The Horror of Party Beach and Paris When It Sizzles :: His and Hers Drive-In Double Feature (1964)

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His and Hers Drive-In Double Feature :: 1964 :: The Horror of Party Beach and Paris When It Sizzles

We took an extended break from our year-by-year movie watching double features, but we are back with a vengeance – or, more like with radioactive beach zombie monsters and method actors in Paris (vengeance is so over-rated). 1964 if the year, and Saturday afternoon is the setting, we have big cups of coffee in hand and are ready, and soon-to-be caffeinated, for the return of “His and Hers Drive-In Double Feature”.

Here is the obligatory description of this project to serve as a reminder, and an introduction to new readers/watchers:

My husband (Charles) and I (Laura) select a movie to view together from each consecutive year. Most of the time these are movies that the other has not seen, and sometimes, they are new picks to the both of us. After viewing the two films in their entirety, we share our thoughts about each choice.

Charles like to take a cue in style and structure from the infamous drive-in movie reviewer, Joe Bob Briggs, borrowing his “3 B” rating system (“Breasts, Beasts and Blood“). I like to disclaim that no, he is not a redneck misogynist, he just plays one here on Drive-In Double Feature, with a heavy does of sarcasm, and a wink.

As for me, well, the English major side influences my style, and my reviews tend to read more as a reaction to the art form itself, as well as any societal messaging, both positive and negative, that may permeate the film, and impact my perspective.

All that said, we try to have fun with it, and utilize the challenge we threw at ourselves as a reason to carve out time, in each of our busy lives, to spend together.

Our first film (Charles’ choice) is a hilariously costumed B-movie, The Horror of Party Beach, which originally had the working title of Invasion of the Zombies. This is one of the many sixties beach party horror films, directed by B-movie maven, Del Tenney. He has described it as “a take-off on beach parties and musicals.” If this gives you any indication what we are in for with his choice, The Horror of Party Beach was one of the choices in the 1978 book, The Fifty Worst Films of All Time, and the movie-mocking television series, Mystery Science Theater 3000, featured it in one of its Season 8 episodes, in 1997. Although horror author Stephen King cites this as one of his favorite films, and the punk band Sloppy Seconds‘s song The Horror of Party Beach from their 1989 album Destroyed details the entire plot of the movie. 

The Horror of Party Beach :: Sloppy Seconds

Our second film (Laura’s choice) is actually a favorite of my oldest daughter, Julia, the romantic comedy, Paris When it Sizzles. The film was directed by Richard Quine, and produced by Quine and George Axelrod. Axelrod penned the screenplay which is based on the story and film, Holiday for Henrietta by Julien Duvivier and Henri Jeanson. The film stars William Holden and Audrey Hepburn, and features appearances by Noel Coward and Tony Curtis. Paris When it Sizzles is a “film within a film“, as the struggling screenplay writer comes up with various scenarios for a due in days screenplay tentatively called The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower, by acting them out with the help of typist-for-hire Audrey Hepburn. The movie makes fun of the business of making movies, which may or may not have been reasons for the film was so universally panned when released. Turner Classic Movies said of the film, “Critics uniformly panned the film but said it has earned a reputation as a guilty pleasure for those who enjoy in-joke movie spoofs and an absurdist storyline played out against the glorious backdrop of the City of Light.”

So, go ahead, take a seat, grab a cup of coffee like we have, or pour yourself a stiff drink and light a smoke (we are in the 60’s here, after all), and enjoy this edition of “His and Hers Drive-In Double Feature for 1964”. Please feel free to share your opinions on the movies, and share with us what movie you would have chosen for 1964. We also will consider requests for the years to come, just let us know – we LOVE feedback.

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The Horror of Party Beach (1964)

Trailer

Brief history:

The Horror of Party Beach was released in June of 1964. When theatrically released it was double-featured up with another Tenney feature, The Curse of the Living Corpse, packaged as a studio-sanctioned double feature. Unlike other beach party movies filmed up to that time, this film was shot in black and white and on the Atlantic coast. The film was produced in Stamford, Connecticut, and the beach scenes were filmed in an area of town called Shippan Point.

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The biker game in the film was played by the Charter Oak Motorcycle Club from Riverside, Connecticut.

