Sunday, December 21, 2008

70. The Tender Trap

by Max Shulman and Robert Paul Smith

I checked out a number of works by Max Shulman when Breathless wanted to read his semi-autobiographical Potatoes Are Cheaper. The Tender Trap is the script for a short romantic comedy set in New York City in the early 1950’s. It was performed on Broadway and later made into a movie starring Frank Sinatra and Debbie Reynolds.

Charlie, the main character, is living the ideal bachelor life, or so it seems to Joe, an old married friend of his from Indianapolis. Charlie has a fine apartment in New York, a good job, and lots of girls -- all eager to bring him food and clean up his apartment, all good-looking ladies. Joe, who is in New York because he thinks he has found the cure to the common cold, finds himself becoming interested in Sylvia, the nicest and most mature of Charlie's girls. Meanwhile, Charlie finds himself falling for Julie, a girl fresh out of college who is determined to have a man on her own terms. Charlie juggles his girls until one frantic night when he finds himself engaged to both Julie and Sylvia. The ending is not quite what I expected, and was a bit disappointing.

It’s fun to read a piece like this that was contemporary at the time it was first performed, but has now become a bit dated. Many of the characters smoke (though these lines and actions could easily be deleted from a performance), and the women are typical of the era, interested mostly in marriage. Page 3 of this 1956 edition of the script indicates that it was first performed October 13, 1954, and the cast included Robert Preston (The Music Man) as Joe and Kim Hunter (The Planet of the Apes) as Sylvia (Sinatra plays Charlie and Reynolds Julie in the movie). It’s interesting too that a poster for the movie from the era says it’s “not suitable for children” (possibly because of married Joe flirting with Sylvia), when by today’s standards the play is quite clean.

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