Man’s Favorite Sport? (1964)

“I’m wondering what it would be like if I kissed you.”

Synopsis:
Bestselling fishing expert Roger Willoughby (Rock Hudson) is asked by publicist Abigail Page (Paula Prentiss) to participate in a fishing contest. When Abigail discovers that Roger has never actually been fishing, she gives him private lessons, and finds herself falling hopelessly in love.

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Review:
Howard Hawks’ final screwball comedy met with tepid reviews upon its release, and remains one of his lesser efforts: the premise is silly, the humor is inconsistent, and there isn’t much chemistry between Hudson and Prentiss. With that said, however, the movie benefits greatly from Prentiss’s energetic performance; indeed, although Peary doesn’t review Man’s Favorite Sport? in GFTFF, he gives it special attention in his Alternate Oscars book, where he votes for Prentiss’s performance as the best by any actress in 1964.

Peary notes that Abigail “covers her insecurities by acting aggressively,” and that she “is her own worst enemy” — much like Geena Davis’s Muriel Pritchett in The Accidental Tourist (1988). Indeed, the two tall, lanky brunettes bear more than a passing resemblance to each other, given that Davis has suffered from a similar dearth of appropriate roles. Prentiss unfortunately never really found her niche in Hollywood, but this film remains one her finest on-screen triumphs, and is worth watching for this reason alone.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Prentiss’s performance — she’s always great fun to watch
  • Some hilarious overlapping dialogue (Hawks’s trademark)
  • Hudson’s inflatable “waders” exploding underwater

Must See?
Yes. While it’s uneven, this cult film is redeemed by Prentiss’s stand-out performance, and improves upon repeat viewings.

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One Response to “Man’s Favorite Sport? (1964)”

  1. Ick! This is one uniquely unfunny movie. There is (almost) not a single satisfying frame of film here.

    Yes, Prentiss is indeed an adorable presence. Yes, Hudson at least turns in a professional performance – even tho he’s not called on to turn in much. But poor Paula; poor Rock; poor film fanatic if there’s nothing else to watch (thank goodness THAT’S never a problem in the land of cinema!).

    Lay most blame on the pedestrian script, however. A real dud!

    If anyone in the cast really manages to rise above the deadly material, it’s those wonderful character actors Roscoe Karns (as Hudson’s customer, Major Phipps) and John McGiver (as Hudson’s boss – this is just five years prior to McGiver’s decidedly different performance in ‘Midnight Cowboy’). What these two pull off is close to miraculous – but it still shouldn’t make you track down the film. Only – well, if, for some bizarre reason, there really IS nothing else on.

    Note: FFs determined to watch every film director Hawks made will surely notice the direct nods to his own ‘Bringing Up Baby’. A few sequences are direct steals.

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