Cast & Crew
John Davis, an American adventurer at loose ends on the Riviera, agrees to work for Étienne Pimm, a professional matchmaker attempting to arrange a marriage between the impoverished Duke Gaspard and madcap American millionairess Millicent Mehaffey. While teaching the duke how to drive, ride, and play polo, Davis is also obliged to keep an eye on Millicent by becoming her chauffeur. Although Pimm succeeds in bringing his client and the heiress together, the duke falls in love with Millicent's secretary, Janine, while Millicent becomes enamored of Davis. But when Davis' part in Pimm's scheme is disclosed, the outraged Millicent denounces everyone and decides to marry fortune-hunting Freddie Paladzini. On her wedding day, however, she receives a message from Davis in the form of his chauffeur's cap. Realizing that she really does love him, she leaves the wedding and joins Davis on his tourist boat.
Jean Pierre Zola
Jean D' Eaubonne
Gladys De Segonzac
Love is a Ball
Equally well cast is the older actor from the Old World who brings the Lange and Ford characters together: Charles Boyer, one of the most suave and debonair screen personalities - his only peers are Louis Jourdan and Maurice Chevalier - who ever traveled from France to a Hollywood studio. Having started his career in the silent-movie era, Boyer was a seasoned veteran in 1963, with a vast array of fine pictures - Julien Duvivier's Tales of Manhattan (1942), George Cukor's Gaslight (1944), Max Ophüls's The Earrings of Madame de... (1953), Vincente Minnelli's The Cobweb (1955), and many more - among his credits. It's also worth noting that he earned a philosophy degree from the Sorbonne and was a romantic to his bones; known to his fans as the quintessential Latin Lover, he killed himself shortly after the death of his wife, to whom he was married for more than forty years.
Set entirely on the French Riviera, where the sun never seems to stop shining, Love Is A Ball begins with John Lathrop Davis (Ford) frantically wondering how he'll ever get $3,500 to pay for repairs to the beloved boat that provides his living as a charter captain. Just when it appears that all is lost, a stranger shows up with an invitation to a meeting the next day. The host of the conclave turns out to be Etienne Pimm, a smooth-as-silk Frenchman who wants to hire John and two others as coaches for his protégé, Gaspard Ducluzeau (Ricardo Montalban), a likable but slow-witted duke who needs schooling in the social graces. Hence the training team: gifted linguist Julian Soames (John Wood) will teach Gaspard to speak English like a poet, master chef Maurice Zoltan (Andre Luguet) will develop his tastes in food and wine, and down-to-earth John will teach him how to play polo and drive a snazzy car. John has nothing else on his calendar, and he was once a champion racecar driver, so he readily signs up.
Things are not as they seem, however. While he assembles his team of trainers, Pimm is also spying on the glamorous jetsetter Millicent Mehaffy (Lange) and her uncle, Dr. Christian Gump (Telly Savalas), a wealthy, fussy snob. Eventually we learn that Pimm is a sort of high-toned marriage broker who arranges matrimony between aristocrats fallen on hard times and women with oodles of money at their disposal. It so happens that Gaspard's family lost its fortune years ago and that Millie is worth a whopping $40 million. Pimm's plan is to engineer an "accidental" encounter between Gaspard and Millie, convince Dr. Gump that they're an excellent match, and pocket some of Millie's money as payment when they're married.
The first third of the picture shows the occasional joys and frequent frustrations of Gaspard's educational experience. In the central portion, John joins in the spying operation by becoming Dr. Gump's chauffeur, thereby coming into close contact with Millie, who initially resists his appeal and then falls battily in love with him. The remainder of the film works out the romantic complications to everyone's satisfaction, and throws in a day at Monaco's famous International Grand Prix as a bonus. Millie wants to become the race's first female winner, and she has no idea that her uncle's humble chauffeur won it just a few years earlier.
It's a cliché to say that a location is a "character" in a film, but in this case the French Riviera, from Cannes and Nice to Monte Carlo and the Cap d'Antibes, deserves billing alongside the stars. In scene after scene the backdrop is a picturesque beach, palatial villa, or elegant yacht, and the Panavision clarity of Edmond Séchan's colorful cinematography shows off the scenery to splendid effect. The sprightly music is by the hugely prolific French composer Michel Legrand, who was also beginning his work on Jacques Demy's unique drama-musicals around this time.
The film's humor is partly a product of its on-target acting, mostly notably by Boyer, who projects a perfect combination of unstoppable charm and slightly hidden guile. Lange and Ford are always alluring, and Savalas plays radically against his usual bull-in-a-china-shop image as Dr. Gump, the ultra-refined gourmet.
More comedy comes from the dialogue, adapted by three screenwriters - director David Swift, Tom Waldman, and Frank Waldman - from Lindsay Hardy's novel The Grand Duke and Mr. Pimm, published in 1959. Frank Waldman did a lot of screenwriting for Blake Edwards's popular Pink Panther franchise a few years later - his brother Tom Waldman did some as well - so it's not coincidental that the name of the bumbling Ducluzeau resembles that of Inspector Clouseau, memorably played by Peter Sellers in the PP pictures. For an example of the movie's verbal wit, note the names of the boats in the story. John owns the Saddle Tramp, reflecting his restless nature and disdain for frills, whereas Pimm holds his important meeting on the aptly named Machiavelli.
The film also has visual wit. Ordered by Millie to wash all the cars in her family's well-stocked garage, for instance, John looks up from his rubbing and scrubbing to see Millie lounging luxuriously by her pool - at which point the film cuts from a silly-looking waterfall sculpture at the pool to the river of suds pouring over the car that John is laboriously cleaning. Such smart and subtle sight gags dovetail with the excellent cast and clever dialogue to make Love Is A Ball a ball.
Director: David Swift
Producer: Martin H. Poll
Screenplay: David Swift, Tom Waldman, Frank Waldman; based on the book The Grand Duke and Mr. Pimm by Lindsay Hardy
Cinematographer: Edmond Sechan
Film Editing: Tom McAdoo and Cathy Kelber
Art Direction: Jean d'Eaubonne
Music: Michel Legrand
Cast: Glenn Ford (John Lathrop Davis), Hope Lange (Millicent Mehaffy), Charles Boyer (Etienne Pimm), Ricardo Montalban (Duke Gaspard Ducluzeau), Tell Savalas (Dr. Christian Gump), Ruth McDevitt (Mathilda), Ulla Jacobsson (Janine), John Wood (Julian Soames), Andre Luguet (Maurice Zoltan), Georgette Anys (Madame Gallou), Mony Dalmes (Madame Fernier), Laurence Hardy (Priory), Jean Le Maitre (Carlo), Jean Paredes (Freddie), Redmond Phillips (Starcy), Erika Soucy (Gretl), Aram Stephan (Gallou), Olga Valéry (Madame Gardin), Jean Pierre Zola (Mueller), Robert Bettoni (milkman).
by David Sterritt
Love is a Ball
Location scenes filmed on the French Riviera. Working title: The Grand Duke and Mr. Pimm.
Released in United States Spring March 1963
Released in United States Spring March 1963