"Paula Prentiss was good, but she couldn't remember what she was doing from one shot to the next. Her shots never matched"- Howard Hawks on Man's Favorite Sport?
Man's Favorite Sport? (1964) Movie Trailer
Man's Favorite Sport? - 1964 (Original Poster)
Released: January 29, 1964 Running time 120 minutes
Howard Hawks and Cary Grant first met in 1937 and soon became friends. Hawks and Grant ended up working on five films together and the famed director developed a lot of trust in his friend’s talent.
Grant’s comedic timing and ability to ad-lib the perfect line added sizzle to some of the best comedies Howard Hawks produced.
When Hawks decided to film the story that became “Man’s Favorite Sport?” he planned to have Cary Grant play the role of the stuffy fishing “expert” Roger Willoughby. Unfortunately for Hawks and for the picture, Cary Grant fell in love with a witty and suspenseful script by Peter Stone that director Stanley Donen turned into “Charade.”
Director: Howard Hawks
Producer: Howard Hawks
Screenplay: Pat Frank (story) John Fenton Murray and Steve McNeil
Music: Henry Mancini
Cinematography: Russell Harlan
Editors: Stuart Gilmore
Art Directors: Alexander Golitzen and Tambi Larsen
So, Howard Hawks was left to try making a Cary Grant comedy without Cary Grant.
To his credit, Rock Hudson gave the Roger Willoughby role his best shot. He valiantly takes all the pratfalls and deals with all the humiliations the tale piles high upon his head. As the writer of a popular fishing manual who had never actually gone fishing until his department store boss enters him into a fishing tournament, the part offers many opportunities for exasperation, bewilderment, and awkward attempts at bravado. These, of course, were Cary Grant comedic specialties. For all of Hudson’s charm, talent, and determination, he falls short of being Cary Grant.
Several film historians report that Hawks had originally hoped to reunite his “Bringing Up Baby” team of Hepburn and Grant for this picture. Once Rock Hudson was cast as the male lead, he began searching for a younger actress to play his antagonist and eventual lover.
When Howard Hawks saw footage of an attractive, twenty-three year old MGM contract player named Paula Prentiss, he was certain she would be perfect for the role of the strong and often mischievous publicist Abigail Page. He soon ran into problems with studio executives at Paramount who wanted him to cast a more recognized actress to play opposite Hudson.
After a tense meeting with these executives, Hawks assembled the crew he had assembled for “Man’s Favorite Sport?” and told them that they would be moving to Universal Studios right after lunch. According to associate producer Paul Helmick, Universal welcomed them with open arms. “It all happened within an hour. When we got to Universal our names were already painted on our parking spaces.”
“Man’s Favorite Sport?” was released on February 5, 1964. By spring of that year Universal Studios was probably less enthusiastic about Hawks’ decision to join them to make this picture. Although it opened fairly well, tepid reviews and poor word of mouth dragged down the potential audience. By year’s end, “Man’s Favorite Sport?” had fallen far enough to rank only twenty-eighth on the box office charts for the year.
It is hard to watch this film today without imagining what type of movie it would have been if Hawks had been able to reunite Cary Grant and Kathryn Hepburn to play the lead roles. Pondering that “what if” will always remain one of the favorite sports of Howard Hawks fans.
By following the life and art of Howard Hawks one can capture the true essence of the Golden Age of Hollywood, as if slipping on special lenses that suddenly pull away the grain and glare to reveal an unforgettable time of Movie Magic.