Monday, August 2, 2021

If a Man Answers: Treating Your Husband Like a Dog

Sandra Dee as Chantel.
Romantic comedies were box office gold in the early 1960s with hits like Lover Come Back and Come September (both 1961). Therefore, it was inevitable that a Hollywood studio would make one aimed at the young adult crowd. That's what Universal had in mind when it cast Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin as the leads in If a Man Answers (1962).

Dee and Darin met on the set of Come September, fell in love, and were married in 1960. By 1962, Sandra Dee was the ninth biggest draw at the U.S. box office and Bobby Darin had a #3 hit record on the Billboard Top 40 chart with "Things."

In If a Man Answers, Sandra Dee stars as a young socialite named Chantel, who has rejected numerous suitors. Her attitude toward men changes when she meets Eugene (Darin), a smooth-talking fashion photographer. He asks her to pose for him for a calendar shoot and--after some minor obstacles--the two get married.

Bobby Darin as Chantel.
However, Eugene doesn't want to photograph his wife in risqué outfits, so he hires Chantel's "friend" Tina (Stefanie Powers) as a model. That creates its own problems for the newlyweds. Chantel turns to her mother for advice and receives an unexpected response. Her mother "trained" Chantel's father using lessons from a dog obedience book. At first, Chantel is incredulous, but when she tries one of the dog training techniques on Eugene, it works like a charm.

Micheline Presle.
It's a silly premise, but works surprisingly well thanks to the agreeable cast. While Dee and Darin hold their own as the stars, it's the older supporting cast that shines. As Chantel's mother, French actress Micheline Presle adds elegance, intelligence, and a touch of sparkle. It's easy to see why her daughter confides everything to her and why her husband is devoted to her. Cesar Romero is her equivalent as Eugene's playboy father, who makes an appearance late in the film. Romero was born to portray charming lovers who are more playful than dangerous. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.

The other "star" of If a Man Answers is costume designer Jean Louis. The Hollywood veteran makes Sandra Dee, Micheline Presle, and Stefanie Powers look fabulous in tailored dresses in vibrant colors such as red, orange, and blue. Jean Louis is especially successful at enhancing Dee's sexiness after the actress was all but stereotyped as a tomboy in movies such as Gidget (1959) and Tammy Tell Me True (1961).

If a Man Answers continued Sandra Dee's string of hit movies. Bobby Darin's next film was a dramatic change-of-pace with him playing an Air Force gunner suffering for post-traumatic stress disorder in Captain Newman, M.D. (1963). Darin's performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In 1965, husband and wife teamed up again for another romantic comedy, That Funny Feeling.

By the late 1960s, however, Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin had divorced and each began to experience a decline in popularity. Darin died in 1973 following open heart surgery; he was 37. Sandra Dee appeared sporadically on television, but essentially retired from acting in 1978. She died in 2005 at age 62 from complications of kidney disease. Their son, Dodd Mitchell Darin, wrote a biography of his parents in 1994 titled Dream Lovers: The Magnificent Shattered Lives of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee.

8 comments:

  1. I recall the title but not the details of the movie. I look forward to seeing it sometime soon and enjoying these talented leads when the world was bright for them both.

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  2. You could write a column (maybe already have) on entertainers, mostly singers, who crossed over into acting and did well. The Big Three of the Rat Pack, dancers like Astaire and Kelly, and Bobby Darin, who showed some serious chops. Naturals, I guess.

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  3. The Bobby Darin story is interesting. He had rheumatic fever as a child, that weakened his heart and he figured he didn't have a long life ahead of him, so he was driven to succeed from a young age. Kevin Spacey made a bio-pic, Beyond the Sea, about Darin, one of those passion projects. Spacey wrote, directed, and starred in it. I don't remember a lot about it, except Spacey was clearly too old for the part. He was in his 40's, older than Darin was when he died, that didn't work so well when playing the younger Darin.

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    1. Spacey’s movie is interesting, but you’re right that he was too old to play Darin. Another interesting tidbit about Bobby Darin: He was an adult when he learned his “sister” was really his mother.

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  4. This was such a fun movie! Sandra and Bobby were magical!

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  5. Oh my, it was years since I've seen this film! I remember really enjoying it and - as a teenager - wondering whether men do respond to dog training techniques!

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  6. I was a bit doubtful about the premise of this film when I first started reading your review, but you've won me over. Plus, you can never go wrong with a Jean Louis wardrobe.

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  7. Her mother "trained" Chantel's?

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