The monsters (zombies?) for the film were constructed at Gutzon Borglum’s sculpting studio of Mt. Rushmore notoriety. There were two monster suits, and when they dried, one was too small for the stuntman. Production assistant Ruth Glassenberg Freedman had a son, Charles, who at sixteen fit perfectly into the suit and thus portrayed one of the monsters in the film.

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The advertising for the double feature of The Horror of Party Beach and Living Corpse capitalized on a gimmick first utilized by director William Castle, in which some newspaper advertisements included a call-out that stated “FOR YOUR PROTECTION! We will not permit you to see these shockers unless you agree to release the theater of all responsibility for death by fright!” Theaters were encouraged by the distributor to have patrons sign a “Fright Release” before they took their seats.

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Although billed in its promotional material as “The First Horror Monster Musical“, all the songs heard in the film are presented as either soundtrack music or source music, as opposed to the style of a traditional musical with songs sung by central characters of the story.

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As a tie-in, a monographic “Fumetti” (photo novel) version (see below) by Wally Wood and Russ Jones detailing the film’s story was released by the Warren Publishing Company under its Famous Films masthead. It had a 35-cent cover price.

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The film was shot in only three weeks.

For a meeting in which Del Tenney was going to show the film to executives from Twentieth Century Fox to see if they would pick it up, Tenney brought in some folks to wear the monster suits for promotion. One of the monsters just happened to be in the restroom when an executive from Twentieth Century came in. The gentleman freaked out at the sight of the monster Tenney recalled. Later, everyone had a good laugh about it and Twentieth Century Fox released the film.

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Director Tenney said he kept the monster suits from this film for years afterward and wore them at parties for laughs.

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His take: 

I am not sure why I picked this film out other than a mad dash to find something really bad from 1964 that did not involve Jerry Lewis, after the lambasting I have gotten from my wife regarding my last two picks. I remember seeing this film many, many years ago when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, but for the life of me the only thing that stuck out in my memory was the monster eye-popping from within the first fifteen minutes of the film.

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Now I know why I cannot recall much of this film. It is bad, even from this “old Texan’s” opinion. It might have something to do with it being filmed entirely in Connecticut, a god-awful state I spent time in back in 1993, not too far from where this was shot. From the asinine fight scene at the beginning of the movie, which does nothing to further the story-line other than to show people from Connecticut really don’t know how to fight (why did one guy have to be flipped in order to hit the other guy in the gut?), to the very confusing love story (?) that seems to transpire within a week after the main male half of the romance’s girlfriend (now ex-girlfriend) is killed by the rubber monster.

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The movie starts off like a pilot episode of Laugh-In, “the party beach version“, from the musical number paused for one-liners such as the scene where two guys are watching a girl’s “buns”, and one guy asks the other, “did you remember to bring your hot dog buns?“, the only thing missing was Lyndon B. Johnson showing up to say “sock-it-to-me” (5 points to any readers who get the reference). The film would have been fine if it had stayed this way, in this setting, for the entire hour and eighteen minutes. However, once the first victim is found, we quickly digress to a standard, cookie-cutter, monster movie reminiscent of one of my favorites, Attack of the Killer Shrews.

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3 B rating (1 point given for Boobs, Beasts and Blood): 3 B’s – this one has it all actually, there are boobs (even though some of the bikinis look more like adult diapers), beasts and blood (or, well, Bosco).

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Her Take: 

All in all, The Horror of Party Beach was a complete disappointment to me. It was bad in a way that does not turn around and end up being good, or so bad it’s good, or even cheesy bad good. No, it was painfully bad. Though, honestly, I am not quite sure why I had expectations, at all. I suppose I could blame Psycho Beach Party, the cult-classic parody of this kind of movie, because that was cheesy bad good, and I think I wanted to believe that my first foray into this genre would be cheesy bad good, too. Oh, and also, when I think horror-musical I think of Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I think of The Phantom of the Paradise, or Repo the Genetic Opera – this was nothing of the sort. Hell, Zombies…a Love Story, a very cheesy and independently made horror/musical did a better job than this one.

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You cannot have a band in your movie who lip-synch a few previously recorded songs and call it a musical.

If you want a good, cheesy good, ghost/horror movie with drag racer gangs (instead of motorcycle ones), and bands who actually participate in an actual musical number (making it that much closer to a “horror musical”), check out the 1959 film, The Ghost of Drag Strip Hollow.

