The Affairs of Dobie Gillis

The Affairs of Dobie Gillis is a 1953 comedy musical film directed by Don Weis. The film is based on the short stories by Max Shulman collected as The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (also the title of the later TV series). Bobby Van played Gillis in this musical version, co-starring with Debbie Reynolds and Bob Fosse.

The Affairs of Dobie Gillis
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDon Weis
Produced byArthur M. Loew, Jr.
Screenplay byMax Shulman
Based onThe Many Loves of Dobie Gillis
1951 short stories
by Max Shulman
StarringDebbie Reynolds
Bobby Van
Barbara Ruick
Bob Fosse
Hanley Stafford
Hans Conried
Music byMusical Direction/Supervision
Jeff Alexander
Alex Romero
CinematographyWilliam C. Mellor
Edited byConrad A. Nervig
Distributed byLoew's Inc.[1]
Release date
14 August 1953 (US)
Running time
72 min
CountryUnited States
Box office$577,000[2]

The movie was filmed in black and white, MGM's first non-color musical film in years.[3] It was Fosse's screen debut.[4]

Plot summary

At Grainbelt University, a Midwestern university, freshmen Dobie Gillis (Bobby Van) and Charlie Trask (Bob Fosse) court coeds Pansy Hammer (Debbie Reynolds) and Lorna Ellingboe (Barbara Ruick). They attend the same courses because Lorna is pursuing Dobie, who is pursuing Pansy, and Charlie is pursuing Lorna. Pansy is studious, and is encouraged by her father George (Hanley Stafford) to "learn learn learn" and "work work work," while Dobie, Charlie and Lorna only want to have fun.

Pansy's father can't stand Dobie and does everything in his power to keep them apart. Dobie and Pansy manage to blow up the chemistry lab, but Dobie is spared expulsion because the officious English professor Pomfritt (Hans Conried) is misled to believe that the feckless Gillis is a literary genius.

Pansy is sent to a school in New York after the chemistry lab incident. With the help of Charlie and Lorna, Dobie figures out a way of getting Pansy back to Grainbelt.



Carleton Carpenter was tentatively cast in the film, along with Reynolds, Van and Ruick, after MGM bought Shulman's stories. The original plan was to turn the film into a series, along the lines of the Andy Hardy and Dr. Kildare movie franchise, if the film was successful.[5]

The film was Bob Fosse's film debut, released before Give a Girl a Break, which was filmed previously.[3]

According to MGM records the film earned $423,000 in the US and Canada and $154,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $131,000.[2]

Critical reaction

At the time of release, a Philadelphia Inquirer reviewer called the film "agreeable" and cited Van's "rubber-legged grace, reminiscent of Ray Bolger.[6] The Los Angeles Times called it a "lightweight, lightheaded comedy," and said the Max Shulman screenplay "is,shall we say, charitably, innocuous,"[7]

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called the film "a small musical" that was "hung on the weakest imaginable plot," and said that it was "an insignificant piece of fluff" that was "hardly up to the standardsa of its principals, all of whom seem entirely too attractive and talented to be bothering with such nonsense." But the review credited the actors and director with nevertheless pulling off "a presentable entertainment." The film was playing Pittsburgh as a double feature with Tarzan and the She-Devil.[8]

More recently, an Allmovie review criticized the film's "desperate, artificial perkiness -- the kind of Hollywood-derived energy that annoys by its phoniness." The review goes on to say "Ultimately, though, the trite (and often unbelievable) situations, lame jokes, and banal dialogue overwhelm the good will that the musical numbers engender. Extremely undemanding audiences, or those with a very strong nostalgic bent for the good old days, may enjoy The Affairs of Dobie Gillis, but most are advised to give it a pass."[9]


Bob Fosse's biographers have dismissed the film, his movie acting debut, as "a minor-league comedy with a few old songs thrown in"[3] and as "a movie destined to achieve a Zenlike oblivion."[4]

In the You Can't Do Wrong Doin' Right number, choreographed by Alex Romero, Fosse displays the explosive style for which he later became known. In his book Big deal: Bob Fosse and dance in the American musical, author Kevin Winkler observes that while Bobby Van tap dances as well as Fosse in that number, Van "dances only with his feet while Fosse dances with his whole body."[3]

Fosse was disillusioned by his experience making Dobie Gillis and Give a Girl a Break, which was filmed earlier but released after Dobie Gillis. Noting that his screen time was far less in Dobie than in the other film, Fosse later remarked, "My parts were getting smaller. I knew what that meant."[3]



  1. The Affairs of Dobie Gillis at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  3. Winkler, Kevin (2018). Big deal : Bob Fosse and dance in the American musical. Oxford University Press. pp. 30–31. ISBN 978-0199336791. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  4. Gottfried, Martin (2003). All his jazz : the life & death of Bob Fosse (2nd Da Capo Press ed.). Da Capo Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0306812842.
  5. Hedda Hopper's Staff (13 April 1952). "Hollywood". Daily News. New York, N.Y. p. 332. Retrieved 26 October 2019 via
  6. Wilson, Barbara L. (24 September 1953). "'The Affairs of Dobie Gillis' and 'Big Leaguer' Double Bill at the Worldand 'Big". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. 33. Retrieved 29 October 2019 via
  7. Scott, John L. (20 August 1953). "Baseball Tale, College Farce, On Double Bill". The Los Angeles Times. p. 71. Retrieved 29 October 2019 via
  8. Fanning, Win (5 September 1953). "The New Films". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 20. Retrieved 29 October 2019 via
  9. Butler, Craig. "The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (1953) - Don Weis | Review". AllMovie. Retrieved 29 October 2019.

Category:American black-and-white films

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.