Sixty years ago, Twentieth Century Fox made its share of movies involving comic and serious romances both natural and spicy, among them An Affair to Remember, Boy on a Dolphin, A Farewell to Arms, Kiss Them for Me, No Down Payment, The Sun Also Rises, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and, capping off the year 1957, the scandalous Peyton Place (available on a lovely Twilight Time disc). But one in particular has the distinction of sparking a “kissing controversy,” in this case, a climactic smooch that didn’t happen: that would be the Thanksgiving release of the wholesome, sunshine-dappled, Kentucky-set April Love (1957), which debuted this day in glorious Cinemascope as the second film headlined by the popular singing star Pat Boone. Acknowledging it as his personal favorite among his many roles, the now-83-year-old, still-active Boone gave the Los Angeles Times’ Susan King the lowdown dirty truth in a congenial August 2010 interview: “‘Henry Levin is the director and it's a musical,’ the [then] 76-year-old, still chipper, Boone recalls on a recent morning in his memorabilia-filled West Hollywood office. ‘We are doing a Ferris wheel scene in Lexington, Ky. We are getting to the end of the song, which I am singing to her in the Ferris wheel, and Henry said, 'As the song ends, lean over and kind of tentatively kiss Shirley Jones.' The staunch Christian with a young wife and daughters was flummoxed. ‘I said, ‘Henry, that wasn't in the script. I haven't talked to my wife. I haven't asked her how she is going to react if we do kissing scenes. Can we do this tomorrow?’ Levin agreed and that night, Boone asked his wife, Shirley – daughter of country music great Red Foley – whether it would be OK if he kissed Jones. ‘She said, ‘You just have to promise me you won't enjoy it that much.’ So I came back puckered up and ready to go the next day.’ But instead of bussing Jones, he had to face the wrath of producer Buddy Adler. Someone had leaked the story to the trades that he wouldn't kiss Jones, citing his religious convictions as a reason. Adler was ready to tell the press he would be kissing Jones. But Boone told Adler that having a story run so soon that he would do a love scene would make people think he had given up his religious convictions for Hollywood. He told Adler that he would do a love scene later in the production. ‘The telegrams, the letters, the response that came flooding into 20th that said stick to your guns, boy,’ Boone remembers about the reaction to his decision. The result? ‘I ended up not kissing her in the movie.’”
To be sure, April Love wasn’t all about spooning. In addition to the sparkling DeLuxe Color location lensing by the veteran Wilfred Cline, there were appealing supporting players (Dolores Michaels, Arthur O’Connell and Jeanette Nolan, and a storyline (updated from Fox’s 1944 film Home in Indiana, itself based on George Agnew Chamberlain’s story The Phantom Filly) involving 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). There were also five songs from the Academy Award®-winning team of composer Sammy Fain and lyricist Paul Francis Webster, especially the Boone-crooned title tune, which became the nation’s #1 hit over the 1957 holiday season and a springtime Best Song Oscar® nominee. Audiences and fans who made it a solid box-office hit ultimately didn’t mind then and now about the missed kiss, and April Love goes to the fair and the races in strapping form on its superb TT hi-def Blu-ray, available at an attractive 67% off original list price through this Friday as part of TT’s Pre-Holiday Promotion. In addition, for a demonstration of Boone’s lip-locking prowess (shirtless, yet!) – with Ann-Margret as his collaborator – seek out the TT disc of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s State Fair (1962), also on sale through Friday at 17% off original list. April, November, what’s not to love?