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This film starts with a young couple driving in a stereotypical convertible to a beach party. The girl, Tina, is drinking straight from the bottle and her boyfriend, Hank, has had enough of her drunken shenanigans. They fight, she tells him they should go their separate ways, and she then starts a dance/seduction of a motorcycle gang leader who looks like a cross-between Johnny Mathis and West Side Story’s Bernardo. She dirty dances with him, flirtatiously, and Hank, who has been off with a tall, rich seeming blonde, suddenly takes notice and goes to stake a claim to what is “his“. Johnny Mathis and overwhelmingly “Ken doll” Hank sort of fight, sort of dance, and also sort of perform a martial arts meets Cirque Du Soleil moves.

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Hank and Johnny Mathis’ dance/fight is actually the most energy and passion we see from Hank in the whole movie, except for when he later goes to New York City in search of SODIUM!

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Science discovers the monster-killing power of SODIUM!

We cut away from the party at one point and see a boat carrying tubs of radioactive gunk dump their cargo into the ocean. The camera pans down into the water as the gunk sinks and close-ups into the keg-type lid coming open and all that oil-looking liquid draining out into the ocean. We then have to suffer through an annoyingly long camera shot of a skull that goes from light to dark, over and over, as it transforms into one of these ridiculous monsters (see below).

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We never do learn exactly what the monsters are, how they populate at different rates, why their mouths seem full of hot dogs, why the reversed mohawk African American Gone With the Wind type maid keeps spouting about voodoo in New England (her characterization feels uncomfortable), or why exactly sodium can only be found in New York, and is able to be transported in a trash can. Oh, and why exactly if the monsters need blood – human blood – to survive, then why do they only go after young women, and not everyone?

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Eulabelle does discover the SODIUM power and does save the day, though!

We only see the monster-transformation once (thank the film editing god’s!), yet later we see zombie-radioactive-monster has a friend, and then even later, a whole gang of gunky, girl-crazy creatures. We learn that they cannot eat or sustain health except by consuming blood (girl blood, it seems). Oh, and we also learn (SPOILER ALERT) that sodium does them in.

In short, this is a cautionary tale about the following:

1) Drinking and promiscuity if you are a girl (slut shaming turns to first kill from the monster, of course).

2) Polluting our oceans can have fatal consequences.

3) Sodium is bad for everyone – it even kills monsters! (Wait, isn’t that a benefit?).

4) Water-born (reborn), radioactive, monster/zombies only kill young women. So, I guess maybe 1) does not apply. If you are female, go on a drink and get it on with whomever you want, you are all going to be dead anyway.

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I don’t know what else to say about this movie. It was badly paced, edited, written and directed. About the only think that was tolerable was actually the acting that was, surprisingly, not that horrendous.

Her Rating: Out of 5 stars: I give this film 1 1/2 stars, mainly for the monster costume and for all the “sodium” laughs (the 1/2 may be generous, though).

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Watch your SODIUM intake kids, and keep the ocean’s clean of radiation!

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 Paris When It Sizzle (1964)

Trailer

Brief history:

The film, whose working title was Together in Paris, is a remake of the 1952 French film Holiday for Henrietta, directed by Julien Duvivier. Paramount Studios exercised an option on their contracts with both Audrey Hepburn and William Holden, forcing them to make the film together. William Holden, who had had an affair with Audrey Hepburn during the making of Sabrina a decade earlier and been in love with her ever since, attempted without success to rekindle a romance with the now-married actress.

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William Holden’s alcoholism was also a constant challenge for Director Quine, who moved into a rented house next to Holden’s during production to keep an eye on him. Holden later commented on both of the problems:

I remember the day I arrived at Orly Airport for Paris When it Sizzles. I could hear my footsteps echoing against the walls of the transit corridor, just like a condemned man walking the last mile. I realized that I had to face Audrey and I had to deal with my drinking. And I didn’t think I could handle either situation.”

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Uncredited Tony Curtis was brought into the production to film during a week when William Holden was undergoing treatment for his alcoholism at the prompting of the director. Lang replaced Renoir as the director of photography during production, a change demanded by Audrey Hepburn after she saw what she felt were unflattering dailies.

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Audrey Hepburn shot the film in the Summer of 1962, back-to-back with the movie Charade, which she shot that Fall (filming of this film ended just two days before production on Charade began). The films shared several locations, most notably a “Punch and Judy” puppet theater in the park in front of the Théâtre Marigny.

