March 1, 2010
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     By Brad Eastland, Dr. of Ancient Filmology

 As you stare with either envy or open-mouthed wonder at the picture of the beautiful girl above (depending on if you are a woman or a man), I am pleased to announce that this week’s forgotten old film that we need to explore and examine and otherwise obsess over is called “Don’t Make Waves”.   It came out n 1967, stars Tony Curtis, and is directed by Alexander Mackendrick.

      I shall break down my review into two parts.  

     image0011 Part one shall deal with all the wild and wonderfully quirky ingredients that make this screwball beach comedy the kind of delicious B-movie gem that when you wake up woozy on a Saturday morning and you’re not quite ready to get out of bed you are absolutely thrilled to click on the tube and find it right there in front of you.   Part two shall deal with what sets this movie apart.

      Part one.   First of all, the star.   Tony Curtis—once termed the “American Prince”—is probably one of the most underrated and underappreciated A-list movie stars of his era.   Handsome and talented, Curtis was equally adept at drama or comedy.   With regard to the former, a mere sampling of the movies he starred or co-starred in reads like a list of the best movies of the 50s and 60s: “Spartacus”, “The Defiant Ones”, “Trapeze” (opposite the great Burt Lancaster), “Sweet Smell Of Success” (again opposite Lancaster and, as with “Don’t Make Waves”, directed by the versatile Mackendrick) and “The Boston Strangler”.   As for his comedies, I recommend “The Perfect Furlough” (with his wife at the time, Janet Leigh), “Operation Petticoat”, and two fantastic screen romps he did with Natalie Wood; “The Great Race” and ”Sex and the Single Girl”.   The man is a national treasure.  

      Don’t Make Waves” also stars the gorgeous Claudia Cardinale, an Italian comedienne in one of her few U.S. roles, Robert Webber (that fine character actor whose name you can never come up with in “Twelve Angry Men, “10”, and “The Dirty Dozen”) is brilliant as kept-woman Cardinale’s “patron” who tries to keep her locked discreetly away in his beach house and far away from his suspicious wife (Joanna Barnes) and her armada of private detectives, famed ventriloquist Edgar Bergen has a plum role as an astrological advice columnist called Madame Lavinia, Jim Backus plays himself and even does a few lines of his immortal Mr. Magoo for us, and finally Mort Sahl, the revolutionary, politically driven stand-up comic of that era, doesn’t let the small bit-part he’s playing keep him from delivering a quick burst of political satire (“It’s a bomb shelter.   I started digging it during the Eisenhower administration, I stopped digging it during the Kennedy administration, and now I’m wondering if it’s big enough.”).   Even the music is a treat.   The title song is performed by The Byrds, one of the best rock bands of the 60s.   Believe me, if you wake up and flip on the tube and “Don’t Make Waves” happens to be on, just thank your lucky stars, as Madame Lavinia would say.   Other wise you’ll need to buy it on Amazon.com or rent it at Blockbuster.

      Now for Part Two.

      Which is where this review shifts from spirited to somber.

      Because with everything else it has going for it, “Don’t Make Waves” is a film that is virtually dominated by the luminous presence of Sharon Tate.   For all the right and wrong reasons.

      The wrong reason is obvious.   Tate will always be remembered, sadly and unfairly, as the beautiful and pregnant young woman who was butchered along with four of her friends on the night of August 9th, 1969, by crazed followers of one of the two most famous murderers in California history, Charles Manson.   Sadly, there is no getting away from that.  

      The unfair part is that in 1969 Tate was a young starlet on the verge of true screen stardom.

      Don’t Make Waves” was Tate’s coming-out party.   It wasn’t the first film she’d been in, she’d had a couple of uncredited parts and had recently had speaking roles in a couple others, but this was the first film ever actually released in theaters with her name on it; therefore, in the opening credits,  she was advertised thusly: INTRODUCING SHARON TATE.   And speaking of advertising, the studio (MGM) made her the focal point of all its promotions.   Tony Curtis must have wondered if he was even in a Tony Curtis movie.   For instance the studio had life-sized cardboard cut-outs of the golden-skinned Tate, wearing a bikini, propped up in the foyer entrance of any and all the theaters “Don’t Make Waves” was playing at throughout the United States—an extraordinary amount of advertising attention for any studio to in effect wager on an unknown actress.   Part of it was that Tate had just done a big ad campaign for Coppertone, the suntan lotion people, and MGM wanted to capitalize on that too.   The other part of it is that this was, after all, a “beach” movie, and so the studio made sure to present their beachiest asset, Tate, in as many provocative and scantily clad situations as possible; surfing, sunning, skydiving, jumping on a trampoline, and of course in the bedroom, sitting on the bed and watching TV naked while eating potato chips, with a confused and slightly aging Curtis wondering if maybe he wasn’t in over his head.  

      Remember the famous “Malibu Barbie” doll?   It was based on her, in this movie (Her character’s name was Malibu.).   And like a doll she hardly ever speaks.   Perhaps no actress in history has ever had a smaller ratio of words spoken in a movie to the number of scenes she appears in.  

      But make no mistake, Tate’s performance was terrific.   Well, maybe not terrific, but at least pretty good.   I admit she was still a long way from a Hepburn or a Garbo.   But she did a fine job, showing a definite flair for understated comedy.   The nonchalant, dead-pan way she plays the beach bunny stereotype absolutely works.   And the more unaware of her beauty she acts, the more dazzlingly beautiful she gets.

      Tate followed up her success in “Don’t Make Waves” with “Valley Of The Dolls”, a movie so bad that it is actually pretty good.   Okay, it was bad.   About the only award “Valley Of The Dolls” won was a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer, Female….Sharon Tate.   She was on her way.

      All of that was snuffed out on August 9th, 1969.

      What might have been.    What might have been.



image002Brad Eastland, our Dr. of Ancient Filmology, is a movie buff and film historian, as long as the film was made before 1985 or so.  (If you want to hear about new-release films, pick up a Times).   Special effects and gratuitous anything have no place in his celluloid world.   Primarily a fiction writer, Brad has written four novels and over 20 short-stories.  Here are some samples of his best work:




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