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“The Honorable God has spoken!” August 18, 2007

Posted by Jeff in 1961 through 1989, Movies.

Tippy Walker as ValSo I’m posting my screenplay, Tabula Rasa, onto a website that requires you to include the names of three movies to which your screenplay is similar. I was stumped … until my friend Kathe mentioned The World of Henry Orient.

Of course, I thought. It had never occurred to me until that moment that there was any resemblance between my screenplay and this overlooked gem.

The World of Henry Orient (1964) is that rarest of rarities, a Hollywood girl-buddy film. To judge by its advertising you would assume it’s a Peter Sellers film, but in fact Sellers’ role is secondary to that of its adolescent leads. It takes a lot to upstage Peter Sellers, but Tippy Walker and Merrie Spaeth pull it off.

Gil (Spaeth, the blonde) and Val (Walker, in the mink coat) are upper-class Manhattan teenagers who have a crush on Henry Orient (Sellers), a self-important, womanizing concert pianist. Here, they trade broken-family fantasies:

Merrie Spaeth as MarianThe girls pursue Henry as he in turn chases Mrs. Dunworthy (Paula Prentiss), and the paranoid pianist thinks the girls are spies sent by his lover’s husband. Eventually, Val’s mother gets involved (Angela Lansbury in full Manchurian Candidate mode), and she becomes convinced that Orient has actually seduced her daughter.

On Thanksgiving, Val is in hiding at Gil’s:

The screenplay was co-written by Nunnally Johnson (The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit, The Dirty Dozen) and his daughter Nora who wrote the novel on which it was based. Nora Johnson confessed to having had a teenage crush on — of all people — Oscar Levant.

United Artists bought the script for Hayley Mills and Patty Duke, but after they passed someone decided to beef up the title role for Sellers. As it turns out, he’s the weakest thing in the movie; one can sense his distress that the teenagers are stealing the movie out from under him. The story gets a bit bogged down in soap opera but rights itself at the end.

This was one of George Roy Hill’s first features, and one suspects he had a lot to do with the strong performances from the girls. Of course, he went on to offer such guy-buddy films as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting. Hill later directed a Broadway musical based primarily on the novel — Henry, Sweet Henry — with music and lyrics by Bob Merrill and choreography by Michael Bennett.

“Jennifer On My Mind”Walker and Spaeth went on to do intermittent TV work; Elizabeth “Tippy” Walker even spent a year on Peyton Place (but then so did every actor in southern California). She appeared in the title role of what sounds like a truly awful Love Story knockoff, Jennifer On My Mind, and today she runs an art gallery in New Haven.

Merrie Spaeth ended up working for the FBI under Reagan. Nowadays she runs a PR firm in Texas, having married a lawyer who ran for Lieutenant Governor (and lost) on the same ticket with George W. Bush. She worked on the campaigns to discredit John Kerry and John McCain in the Presidential elections, which she later told the National Review was “the biggest mistake, at least one of the top five, of my life … I regret being involved in any way.” Somehow I find this more depressing than if she had died of a heroin overdose or if they’d had to drag the river to find her body. Gil would have seen right through them …

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1. Marcus - August 13, 2006

And the other two movies are…

2. dilettanteville - August 13, 2006

I watched this film on TV a couple of times as a young girl (about the age of the protagonists) and have fond memories of it. I may have to rent it to see if it holds up to my memory of the movie. All I know is that I wanted to be like those girls – dashing around Manhattan, having adventures – even if they’re pretend – and living a grand life compared to my adolescence growing up in Phoenix, Arizona.

3. Jeff - August 13, 2006

Marcus: The other two movies were Rich Kids and The Horse’s Mouth, either or both of which will probably end up on this blog.

dilettanteville: Although I lived a little closer to Manhattan to you, I recall those same feelings watching movies like The World Of Henry Orient. I think you’ll really enjoy Tabula Rasa and I encourage you to read it!

And thanks for posting!

4. Mick - January 28, 2007

I guess I’m going to have to read it, too. The connection between Henry Orient and Rich Kids I get, but Horse’s Mouth? Baffling, unless your characters have a crush on a crazy painter.

