of the novel: The setting was moved from London to New York City, Bernard's job was changed from a shoe store clerk to a library assistant, and an upbeat ending was added. Later, when You're a Big Boy Now was called a copy of Richard Lester's 1965 comedy The Knack ...and How to Get It, Coppola noted that it had been written before that film was released, although he said his film was "definitely influenced" by Lester's A Hard Day's Night.[2][4]

The film was shot at Chelsea Studios in New York City,[5] and at various Manhattan locations, including Times Square, Central Park, and the New York Public Library][3] The Library initially refused to permit filming on its premises due to concern that its daily operations would be disrupted and because it objected to the script's suggestion that the library maintained a vault full of erotica that its curator enjoyed visiting. However, with the help of then-Mayor John Lindsay, Coppola secured a permit to film in the library.[2]

The chase through the department store was done at 11 AM during the store's normal operating hours, with no one outside the film's cast and crew having advance knowledge of the filming. Coppola and his crew concealed three cameras in carts and shopping bags and filmed the ensuing mayhem with natural light.[3] Although multiple sources including Gene D. Phillips (in his biography of Coppola) have stated that this scene was filmed in Macy's department store,[3][6] the signage shown in the film on both the exterior of the store building and the interior racks of clothing bears the name "Mays", a different department store chain then operating in New York City,[7] and film critic Lou Lumenick has identified the store as Mays' former Herald Square location.[8]

In the scene where Bernard roller skates through Manhattan streets after receiving Barbara's letter, the facade of the landmark original Pennsylvania Station (then in the process of being demolished) is briefly visible, with Madison Square Garden being constructed behind it.[4]

The film scenes projected on the walls of the discotheque where Bernard and Amy go on a date are from Coppola's first directorial effort Dementia 13 (1963).[3]

You're a Big Boy Now was released a year before Mike Nichols' The Graduate, which deals with similar themes of a young man getting involved with a predatory female and attempting to escape the societal conventions of his parents' generation. According to Mark Harris, when Nichols saw Coppola's film, he worried that it had "pre-empted" The Graduate.[9]

Rip Torn and Geraldine Page, who played Bernard's parents I.H. and Margery Chanticleer, were husband and wife in real life at the time the film was made.[10]

Awards and honors[edit]

The film was presented at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival as the only American entry.[11][12]

Geraldine Page was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Supporting Actress category for her performance as Bernard's mother Margery Chanticleer, but did not win. It was the fourth of her eight Oscar nominations during her career.[10][13]

Both the film and the lead actress, Elizabeth Hartman, were also nominated for Golden Globe Awards, although neither won.[14][15]


Original music for the film was composed by Lovin' Spoonful members John Sebastian and Steve Boone, and the band performed several songs heard in the film. A soundtrack album credited to The Lovin' Spoonful was released in 1967 on Kama Sutra Records in connection with the film release. Two songs from the soundtrack, "Darling Be Home Soon" and "You're a Big Boy Now", were also released as singles, with "Darling Be Home Soon" reaching #15 on the U.S. charts and spawning many covers by other artists.[4]

The jazz bagpiper Rufus Harley plays a small role in the film as a "Scottish pied piper" playing the Irish song "The Kerry Dance."[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gelmis, Joseph (1970). The Film Director as Superstar. Garden City, New York: Doubleday. p. 177.
  2. ^ a b c Stafford, Jeff. "Early Coppola: You're a Big Boy Now,", archived at, May 31, 2015, accessed May 31, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e Phillips, Gene D. Godfather: The Intimate Francis Ford Coppola. Univ. Press of Kentucky, 2004, pp. 40-44. ISBN 0-8131-2304-6.
  4. ^ a b c Monush, Barry. Everybody's Talkin': The Top Films of 1965-1969. Applause Theater & Cinema Books, 2009, pp. 133-135. ISBN 978-1-55783-618-2.
  5. ^ Alleman, Richard. New York: The Movie Lover's Guide: The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie New York. Broadway Books, 2005, pp. 231-232. ISBN 0-7679-1634-4.
  6. ^ Johnson, Robert K. (1977). Francis Ford Coppola. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Twayne Publishers. p. 56. ISBN 978-0805792522. He grabs the Gutenberg Bible and races out of the library, through the streets, and through Macy's store...
  7. ^ Berkun, Todd (2010-09-28). "LI & NY Places That Are No More: A Fun Look Back at History by Todd Berkun: Mays". Todd Berkun. Archived from the original on 2011-01-02. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  8. ^ Lumenick, Lou (2010-11-09). "DVD Extra: Groovy Coppola". New York Post. New York City. Archived from the original on 2016-02-06. Retrieved 2016-02-06. En route to a showdown at the long-gone Mays’ department store in Herald Square (approximately where Whole Foods is now)...
  9. ^ Harris, Mark. Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. Penguin Press, 2008, pp. 301-302. ISBN 978-1-1012-0285-2.
  10. ^ a b Hill, Rodney. "Page, Geraldine (Sue) (1924-1987)" in The Francis Ford Coppola Encyclopedia (James M. Welsh, Gene D. Phillips and Rodney F. Hill). Scarecrow Press, 2010, p. 202. ISBN 978-0-8108-7650-7.
  11. ^ Lebo, Harlan. The Godfather Legacy: The Untold Story Behind the Making of the Classic 'Godfather' Trilogy. Fireside, 2005, pp. 38-39.
  12. ^ Festival de Cannes (official website), The Official Selection 1967, "You're a Big Boy Now" Archived February 13, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, accessed May 31, 2015.
  13. ^ Kolbert, Elizabeth. "Geraldine Page, 62, Dies; A Star of Stage and Film", The New York Times, June 15, 1987, accessed May 31, 2015.
  14. ^ Golden Globe Awards (official website), You're a Big Boy Now[permanent dead link],, accessed May 31, 2015.
  15. ^ Golden Globe Awards (official website), Elizabeth Hartman Archived January 15, 2015, at the Wayback Machine,, accessed May 31, 2015.
  16. ^ Library of Congress. Film, Video: You're a Big Boy Now (catalog listing description), item no. jots.200020750,, accessed May 30, 2015.

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