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Critics panned the film, one after another.

Variety called Paris When It Sizzles “marshmallow-weight hokum” and quoted a line from the film as an apt description of the film itself: “contrived, utterly preposterous and totally unmotivated“; it complimented the two leads, saying Audrey Hepburn is a “refreshingly individual creature in an era of the exaggerated curve” and William Holden “handles his assignment commendably.”

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Time said the film was “a multi-million dollar improvisation that does everything but what the title promises” and suggested that “writer George Axelrod (The Seven Year Itch) and director Richard Quine should have taken a hint from Holden’s character Richard Benson, who writes his movie, takes a long sober look at what he has wrote, and burns it.”

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There are many “film-within-a-film” moments, such as the mention of Breakfast at Tiffany’s a film Audrey Hepburn had starred in, in 1961, and also during the scene where Audrey Hepburn and William Holden compare Frankenstein to My Fair Lady, the latter of course being the film Audrey would soon star in. 

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His take:

I didn’t know what to expect going in to this film, as is the usual case with my wife’s picks. Like most guys, I hear Audrey Hepburn and automatically assume we are going to be walking in to a romantic clap-trap. I realize this ain’t the case, that as viewers we seem to have preconceived notions of many actors and actresses (for example, Cary Grant played in more screwball comedies than anything else, and yet the world at large pictures him as the suave, debonair “lover“). Regardless, I went into this expecting some kind of romantic comedy set in god-awful France (worse even then god-awful Connecticut as a setting – see above).

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We are introduced to what I can only assume is the atypical sixties behind-the-scenes film life. From the presumptuous studio exec. keeping bridge score on the back of a topless, Brigitte Bardot clone (?), to the dictation being taken by the “trenches” (i.e. scantily clad women), setting up the plot of the film.

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Dissolve…

Next, we are introduced to William Holden, a drunken, live-to-excess, screenwriter (similarities to numerous other screenwriters, and to Holden himself, be damned), who spent a good amount of his time putting off writing the film the film is about, and Audrey Hepburn, a girl he has hired to type out the screenplay that he has to finish off in two days time. Two characters who at first glance should not be romantically involved, William Holden appearing to being twenty-five years Audrey’s senior. Yes, I now know there was only a ten year gap in their ages, I guess being so drunk you confuse vodka for whiskey (watch for it, you’ll see it more than once) takes its toll.

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The remainder of the film is spent setting up visualizations of the script being written as an excuse to move the romance along (no one told Audrey’s character that unless your Harlan Ellison, most writer’s main characters are nothing like the writer). There are many great scenes in this film, unfortunately only one actually involves Holden.

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Tony Curtis really should have gotten a bigger part in this film considering how funny he is imitating James Dean in a “too soon” moment (Dean’s death less than ten years earlier). The one scene where Holden is funny is during the Dracula rip where he strikes a strong resemblance to R. Lee Ermey (see pictures below).

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It is easy to see why critics at the time panned this. The overall flow of the film would be considered high concept (the same critics had no problem accepting Bewitched and I Dream of Jeanie as believable concepts – Bewitched released the same year as this film, and Jeanie a few years following).

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Overall, much better than I expected, although we are led to assume that the French and people from Connecticut (see earlier review) suffer from the same poor dancing skills. I am not saying all people from Connecticut are French, but all people from France should move to Connecticut.

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3 B rating (1 point given for Boobs, Beasts and Blood): 1 1/2 B’s – Lots of boobs at the beginning, and William Holden and Audrey’s real-life husband as Dracula and Dr. Jekyl for 1/2 credit for “beasts”, and no blood. Check it out!

Her Take: 

For years now I have been meaning to see this film. I am an Audrey Hepburn fan, always have been, loving Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sabrina, Roman Holiday and Charade – all in my list of favorite movies. My oldest daughter, Julia, also has been raving about this one for years, Paris When It Sizzles being one of her all-time favorites. I also am a fan of films that cross time and place, involve time travel, create alternate realities, and twists in storytelling that create “meta” instances, a story within a story kind of thing. As a writer, these are the genres and formats that encourage creativity, inspire uniqueness and defies boundaries. As a reader, or movie watcher, I am always sucked in to these kinds of scenarios. Also, I am a huge lover of movies about writers.

