Too Many Girls (1940)

An R-K-O Radio Picture

Executive Producer: Harry E. Edington
Produced and Directed by George Abbott

Screenplay by John Twist
from the play by George Marion, Jr.

Lucille Ball as Connie Casey
Richard Carlson as Clint Kelly
Ann Miller as Pepe
Eddie Bracken as Jojo Jordan
Frances Langford as Eileen Eilers
Desi Arnaz as Manuelito Lynch
Hal LeRoy as Al Terwilliger

Songs: "I Didn't Know What Time It Was",
"Nearer", "Spick and Spanish", "Look Out"
"We Got Cake", "Love Never Went to College"
Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Lorenz Hart

Dances staged by LeRoy Prinz
Wardrobe by Edward Stevenson

The Gist of it: A beautiful girl, with four undercover bodyguards tailing her, go off to college, where music and merriment await them.
Detailed Synopsis:
Millionaire Harvey Casey (Harry Shannon) is looking for a bodyguard to keep his beautiful, but ill-tempered and unruly daughter Connie (Lucille Ball), out of trouble. At a quaint little restaurant called the Hunted Stag he offers the job to one of the waiters, Clint Kelly (Richard Carlson), a football hero at Princeton working there during his summer break. He turns down the job at first, because he wants to finish college - but all that changes when he sees Connie. She’s just arrived back in the States from Europe and her father is alarmed to see that his usually frigid daughter has turned into a sweet-tempered, charming young lady. He's even more alarmed when she announces she’s decided what college she wants to attend: his alma mater, Pottawatomie, a small college on the Mexican border he had attended before earning his millions. He suspects there's a man involved and actually he's right. Connie wants to go to Pottawatomie to be near her new boyfriend, a writer named Beverly Waverly (Douglas Walton).

This changes the situation a bit. Now if Clint becomes Connie's bodyguard he will get to finish school - at Pottawatomie - and now that he has seen the body he'll be guarding - he delightedly accepts the job offer. Connie's not to know anything about it. She's to be watched from afar and he must see to it that she doesn't get into trouble. A few of Clint’s fellow football star pals (having seen Connie) also want to get in on the act and volunteer their services, offering day and night service. Though she doesn’t know it, Connie now has four bodyguards; Clint, Jojo Jordan (Eddie Bracken), Al Terwilliger (Harold LeRoy) and Argentine football star, Manuelito Lynch (Desi Arnaz).

As the fall semester nears, Connie and the four bodyguards are off to Pottawatomie. We find out early on that Pottawatomie is not your typical university. Extracurricular activities and the opposite sex are on everyone’s mind much more than their studies, and the most peculiar thing of all: the girls at Pottawatomie wear beanies on their heads to show if she does or doesn’t “neck”. If they’re wearing their beanie, they don’t. The boys get along great at their new college, which has ten girls to every one guy. They’re all very content.

So, as Manuelito, Jojo and Al make new friends among the co-eds, Clint gets to know Connie, on a friendship basis since she doesn't know he’s actually her bodyguard. When the boys took on the job they had to agree to an “Anti-Romantic Clause”, “wherein the guardians of the body agree to maintain a strictly hands-off policy” when it comes to Connie. As he and Connie get better acquainted, living up to the clause gets harder and harder for Clint, and it doesn’t take long for Connie to get over old Beverly Waverly and turn her affections to Clint.

Meanwhile, Manuelito, tired of watching Pottawatomie’s football team (the worst in the country) lose, gives in to the urge to help them out. He and the boys had decided not to play so as to remain as low profile as possible in order to do their job, but he just couldn't resist. Soon the others can’t help themselves either and they get in on the act too. Now that four of the best players in college football are on the team, Pottawatomie starts winning game after game and becomes the best in the country.

