Love in a Goldfish Bowl (1961)

(Image: Poseidon's Underworld)
(Image: Poseidon’s Underworld)

Blythe Holloway (Toby Michaels) and Gordon Slide (Tommy Sands) are classmates and best friends. They attend a small college called San Paleo, where Gordon excels in each class and is a bit of a smart-aleck toward authority figures. Blythe is naïve and not quite as outspoken as Gordon, but the two make great friends.

Dr. Frawley (John McGiver), the dean of the school, isn’t so fond of the pair, thinking that Gordon is a bad influence on sweet Blythe. He doesn’t believe that the two are simply friends. He forbids them from seeing each other, but they find ways to sneak around, hanging out in the parking lot away from the peering eyes of Frawley.

Gordon and Blythe decide to spend Easter break together rather than going home to visit their families. Frawley, however, just may ruin their entire plan if he realizes that they’ll be staying alone together at Gordon’s mother’s empty beach house. Even further complications ensue when a hunky Coastie (Fabian) takes a liking to Blythe at the beach.

Jack Sher directs the 1961 romantic comedy Love in a Goldfish Bowl. Sher also wrote the screenplay from a story he concocted with the help of Irene Kamp.

With Fabian and Tommy Sands in the cast, it comes as no surprise that this film includes a couple of musical performances.  Sands sings the title song while Fabian performs “You’re Only Young Once” with his friends at a party. Both songs are very pleasant to listen to, though I personally prefer Tommy Sands’ voice over Fabian’s.

The plot of the film is pretty light and fluffy, with a love triangle and a bit of conflict against authority but no serious drama to speak of. It’s a fun watch and a very cute little film.

(Image: fffmovieposters)
(Image: fffmovieposters)

The characters of Blythe and Gordon are easy to root for in the “love triangle” sector of the plot because they are so adorable as friends in the beginning of the film. The actors have a nice connection with each other and do seem like they’re actually close friends. Gordon’s “you’re my responsibility” attitude can be a bit off-putting at times, but Sands for the most part makes it seem like it’s coming from a place of caring rather than a place of possessiveness.

There are a number of very funny scenes, some intentionally (like a party guest bringing a goat along to the beach house) and some just plain corny (like a montage of Gordon and Blythe singing and washing dishes, transposed over images of a puppy’s face — I kid you not). Corny or not, these moments further bolster the film’s enjoyability.

The performances are decent, though pretty typical of the “teens in love and making tame trouble” genre. Michaels in particular is somewhat stiff in her delivery. Tommy Sands is surprisingly good and is the stand-out of the film. To be completely honest, I wasn’t expecting much from him, having never seen him in a film before. I figured he’d simply serve as a the film’s “teen heartthrob” eye candy, cast for the purpose of drawing every high school-aged girl in 1961 to the theater. His character is a bit of a Ferris Bueller-type, a sneaky and clever young man, and Sands pulls off the character well.

Love in a Goldfish Bowl is no stellar film, but it’s a fun, beachy rom-com that is easily enjoyable. I’d put it under the category of “mindless summer entertainment,” nice to watch but not requiring much in the way of viewer involvement. The score: 3/5

3 thoughts on “Love in a Goldfish Bowl (1961)

  1. You’re gonna love this: halfway through your review, I was still thinking that ‘Blythe’, as played by TOBY Michaels, was a guy! Two friends hanging out at college, and the dean of the school wants to put an end to their friendship? Say what? And then you mentioned ‘sweet’ Blythe, and I figured he was the blond-haired guy in the photo. And two guys, staying alone together at a beach house over Easter break, and the dean wants to ruin their plans! Fabian taking a liking to Blythe? I honestly began to wonder if this was some sort of ‘alternative lifestyle’ love triangle message film of the early ’60s! Good lord, am I ever dense!

    Anyway, I think I have it all straightened out now. Just one question: where did they find a goldfish bowl big enough to…oh, it’s a metaphor! Never mind.


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