The Chapman Report (1962)

July 12th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: George Cukor | Writer: Wyatt Cooper/Irving Wallace | Cast: Efrem Zimbalist Jr, Shelly Winters, Jane Fonda, Claire Bloom, Glynis Johns, Ray Danton, Ty Hardin, Andrew Duggan, John Dehner | Comedy Drama | US | 125′

Jane Fonda remains highly attractive at eighty starring recently in the wholly unworthy Book Club (2018), in which the tome raising temperatures is Fifty Shades of Grey. In the fifties it was Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953) that was stirring the pot with its jaw-dropping revelations about the passions simmering among suburban American womenfolk, and provoked a run of best-selling ‘exposés’ like Peyton Place which duly hit the big screen in glossy but bowdlerised form, including Irving Wallace’s fictionalised 1960 version of the Kinsey report called The Chapman Report; also promptly filmed with a cast including a young Miss Fonda (in her third film), whose character is ironically the one who’s frigid. (Her role was also the one that suffered the most from Darryl Zanuck’s post-production chopping and changing and feels as if there’s quite a bit missing – and not just orgasms.) 

As befits the veteran gay Hollywood director George Cukor (who in 1939 had directed the all-women The Women), the result is elegantly mounted with meticulous colour design by the pioneering fashion photographer of the 20’s and 30’s George Hoyningen-Huene and the cast all immaculately dressed by veteran costume designer Orry-Kerry (also both gay, surprise, surprise). It also – like Sex in the City – boasts eye candy for both gay men and straight women in the form of a trio of hunks played by Ty Hardin, Corey Allen and Ray Danton, while the husbands played by Harold J Stone and John Dehner are portrayed as solid but unexciting. However, the hunks let all the women down (is this based on Cukor’s own experience of men?), with Hardin proving a big kid, Allen a jerk, and Danton under the thumb of his lawful wedded.

The acting is uniformly good, with doe-eyed Glynis Johns (happily still with us) providing most of the laughs and Claire Bloom and Shelley Winters the tears. As the one who’s getting too much sex rather than not enough, Bloom as a tormented drunken nymphomaniac (complete with her own film noir lighting) is heart-wrenching (she would soon be playing a lesbian in The Haunting), but her tragic fate underlines the actually rather conservative mores of the film as the married women return to their husbands and Miss Fonda finds salvation in the form of marriage to researcher Ephraim Zimbalist Jr.  Along with Jane Fonda, Claire Bloom is still acting. She’s in a film called Miss Dali, which premiered at the Guadalajara International Film Festival in March 2018.

Cameraman Harold Lipstein’s hot colours, the plush settings and – especially – Leonard Rosenman’s febrile score all also conspire to evoke Vincente Minnelli’s earlier, extremely eccentric melodrama set in an up-market sanatorium, The Cobweb (1955). Richard Chatten.




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