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Ask Any Girl

Ask Any Girl(1959)

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teaser Ask Any Girl (1959)

In 1958, Shirley MacLaine and Gig Young and David Niven were at the top of their game. All three were getting critical raves for their performances in films made that year: Young turned in one of his usual comic gems as Doris Day's boyfriend who loses her to Clark Gable in Teacher's Pet; MacLaine, one of the busiest young actresses in Hollywood, had triumphed in her most challenging role to date, as the vulgar, poignant girl in love with returning soldier Frank Sinatra in Some Came Running; and master farceur David Niven had dazzled critics and audiences in a rare serious role as a retired military man with a secret in Separate Tables.

Late that year, production began on Ask Any Girl (1959), a giddy sex comedy typical of the era that was tailor-made for the talents of the three stars. MacLaine plays a small town girl who moves to New York looking for a job and a husband. She quickly lands a secretarial job, but the husband hunt doesn't go smoothly. Instead, she has to fight off men whose intentions are less than honorable. Her next job is at a market research firm owned by the stuffy Niven and his lothario brother, Young. Falling for Young, she enlists Niven's help to market her as a product that will appeal to his brother. Ask Any Girl was produced by Joe Pasternak, the genial Hungarian who was responsible for some of Hollywood's most successful musicals, first at Universal and later at MGM, where his lush Technicolor musicals and comedies remained popular into the late 1960s. Ask Any Girl continued Pasternak's winning streak.

Shortly after production wrapped, the Academy Awards nominations for 1958 were announced. All three stars of Ask Any Girl were nominated for different movies, Niven for Best Actor, MacLaine for Best Actress, and Young for Best Supporting Actor. Niven was the only one to take home an award, but both MacLaine's and Young's careers received a boost, and so did Ask Any Girl's box office when it opened shortly after the Oscars® were awarded.

Even the critics who dismissed Ask Any Girl as lightweight were won over by the performances. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, who grumbled about MacLaine's "lack of chic" liked Young's style. "He bounces around with the glee of a thoroughly corrupted playboy who knows exactly where his next girl's coming from." The British press singled out Niven. "David Niven, all polish and impeccable timing, makes every gesture tell," according to the Sunday Times. The Evening News agreed. "Niven's easy, polished performance is splendid."

But it was MacLaine who won the lion's share of attention. Variety called her performance "a sheer delight." Time magazine gushed, "She probably possesses beauty, talent and mass appeal in greater degree than any cinema comedienne since Carole Lombard." Three weeks after that review, Time put her on its cover, a sure sign that MacLaine had arrived. Noting her unconventional lifestyle and offbeat looks, the article proclaimed, "Expert Hollywood status seekers consider her so far out that she is in, way in. Shirley, at 25, is the brightest face, the freshest character and the most versatile new talent in Hollywood...Her latest movie, Ask Any Girl, is climbing to the top of the box office totem pole largely because of her enchanting performance in a second-rate story."

MacLaine won the Silver Bear as best foreign actress for Ask Any Girl at the Berlin Film Festival, and best foreign actress at the British Film Awards. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe as best actress in a comedy or musical. Her Oscar® for Best Actress finally came four more nominations and 25 years later, for Terms of Endearment (1983).

Director: Charles Walters
Producer: Joe Pasternak
Screenplay: George Wells, based on the novel by Winifred Wolfe
Cinematography: Robert Bronner
Editor: John McSweeney, Jr.
Costume Design: Helen Rose
Art Direction: William A. Horning, Urie McCleary
Music: Jeff Alexander
Cast: David Niven (Miles Doughton), Shirley MacLaine (Meg Wheeler), Gig Young (Evan Doughton), Rod Taylor (Ross Tayford), Jim Backus (Mr. Maxwell), Claire Kelly (Lisa), Elisabeth Fraser (Jennie Boyden), Dody Heath (Terri Richards), Read Morgan (Bert).
BW-99m. Letterboxed.

by Margarita Landazuri

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