5. Andy - January 21, 2008

I googled Merrie’s quote you mentioned above about her five top mistakes and unfortunately she is only referring to doing some p.r. against McCain in 2000, she is stlll fine with Swift Boats…Against Kerry. I am a big Henry Orient fan and while I am strongly against Republican politics/politicians, I did meet her a few years ago and found her extremely gracious and she seemed genuinely nice.

6. Cine Guy - August 4, 2008

Elizabeth (Tippy) Walker who played Val across from Merrie Spaeth in “The World of Henry Orient” lives in New Haven, but no longer runs an art gallery. She is a good, decent person with liberal/progressive values who cares about people. Too bad Spaeth went the other way, embracing ugly right-wing values, and actually taking part in the republicans’ dirty tricks. If she regretted doing those sleazy things, she might not be so bad after all. But Elizabeth is really a peach.

Bruce - January 13, 2010

Ugly right-wing values and Republican dirty tricks? Have you been keeping up with the REALLY UGLY left-wing values that honor a woman’s right to MURDER her unborn child, give away American citizen’s social security benefits to ILLEGAL aliens, and tax American businesses RIGHT OUT OF BUSINESS?
You can keep your REALLY UGLY left-wing socialist/Marxist politics designed to pull America down to the level of every other non-functioning democracy in the world! I loved Tippy Walker’s performance, too, as I did Merrie Spaeth’s, but the World of Henry Orient was an INNOCENT one and today’s political world is ANYTHING BUT. That includes the socialst/leftist/Democrat sellouts to the amoral values of this world!

Anonymous - January 18, 2012

I’m with Bruce and Sally!

7. Sally - September 18, 2008

“She worked on the campaigns to discredit John Kerry and John McCain in the Presidential elections, which she later told the National Review was “the biggest mistake, at least one of the top five, of my life … I regret being involved in any way.” Somehow I find this more depressing than if she had died of a heroin overdose or if they’d had to drag the river to find her body.”

Liberals are frightenly sick people.

8. Mimi - July 7, 2009

I know what Cine Guy says is true: Elizabeth is a gem. I had a brief conversation with her online once. It struck me as odd that these two had such divergent values. No liberals are not frightening, Sally. You really need to look at the whole person.

Bruce - January 13, 2010

What Cine-Guy says is NOT true! Look at the vultures who run this country today and tell me they represent anything CLOSE to the spirit of American values and charitable concerns! When the Democrats have thoroughly made bankrupt our economy and have removed IN GOD WE TRUST from every facet of American life, THEN tell me about how great America has become.
In fact, your answer will be most likely to resemble THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE.

Anonymous - January 18, 2012

Right on, Bruce!

Alan - October 8, 2012

I read that Turner Classic Movies would be showing “The World of Henry Orient” yesterday morning (10/7/2012)… and watched it.

Having viewed this film only a couple of times in the past 30 years, I remembered how memorable it was, especially the carefree innocence of youth that both actresses portrayed.

I’m sorry that Tippy Walker’s experiences with the “Hollywood” set were less than memorable, as I’m certain her acting abilities would have carried her to the top tiers of ranked actresses in film.

In this day of “sequels” to almost every film made, I wish there had been a “The World of Henry Orient II ” answering the question if Marian’s mother and Vallerie’s father “got together”… and the adventures the girls would have had as sisters.

Oh, and I can’t forget to mention how effective the music by Elmer Bernstein contributed to the lightheartedness of this film. I find myself humming it every so often.

Director George Roy Hill doesn’t receive enough credit for the likeability of this film.

In an age of movies with excessive shoot-um-ups, murder, violence, sex etc. etc. etc., this film is a haven (Tippy lives in New Haven)… no pun intended… for those who wish to relive the innocent and fun years of their youth… and with a happy ending !!!

I can hardly wait to view this movie again.

9. Dave - July 25, 2010

I have my political leanings, and it goes in one direction pretty hard, but Sally, Bruce, and CineGuy have all crossed a line here under this entertainment post. I wouldn’t have any of you as dinner guests.

10. MsMoneypenny - October 2, 2010

I side with CineGuy. Elizabeth is a very cool person. I wouldn’t want to meet Merrie in a dark alley- or ANY alley! (Or Sally or Bruce, for that matter)

I’ll pass on the dinner invite too, Dave. Maybe Hannibal Lector is free for the evening.

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