APRIL LOVE gave tremendously popular crooner Pat Boone his second hit in 1957, following his acting debut in the dopey comedy Bernardine. He had the same director in Henry Levin, but this time a better script, castmates and setting. 20th Century Fox spent $1,425,000 on this, then pulled in at least $8,000,000 in return, along with getting an Oscar nomination for the title tune caress, written by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster. *
City boy ‘Nick Conover’ had a run-in with the law (joyriding in a stolen car) and his suspended sentence hangs on “serving time” at the Kentucky horse farm owned by his uncle & aunt, who barely know him. During his stay, Nick meets the neighboring ‘Templeton’ sisters: sweet and demure ‘Liz’ (Shirley Jones, 23) and also open but a bit spicier ‘Fran’ (Dolores Michaels, 24). Liz is keen on trotting horses, Fran likes to zip around in her red Austin Healey convertible. Nick digs cars, but also turns out to be in tune with horses. Which sis will he end with? **
And can he trot? Darn right, and credit Boone for deft handling of old-fashioned horsepower during the Big Race finale. Dramatically, it doesn’t amount to a hill of licorice, but it’s easy on the eyes, the actors mesh well together (including perennially flustered Arthur O’Connell as ‘Uncle Jed’), the critters are lovely, the scenery most inviting. Audiences in ’57 walked out smiling: the movie is a sentimental favorite for many. Innocent fluff with a certain nostalgic resonance.
Winston Miller’s screenplay updated his own from 1944’s popular Home In Indiana, which had been based off “The Phantom Filly”, a novel written by George Agnew Chamberlain. Apart from the title tune, a #1 hit for Boone, the five other songs are forgettable, but that debit is cancelled by the expansive location shooting in beautiful landscapes around Lexington, Kentucky. The movie exudes fresh air.
With Jeanette Nolan (‘Aunt Henrietta’), Brad Jackson and Matt Crowley. 97 minutes.
* Another case where tracking box office is confounding. Cogerson reports this having a gross of $4,000,000, 64th place for the year, but other sources give rentals as $3,700,000, which would indicate a gross over the $8,000,000 we cite above. Still more claims have it doing even better. Anyway, Pat’s fans flocked, and it’s a pleasant chestnut from the period.
** The Smooch: much ballyhoo was attached to Boone kissing his co-star, or rather, his having to think it over. Let Pat speak: “(the kiss) wasn’t (originally) in the script. We were on the Ferris wheel at a carnival, and the director said he wanted me to kiss the leading lady. I said, ‘On the mouth?’ He said it was something that people wanted to see. But, since it wasn’t in the script, I had not cleared it with the other Shirley–my wife, Shirley Boone. I got everyone to postpone until I could go home and talk to my wife. That night, she was already ahead of me. She said, ‘I get how this works. I understand that you will be kissing other women on set. But, promise me one thing: *you won’t enjoy it.’ Next morning, I came in all puckered up. But, the trade papers had already gotten word, and it was all over the place that I had balked at kissing Shirley Jones. They claimed that I did it for religious reasons, but I just wanted to stay married!”
Now, Shirley Jones squeaky image at the time (Oklahoma!, Carousel) was in contrast to her less-uptight offscreen personality, which makes the liplock issue even funnier. A few years later, in State Fair, Pat and Mrs. Boone would be faced with the nuclear fission dilemma of Ann-Margret.