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This movie is definitely a meta-type bonanza, a story told about a film-within-a-film, often mocking the film industry and the indulgence and bad behavior that often accompanies it, it also tells a tried and true kind of love story, the one where one person who never falls ends up falling, and where a mismatched sort of “meet cute” presents an opportunity for love. Think It Happened One Night and The African Queen, and more recently, Music and Lyrics. All the basics are here: we have the jaded writer who has drunk himself into two days to a deadline without actually starting the screenplay. He’s worldly in a way that has exhausted himself, yet his pride and addictions keep him from letting anyone in, to help, or to love. We have the ingenue, bright and big eyed beautiful, spunky, strong and challenging. Audrey always did play well-developed female characters (one of the reasons I’ve always admired her). She is a typist-for-hire, though we are never quite sure who has hired her, she has that naive joy about life, that excitement that dances on her skin and shines off her smile, she has hope, and our writer, well he is hopeless.

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This is a pairing that I would usually be rooting for, the rough around the edges flawed humanity, the way one person can save the other, and get saved right back, without disappearing completely. The hopeless romantic that I am cheers it on, and waits for the (yes I know) inevitable kiss at the end, or some other romantic gesture. I can think of so many examples where I feel this way while in the throes of a cinematic story, some obvious and some more obscure. All that said, William Holden’s Rick and Audrey Hepburn’s Gaby are not one of them. I wanted to want them to want each other, but to me they lacked chemistry, they lacked connection, and yes, they lacked sizzle. There was no tension between the two of them, something that actually surprises me now that I know they were once lovers.

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The first thing I noticed about the two of them was the strange, and almost uncomfortable way that Rick was with Gaby. He was touching her and getting very close to her and kissing her way before one would think was realistic, and many times you could see her uncomforableness screaming off of her. True, this could be her visible tension of having to work with an ex who was vocal about not being over her, and actively trying to get her back, but I think it was also a true reaction for her character to have. She was not a “girl-for-hire” in the sexual or even companionship sort of way, she was there to type his screenplay, she was there as a three-day freelancer and her “boss” keeps touching her. Even if he is William Holden the “ick factor” is still there.

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Maybe it felt more natural to Holden since he a) still had feelings for Audrey, and b) they had been intimate, but on-screen it stood out to me and put me off. I know that the perceived age difference, which was actually not as severe as it appeared, also put a lot of people off, but I was not bothered by that.

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The characters lack of chemistry was glaring, and even in the various extreme “movie” moments, when they were playing characters they were co-writing, I never quite believed in them. What I did enjoy, though, was Audrey’s characterization of Gaby, how she was bold and not ashamed of being sexual and adventurous, of writing her own “character” that way, of saying things like “I’m not that kind of girl“, then cringing and saying she hates girls who say that. It all seemed ahead of its time behavior, and I liked it.

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William Holden’s Rick, well, I wanted him to be more of a scoundrel, more cocky and confident, and less of a drunk. To me, the alcohol became too much of who he was, and at times I swore I could smell it seeping out of his pores through the screen. I wanted more of a Dean Martin type, or Cary Grant via The Philadelphia Story, or a Kevin Kline via French Kiss type, or if the character needed to be more broken and burdened by writer’s block, maybe something more like Micheal Douglas’ writer in conflict, and in an inappropriate love affair, in Wonder Boys. I wanted Rick to be charasmatic, enough to make me believe that instead of being disgusted or uncomfortable, Gaby would be drawn to him, intrigued, and attracted.

Audrey Hepburn, Paris when it sizzles (1964) starring William Holden

Tony Curtis, on the other hand, had the charisma, the wit, and the bravado. Every time he was on-screen he stole it. I found myself wishing he was more of a primary role (something his character kept bemoaning). I almost wonder if he’d have done a better job as Rick.

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All that said, though, the movie was enjoyable. I loved the back-and-forth between writer and story. Some of the moments were so charming and enthralling that it transcended Rick and Gaby’s lack of spark – like the vampire reveal, the plane ride, or the bathroom stand-off with the lighter gun. The costumes, too, were a kick to wait and watch for.

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Oh, and any time Tony Curtis was involved in the scene – especially his beatnik/method actor in red at the outdoor cafe – so hilarious!

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The ending? Predictable to an extreme (replace fountains with rain and it would have been even more of a trope), and I just did not believe in their love, or in that final kiss. I am glad I saw it, though.

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