Monday, December 29, 2008

73. Rally Round the Flag, Boys!

by Max Shulman

This is the last of the Max Shulman books my university library has that I borrowed for Breathless. This one is not as good as Shulman’s Potatoes Are Cheaper or The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, but it's better than The Tender Trap.

This was Max Shulman's first "adult" comedy (in that two characters have an affair). It's a warped, intricate plot full of the most specious coincidences. When the military decides to build a Nike missile base near a chic Connecticut commuter town, passions flare, in and out of the bedroom, and then all hell breaks loose!

The book laughs at the 50's: the teenagers imitating Brando/ Dean/Elvis, their martini-guzzling parents, the army, suburban families with commuting husbands and volunteering wives, Little League, sex education, television, long-time residents of small towns (aka the Yankees), and a Nashville star/singer in the military. Shulman was a genius at satirizing his own time, but much of the humor is still appropriate today.

A movie was made in 1958, (very) loosely based on the book, starring Paul Newman as Harry Bannerman (one of the main characters), real wife Joanne Woodward as Harry’s wife Grace, and Joan Collins as local temptress Angela Hoffa. I haven’t seen it, but based on a synopsis, a lot of characters from the book are left out and the plot has major changes. Read the book instead (there’s an excerpt in this post).

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