Tall Story (1960)

(Image via Classic Film Freak)

Professors Charles Osman (Marc Connelly) and Leon Sullivan (Ray Walston) don’t know what’s about to hit them at the beginning of a new semester at Custer College.

That “what” is a new student, June Ryder (Jane Fonda), who mows the men down on her bicycle on her first day on campus. As fate would have it, June was looking for the two men, anyway. She wants to choose one of their classes as an elective for the spring semester.

Charles’ science course and Leon’s ethics course couldn’t be any more different, but June isn’t really concerned with the material. She’s come to campus to find herself a tall husband, and has her eye on basketball star Ray Blent (Anthony Perkins), who is enrolled in both of the classes.

June decides to enroll in both classes, beginning her quest to win Ray’s heart. But for Ray, the romance could mean trouble.

Tall Story was directed by Joshua Logan.

There’s no guessing which era this film comes from, especially once it’s revealed that June chose her college based on the height of its male attendees. The premise is wacky and, by today’s standards, sexist.

Weirdly, though, I kind of enjoyed the film. I chose to watch it solely for the actors involved, and it isn’t a film I went into expecting to love. But Fonda sells her character’s quest with plenty of confidence, and I actually got a few laughs out of it (see: the elephant discussion/babysitting scene).

(Image via TMDb)

Perkins plays his character with a nervous edge — a contrast to Fonda, who makes her big screen debut with a strong sense of self-assuredness.

Things only get sillier and sillier as the film moves along. Protests break out on campus when usually squeaky-clean, straight-A Ray flunks a test and will be forced to sit out of a big, important game. And then, there’s a whole twist to the plot involving gambling!

Hinging on that “M-r-s. degree” premise, the film is never as funny as it wants to be, even in its best moments. Like I mentioned above, though, I tuned in for the actors. And I would recommend the film for fans of Fonda or Perkins, to see them share the screen and a few fun scenes.

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9 thoughts on “Tall Story (1960)

  1. Todd B says:

    Seemingly an odd premise, right? Well…I worked with a girl who only wanted to date tall men, and she ended up marrying a tall guy. And this was only a few years ago! (Not sure if she chose a college based on male height requirements, however). I’d like to catch this one just to see Jane’s first film…and to pretend Anthony was in ‘Psycho’ mode.

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    • Lindsey says:

      It’s not the only-tall-guys part that’s odd. We all have our preferences/”rules.” But how would you even find the data to compare colleges based on the height of its male student population, especially before the internet age? And wouldn’t she at least *consider* things like location, campus atmosphere, etc.? I don’t doubt plenty of women in the real world went to college with the motivation of finding husbands, but the real one-track-mindedness of Fonda’s character was the part I found odd, haha.

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      • Todd B says:

        I’m sure she checked out dozens upon dozens of university yearbooks until she found a school where at least 90% of the male student populace were members of the basketball team! And don’t get me started on a discussion about yet another girl I worked with, who chose guys to go out with based on how cool their cars were!

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  2. popegrutch says:

    The thing that’s always been odd to me about this movie is that Perkins wasn’t all that tall (at 6’2″, he certainly wasn’t short, but he’d look short on a professional basketball court today). So much of the humor centers around the audience’s willingness to ignore this fact. At times, I think the director may have been playing on the surrealistic quality of everyone saying he’s tall when he’s not really.

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    • Lindsey says:

      At 5’1″, everyone is tall to me, haha. If I remember correctly, though, the average height for American men was somewhere around 5’7″ or 5’8″ in the early ’60s? At 6’2″ he wasn’t a giant, but half a foot taller than the average fella. Since the college in the film was supposedly full of tall men, though, he certainly wouldn’t have stood out there.

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    • J-Dub says:

      Funny how you make a reference to basketball, inasmuch as Perkins stature helped land him the role I always remember him for. If you mention Perkins to most, more often than not you’ll get a “Psycho”-base response. But If you visit my page, you’ll see I’m a sports guy, which means I think of Anthony Perkins in the Jimmy Piersall bio-pic “Fear Strikes Out.”

      That also means while Perkins may have had the stature of an athlete, he certainly didn’t have the ability. Perkins’ attempt to portray a baseball player might be the worst such attempt ever (although William Bendix in “The Babe Ruth Story” is worthy of being in that discussion).

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      • Lindsey says:

        Interesting about ‘Fear Strikes Out.’ I haven’t seen that one. He plays a college basketball star here in ‘Tall Story,’ but doesn’t spend too much time on the court, since the romance is the focus — probably a good thing based on your comment, if his basketball abilities were on par with his baseball abilities!

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