Sex and the Single Girl (film)

Sex and the Single Girl is a 1964 American Technicolor comedy film directed by Richard Quine and starring Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Henry Fonda, Lauren Bacall, and Mel Ferrer, in Panavision.[2][3][4][5][6]

Sex and the Single Girl
original theatrical poster
Directed byRichard Quine
Produced byWilliam T. Orr
Written byJoseph Hoffman
Screenplay byDavid R. Schwartz
Joseph Heller
Based onSex and the Single Girl
1962 book
by Helen Gurley Brown
StarringTony Curtis
Natalie Wood
Henry Fonda
Lauren Bacall
Mel Ferrer
Music byNeal Hefti
CinematographyCharles Lang
Edited byDavid Wages
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • December 25, 1964 (1964-12-25)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$4,000,000 (rentals)[1]

The film was inspired by the non-fiction book Sex and the Single Girl (1962) by Helen Gurley Brown.


Bob Weston (Tony Curtis) works for STOP, a scandal magazine whose owner and staff are proud of being regarded as the filthiest rag in America. One of Bob's colleagues has just written an article about Dr. Helen Gurley Brown (Natalie Wood), a young psychologist and author of the best-selling book Sex and the Single Girl, a self-help guide with advice to single women on how to deal with men. The article raises doubts on her experience with sex and relationships. Helen is very offended, having lost six appointments with patients due to the article discrediting her as a "23 year-old virgin." Bob wants to follow up by interviewing her, but she refuses.

Bob's friend and neighbor, stocking manufacturer Frank Broderick (Henry Fonda), is having marriage issues with his strong-willed wife Sylvia (Lauren Bacall), but can't find the time to go to a counselor. Therefore, Bob decides to impersonate Frank and go to Helen as a patient, with the goal of getting close to her in order to gather more information. Meanwhile, he'll report back to Frank on her advice. During their first couple of sessions, Bob acts shy and smitten, and tries to gently seduce Helen. She seems to respond to Bob's courteous advances, all while insisting that it's a transfer and that she'll play the role of Sylvia to the benefit of his therapy. After he fakes a suicide attempt, the two of them end up making out in her apartment, with Bob realizing he's actually falling for Helen, which is the reason he still has not written anything about her, prompting an ultimatum from his boss.

Helen panics at the idea that she's in turn falling for a married man, and upon suggestion from her mother, she meets Sylvia and tells her to go back to work at Frank's office, where the two of them first met and could stand together against Frank's business rivals. Sylvia had initially rejected that suggestion coming from Frank (who had heard it from Bob), but she ultimately decides to follow the advice, thus reconciling with her husband.

A terminally lovestruck Bob forces another meeting with Helen and tries to convince her his marriage isn't legal, but Helen insists on hearing it from his wife and secretly asks her to come to her office. In the meantime, Bob asks his girlfriend, night club singer Gretchen (Fran Jeffries), to pose as his wife (or rather, Frank Broderick's wife), and when she cancels at the last minute because of an audition, he asks his secretary Susan (Leslie Parrish) to go instead. Without telling him, Gretchen decides to forgo her audition, so she also shows up at Helen's office. Witnessing three different women claiming to be Mrs. Broderick, Helen gets extremely confused, while a furious Sylvia calls the police on Frank, who is then arrested for bigamy.

Helen comes to visit Sylvia with fellow psychiatrist Rudy DeMeyer (Mel Ferrer), who has had a crush ever since the article intimated she might be a virgin. In trying to convince Sylvia to pardon Frank, she finally finds out the man who's been coming to her studio was not Frank Broderick at all, but rather STOP Magazine's managing editor Bob Weston. Shocked, she asks Rudy to take her to Fiji.

In the meantime, Bob refuses to let the magazine publish anything about Helen, and is consequently fired. In a frantic final act, Helen and Rudy are driving to the airport, while Frank, after being released, has not understood that Sylvia has learned the truth, and so has decided to quit everything and run off to Hawaii with Gretchen; at the same time, Bob is chasing after Helen, and Sylvia is chasing after Frank. During the chase, while constantly changing places on the two cars and two cabs involved, and while eluding a zealous cop's attempts at stopping them, the three couples clarify their feelings for each other, and at the airport, Frank and Sylvia reconcile and depart for Fiji, Rudy and Gretchen console themselves with a trip together to Hawaii, and Helen forgives Bob, who has already found a new job with DIRT magazine, and the two of them fly to Vegas to marry.



Award Category Subject Result
Laurel Awards Top Female Comedy Performance Natalie Wood 5th


The film was a box-office hit and one of the top 20 highest-grossing films of 1964.[7] But Tom Milne in the Time Out Film Guide 2009 describes the film as a "[c]oyly leering comedy...graceless stuff, criminally wasting Bacall and Fonda as a couple with marital problems...with Quine's moderate flair for comedy nowhere in evidence"[8] and with "noise substituting for wit and style" according to Halliwell's Film & Video Guide.[9]

See also


  1. "All-Time B.O. Champs", Variety, January 3, 1968 p 25.
  2. Variety film review; December 23, 1964, page 6.
  3. WEILERA.H. (December 26, 1964). "Sex and Single Girl (1964)". The New York Times. Retrieved August 18, 2009.
  4. "Sex and the Single Girl (1964)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 18, 2009.
  5. Paul Brenner. "Sex and the Single Girl". Retrieved October 11, 2009.
  6. Erin Donovan. "Guru:Sex and the Single Girl (review)". GreenCine, LLC. Archived from the original on March 27, 2009. Retrieved October 11, 2009.
  7. Erin Donovan (2009-01-26). "Top 20 Films of 1964 by Domestic Revenue". Box Office Report. Archived from the original on March 23, 2009. Retrieved January 4, 2010.
  8. John Pym (ed.) Time Out Film Guide, 2009, London: Penguin, 2008, p.952
  9. John Walker (ed.) Halliwell's Film and Video Guide 2000, London: HarperCollins, 1999, p. 738
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