How much do I love “Sex and the Single Girl”? It’s so retro Sixties sex comedy: Light on carnal activity, but heavy on farce. Natalie Wood stars as Helen Brown, a cute but prim psychologist who has authored a book about single women; Tony Curtis is the lascivious magazine writer Bob Weston who wants to get the goods on her.
Already you can probably tell where this is going: The prim woman falls for the wolfish seducer that isn’t really that wolfish when you get right down to it.
Doris Day starred in a number of similar farces in the era, including “Pillow Talk.” Wood, better known for serious dramas leading up to “Sex and the Single Girl,” displays a nice comedic touch in the movie. Just watch her face as she tries to resist the charms of her duplicitous patient.
And let’s face it: She looks quite ravishing. (Walking through the room while I watched it on cable yesterday, my husband asked: How young was she? Answer: 26.)
Tony Curtis is also fine, but familiar to this terrain, as the filmmakers acknowledge with a few winks at “Some Like It Hot” in the dialogue. Henry Fonda and Lauren Bacall also have fun with their roles as the bickering marrieds, though I doubt I appreciated their sublime presence when I first saw the movie on TV in the Seventies.
Nor did I understand the cultural significance of Helen Gurley Brown — my tastes ran to Mademoiselle, rather than Cosmo — and the book that provided the basis for the movie. Only yesterday I learned from TCM that Joseph Heller adapted it for the bigscreen. That still boggles my mind — the author of “Catch-22” laboring over an adaptation of a Helen Gurley Brown book.
My point is this: You don’t have to know any of that to enjoy “Sex and the Single Girl.” But if you do, you’ll like it that much better.