While all this is going on, Clint and Connie have fallen in love, so he can see no other solution than to send Mr. Casey his resignation. Now that he’s in love, he can’t very well keep up the charade any longer. He wants to come clean to Connie about everything so they can move on from there. But Connie also has a message for her father - she sends him a telegram telling all about this wonderful man she’s met named Clint Kelly. Unfortunately she gets a response to her telegram before Clint gets a chance to tell her the truth. The telegram she receives tells all about Clint and the others. She’s hurt but hides these feelings by going back to being her old ill-tempered self and seeking vengeance instead. She insists they leave Pottawatomie that very night, despite the fact that they have the biggest football game of the season to play in the next day, but she doesn’t care about that. All she knows is that she wants to “leave Pottawatomie with its faintly humiliating memories at once”. It’s part of their job to return Connie home safely so they’re obligated to go back with her.

Word spreads like wildfire, when the rest of Pottawatomie (many of whom stand to lose money if they don’t win) hears their four football stars are running out on them the night before the big game, the boys have to suffer their wrath. The people form a mob to keep them at Pottawatomie. Clint, Al, Jojo and Manuelito try to make a run for it but there’s too many after them. Manuelito is caught. The other three get away but the school is surrounded by desert so they end up running through the cacti all night. When Connie sees the mob after them she finally sees the error of her ways. It was her own antics that caused her to need a bodyguard in the first place. She still loves Clint and spends the whole night looking for him.

The next day the football game goes on as scheduled. Manuelito’s in and Connie’s ex-boyfriend, Beverly Waverly, delivers the other three to the field just before the game. (In their wanders through the desert they ended up at his place). The crowd’s enthusiasm goes through the roof. Connie apologizes (for the first time in her life) and they make up before the game. She gives him her blessing to play and they have their best game ever. Pottawatomie wins by a landslide. Afterwards everyone celebrates by having a big fiesta with Manuelito leading the conga line and playing his drum. The whole crowd dance to the music and the celebration goes far into the night. Clint and Connie are reunited, and Jojo, Al and Manuelito make female friends of their own as well.

Background, Notes & Quotes:
On October 18, 1939, the musical, "Too Many Girls" opened on Broadway. With its Rodgers and Hart score, the show was a great success. Most people agreed that the conga-playing Cuban named Desi Arnaz was the highlight. When George Abbott cast him in the part of Manuelito it was a gamble. Desi had never acted before. He was cast on the strength of his "Toast of New York" status. His show at the La Conga nightclub was the most popular thing around at the time. His rhumba rhythms stopped the show and sent feminine hearts fluttering.

When RKO bought the film rights for the show, they brought out some of the Broadway cast to recreate their roles in the film version. Desi was chosen, as were Eddie Bracken, Hal LeRoy and Van Johnson. Van remembers on the way over, they all took bets as to who Lucille would fall for. Everyone had their money on Van, but he said "No way, she's gonna go for the opposite, the dark, Latin type." Of course, he was right! In Hollywood, they met the rest of the actors who were going to be in the movie. Among them were Frances Langford, Ann Miller and Lucille. It was this film that brought "America's Favorite Couple" together for the first time. When Desi saw her all made up and looking gorgeous he uttered his now famous line, "Whatta hunk of woman!" and asked her if she would like him to teach her to rhumba! It was a big romance from then on, all the other cast members say the two became inseparable, always kissing and hugging. Lucille, who had dated often in Hollywood, had never been so taken with a man. She said, "The best of the Rodgers and Hart tunes in the show, "I Didn't Know What Time It Was (Till I Met You)", expressed my feelings about Desi exactly." The rest, of course, is history.

Too Many Girls is an adorable film, very fun to watch. The cast had a great time during filming and it shows. Lucille looks gorgeous and her entrance in the movie is very cute. She walks up to a restaurant and standing outside is one of the waiters (played by Desi). She nods her head to greet him, and stunned by her beauty, he faints. I only wish the two of them had more scenes together! The supporting cast is wonderful too, and there was a lot of camaraderie on the set. The director, George Abbott, Eddie Bracken, Ann Miller and Van Johnson all became life-long friends of Lucille and Desi's. Incidentally, Van Johnson (who was understudy to all the male leads in the stage version) was making his screen debut and had only a very, very small part in the film, but he caught the eye of the public in that small role. Preview audiences picked him out of the crowd and wanted to know who he was! Just goes to show star quality shines through no matter how briefly you're on the screen!

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