Thursday, March 15, 2012

Don't Make Waves - Malibu and Sharon Tate in 1967

Don't Make Waves poster
"Don't Make Waves" (1967).

Tony Curtis stars in "Don't Make Waves" (1967), an odd look at Southern California at a major turning point in American culture. The forces of the past, typified by the businessman played by Robert Webber with his wealthy wife (Joanna Barnes) and klutzy mistress (Claudia Cardinale), meet the forces of the present. They are represented by surfer girl Sharon Tate, curiously also called Malibu, and her muscle man boyfriend played by David Draper.

Don't Make Waves lobby card
An Italian lobby card for "Don't Make Waves" featuring Dave Draper, Reg Lewis and Sharon Tate.

This collision is put into physical form at the film's climax, when all of the film's principals resolve their problems in a house that is falling off a cliff onto the beach. Tony Curtis provides a sort of bridge between the generations, "dropping out and dropping in."

Don't Make Waves Sharon Tate
Sharon Tate, behind the scenes

Yes, it's an odd film. Perhaps the best thing about it is the title track by the Byrds, who also make a cameo appearance. The plot doesn't make sense, basically it's an updated Doris Day/Rock Hudson romantic comedy which falls completely flat. Curtis, forced to play a comic role without being given much comic dialog, does an okay job, but his relationships with the women are empty. Draper pauses over his lines as if he is reciting Lincoln's Gettysburg address, and Webber is a major downer every time he appears on screen.

Don't Make Waves Sharon Tate

The trampoline scenes are the best in the film.  I understand that a stunt double did some of the jumping for Sharon Tate, but she also clearly did some of it herself, as she is very recognizable.

Don't Make Waves Sharon Tate
Sharon Tate apparently had a stunt double do her trampoline jumps.

Sharon Tate is the prime reason to watch "Don't Make Waves" in the 21st Century. If Claudia Cardinale didn't feel upstaged, well, she should have. Tate is magnificent. Her opening scenes are the best, when she is helping Curtis recover from a surfing accident and then bouncing on a trampoline. She reminds me of Bo Derek a dozen years later in "10," they have the same bronzed look and angular facial features. Another connection between this film and "10" is the presence of Webber, and in both, he serves as a complicating factor. Dudley Moore brilliantly took on the Curtis role in "10" and showed what could have been done here, highlighting his crazed lust and with a more comic and less romantic attitude than the sometimes suave, sometimes hyperactive, always edgy Curtis.

Don't Make Waves Sharon Tate Tony Curtis
Sharon Tate gives First Aid to an appreciative man.

These pictures don't really do the film justice.  Sharon is magnificent in many, many ways.

Don't Make Waves Sharon Tate
This is an iconic role by Sharon Tate.

The best reasons to watch this are if you are a die-hard Tony Curtis fan, if you like stunning California beach blondes like Sharon Tate, or if you want to see an unspoiled Malibu of the '60s. Any of these reasons suffices for me. You also might like the Byrds' title tune or the whole idea of '60s beach films. Or, perhaps some subtle bits by the assorted pros in the cast (Tony Curtis casually wears a toga-like outfit at one point that hearkens back to "Spartacus," Jim Backus shows up as himself for a cameo, Edgar Bergen does a bit) will amuse you. Not a bad film to see some night.

Don't Make Waves Sharon Tate
Look, if this offends you, this is not the film for you

Director Alexander Mackendrick apparently was trying to poke fun at assorted "wacky" aspects of the emerging Southern California youth culture (astrology, surfing, precarious real estate), but there aren't any punchlines and what humor exists is droll, understated and implied. It's a pretty film, with pretty women and stunning scenery, that's the top reason to see this one.


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