Man’s Favorite Sport? (1964)
While the legendary Howard Hawks may not be remaking his own Rio Bravo here as he kind of did with El Dorado, he freely borrowed a classic bit from his own Bringing Up Baby for this screwball comedy starring Rock Hudson and Paula Prentiss where man’s thirst for both fishing and girls collides.
Thanks to the efforts of Michaela at Love Letters to Old Hollywood and Crystal taking care of things at In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, we are shining the light on one of filmdom’s most popular and well known leading men of his era, Rock Hudson. In Man’s Favorite Sport, he continued his winning streak of light romantic comedies that had begun opposite his most famous on screen partner, Doris Day, with 1959’s Pillow Talk.
I’ve never been fishing in my life!”
It’s a classic set up that sees Rock as one of the nation’s foremost authority’s on the sport of fishing. He works in a high class sporting goods store owned by John McGiver and even has a best seller to his name, Fishing Made Easy. The truth is that Rock has never fished once in his life and being an outdoorsman has never once crossed his mind. He’s a master salesman who listens in and gets all his information from various anglers and freely passes the information along to the next one and looking like a fishing master in the bargain.
Rock’s big city existence is about to take a drastic turn when Miss Prentiss comes into his universe. Paula is a press agent for a big fishing derby and thinks it would be perfect for Hudson to sign on. He goes into a long line of excuses before finally confiding to Paula and her friend Maria Perschy that he’s never actually tried fishing. “Phony!” Paula’s winning on screen personality is both playful and sexy and she’s not letting Rock out of this gig once his boss McGiver thinks it would be great advertising for his store. Did I mention she’s also a bit flighty? No matter. Watching this once again reminds me that I’ve always had a crush on her since I was a youngster thanks to her performance in this comedy gem.
Once Rock hits the woods and streams he’s the fish out of water but thankfully Paula is there to help guide him on the proper way to cast a rod and reel and steer a boat. That is after Rock figures out how to start the outboard motor. Low and behold, our famed fisherman can’t swim either. The derby mainly consists of an old boys club who in the past have looked to Rock for advice on fishing techniques and bait. Now it’s Rock that’ll be reading his own book for pointers as he stumbles and lucks his way into hooking some fair sized fish over the three day tournament in what can only be described as “candid camera” moments.
Hey, isn’t this a screwball comedy? That means we’re bound to have some romantic entanglements and that’s just what we get when Paula begins to fall for the big buy originally born in Illinois. Rock’s engaged to leggy Charlene Holt who proves to be the jealous type. And why not I ask you when she finds Paula exiting Rock’s bedroom the morning she arrives, clearly giving the impression she spent the night with Rock when in reality a sleeping pill left her sprawled across Rock’s cottage bed. Then there’s that time Charlene came across Rock with a barely dressed Miss Perschy. Another comedy of errors that sees Rock and the eventual euro cult star giving us an updated version of the famous Cary Grant-Katherine Hepburn walk when Kate’s dress was torn from her backside in Bringing Up Baby. Miss Perschy would go on to star in titles ranging from The Castle of Fu Manchu to Exorcismo and The Ghost Galleon.
I’d also like to shine the light on character player Norman Alden here who stars as a backwoods Indian who plays things up for the tourists. He’s actually a shrewd businessman who Rock sees thru but on more than one occasion has to enlist for help at a cost. Another character player is James Westerfield as a traffic cop issuing Rock a ticket. Is Westerfield getting typecast? He played the same role in the two Flubber movies with Fred MacMurray. As for Rock, he matches well with Paula in this Hawks effort that clocks in at a fun two hours. Hudson had a knack for playing these comical roles with a romantic twist and it’s no wonder he had such a successful run of romcoms at the box-office.
Director Hawks was nearing the end of his illustrious career by this point and would only direct three more films. The final two with frequent leading man John Wayne. El Dorado and Rio Lobo. Hudson’s run of comedies would die down once the 60’s came to a close though he had McMillan and Wife slated for television which in itself proved to be somewhat of a romcom murder mystery on plenty of occasions. It helped immensely that he had great chemistry with his leading lady Susan Saint James. Still Rock Hudson could play it tough and if I hadn’t already featured Hornet’s Nest here at Mike’s Take, I just might have selected it for this celebration of Hudson’s life and career with other writers and bloggers.
Be sure to check out the other films and stories featured on this great star of the studio era and beyond by following the links above to Michaela’s and Crystal’s websites and be sure to get cozy on the couch with a loved one and turn the clock back to one of Hudson’s many memorable movies.