April in November
Today’s date in 1957 marked the day before Thanksgiving, and Twentieth Century-Fox’s new holiday weekend offering in theatres had the non-seasonal title of April Love, but moviegoers didn’t mind. Following his well-received screen acting debut four months earlier in the hit Bernardine, recording artist Pat Boone had several hit platters under his belt and was headlining The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom on ABC primetime, so a second, folksy, family-friendly follow-up Cinemascope outing with songs was a natural. This time around, he had another accomplished musical luminary as co-star, vivacious Shirley Jones, fresh off her screen triumphs in Oklahoma! (1955) and Carousel (1956). Other assets included lovely Kentucky locations, a marvelous supporting ensemble that included Dolores Michaels, Arthur O’Connell and Jeanette Nolan, and a storyline (updated from Fox’s 1944 film Home in Indiana) that involved dual fascinations with driving fast cars (as owned by pretty neighbor Michaels from a nearby horse-raising farm) and racing fast trotting horses (a specialty of Michaels’ tomboyish younger sister Jones). The songlist was upped from Bernardine’s three to April Love’s five, all by Academy Award®-winning tunesmiths Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster (Secret Love, Three Coins in a Fountain). Thanks to the movie, Boone’s rendition of April Love’s title tune made it a #1 hit in December, and the song was an Oscar® nominee the following March. This unpretentious packaging of Americana, romance and – still a potent selling-point in its day – wholesome fun (with just the slightest hint of sweet-natured naughtiness, as in a tantalizing disrobing scene with Jones as she warbles a reprise of Boone’s Give Me a Gentle Girl) is smoothly skippered by director Henry Levin, who also helmed Bernardine and would reteam with Boone two years later on Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) which, like April Love, is available on a beautifully mastered Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray.