For two weeks out of the year, college students descend upon Fort Lauderdale. Easter Vacation brings in waves of teens from all over the country. The boys come to soak up the sun. The girls come to Fort Lauderdale because they want to find out where the boys are.
Where the Boys Are (1960), directed by Henry Levin, is a coming of age comedy that has a lot more to offer than just beach blanket bingo. The film is unlike many others in 1960, centering around the taboo topic of sex and relationships. Four women, focused on getting what they want, regardless of the ideology America had set in place, decide to spend their school vacation in Fort Lauderdale.
Merrit, Melanie, Tuggle and Angie are students. They are inspired by the leader of the pack, Merrit (played by the gorgeous Dolores Hart) who voices her opinions on the state of sex in their society. The girls decide the best place to round out their opinions is in the most hopping wild vacation spot there is during break, Fort Lauderdale. Tuggle (played by Paula Prentiss), Angie (Connie Francis) and Melanie (Yvette Mimeiux) branch out to find contrasting love experiences throughout their vacation.
The romantic adventures for each woman are very different. Tuggle is looking for marriage, Melanie for Mr.Right-Now and Angie doesn’t really quite know what to look for at all. Merrit finds herself in the throes of ivy leaguer Ryder Smith (George Hamilton). She slowly realizes the ideas she had of sex and romance are a lot different when you are faced with the reality of the situation. Each woman may have different opinions on relationships, but they come together to fight for what they know is right and wrong.
Sold as a comedy, Where the Boys Are is far from any laughing matter. The plot line is more relevant today than ever before. The film focuses on the relationships and hardships everyone faces in their adolescence, taking on cultural taboos head on. The main four women are feminist icons that were a far cry from the 1960 expectations, and the ending takes a somber and realistic look at relationships, addressing numerous problems that still plague young adults today.
Ideas of sex, relationships and adulthood are all addressed in a story that’s more than a vacation musical, and regardless of the comedic elements, there’s a message that the producers obviously feel is worth repeating. Facing the topics of consent, love, and equality, Where the Boys Are stood the test of time, and could be considered a must see for any teenager facing adulthood.
Producer Joe Pasternak acquired the rights to Glendon Swarthout’s novel before it was even published, originally titled Unholy Spring. MGM persuaded Swarthout to change the title just as it reached bookshelves.
The film reached critical success and with that came talk of a sequel. Through 1960 unofficial follow ups came to light. Original stars Paula Prentiss and Jim Hutton received accolades for their chemistry and went on to star in three more MGM films together, including The Honeymoon Machine. In 1984 TriStar Pictures released Where the Boys are ’84, which went on to be a complete failure, even winning a Razzie award. In the end Where the Boys Are inspired numerous films, spanning different studios, all with the desire to capture the essence of that original 1960 flick.
Where the Boys Are was also the inauspicious acting debut of singer Connie Francis. She had been connected to two previous pictures, behind-the-scenes as the singing voice of the female stars. Connie took on Where the Boys Are with relentless vigor. The title song reached the #4 spot on the US charts and became her signature.In fact, the soundtrack played a major part of the film, setting the tone for the swinging beach scenes. Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield penned the title song as well as the tune “Turn on the Sunshine.” Strangely, even though the songs were a highlight, MGM did not release a soundtrack. Today, that would be considered a major marketing mistake.
Warner Archives Collection’s new Blu-Ray edition of Where the Boys Are includes brand new special features, including commentary by Prentiss and a Retrospective.
Where the Boys Are isn’t just another spring breakers flick, it’s a film with a real heart beating under that superficial surf and sun.