Twilight Time has released the 1960 comedy High Time starring Bing Crosby as a limited edition (3,000 units) Blu-ray. Crosby's career as an actor has largely been neglected over the decades despite the fact that he was one of the most enduring boxoffice giants of his time. Perhaps the reason is that, unlike Frank Sinatra, who took on dramatic and challenging roles, Crosby was largely content to stick with playing amiable crooners in glossy, feel-good musicals. One such film is High Time, which was originally developed as a comedy titled Big Daddy for Gary Cooper. However, when Cooper became terminally ill, Crosby's production company picked up the option as a starring vehicle for Crosby himself. Der Bingle plays Harvey Howard, a 51-year-old self-made businessman who owns a national chain of popular smokehouse restaurants. Harvey decides to fulfill his dream of becoming the first family member to obtain a college degree. He is met with derision by his spoiled son and daughter, both of whom feel his decision will result in them being mocked in their snobby social circles. Nevertheless, Harvey enrolls in Pinehurst College (actually U.C.L.A) and predictably is met with incredulity by both administrators and his fellow freshmen. In short order, however, Harvey earns their respect by participating in activities with the younger set including salvaging their quest to build the biggest bonfire in school history. He also fits in well with his three roommates and proves to be an inspiration when it comes to taking studying seriously. Along the way, he flirts with a sexy French teacher, Helen Gauthier (Nicole Maurey), and the resulting "scandal" of a potential love affair between teach and "student" causes students to march on the dean's office in protest. That's about the dramatic highlight of the film, which concentrates purely on a viewpoint of college life that, even in 1960, must have seemed ludicrously sanitized. Let's face it: even the era of powdered wigs, students used dorm rooms for all sorts of illicit activities ranging from sex to drugs and drinking. In High Time, Harvey and his roommates toast the beginning of every year with grape juice, soda and milk. Even when Howard is alone with his would-be paramour in the privacy of her own home, it's about as exotic as dining with your sister.
For all of its faux atmosphere of youthful activities, however, High Time is an enjoyable romp. Crosby seems to be genuinely enjoying himself and shares some good on-screen chemistry with three Fox up-and-coming contract players: Richard Beymer, Tuesday Weld and Fabian. Since the film is not a musical, both Crosby and Fabian have scant opportunities to croon but there are some nice songs by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen, including the now-classic "The Second Time Around" which was nominated for an Oscar. There's also a jaunty, enjoyable score by Henry Mancini. The film was directed by Blake Edwards, who was just coming off his great success with Operation Petticoat. In those days, Edwards was far more subdued in his use of slapstick and the comedic situations in High Time are relatively low-key and benign compared to Edwards' later work. The film's primary value is that is serves as a view into social mores from a by-gone era. There is one minority character featured in the film, a student from India, but at least he is portrayed in a dignified manner and not made the butt of jokes. In the closing graduation sequence, the camera pans around the auditorium to reveal precisely one other minority student- a black kid sitting next to the Indian kid. (Hey, if you're the only two on campus, you'd better stick together.) The inclusion of these minorities was probably considered progressive in an era in which African Americans were literally relegated to the back of the bus in some states. Then there is the view of young women, as evidenced by Weld's character who says she is only going to college in order to hunt for a husband. Gavin McLeod plays an obviously gay professor, complete with stereotypical fussy mannerisms that are played for laughs. The film's final sequence is rather touching, as Crosby addresses his fellow graduates and tells them that age isn't defined by years but by every person's outlook on life and their determination to pursue their dreams. The notion that a man in his fifties would be considered "over the hill" may sound ludicrous today, but that was not necessarily the case when the average man's life expectancy was in his sixties. The film concludes with Crosby performing a surprising, attention- grabbing stunt that is designed to please the audience even if would seem to be impossible from a technical standpoint.
High Time, which served as the unofficial inspiration for Rodney Dangerfield's Back to School, is a pleasant time-killer and a fine late career vehicle for Crosby. The Twilight Time release looks sensational (as expected) and features the original trailer and the usual informative liner notes by Julie Kirgo, whose work on these projects adds immensely to the enjoyment of every Twilight Time release.