Tall Story is a 1960 American romantic comedy film made by Warner Bros., directed by Joshua Logan and starring Anthony Perkins with Jane Fonda, in her first screen role. It is based on the 1957 novel The Homecoming Game by Howard Nemerov, which was the basis of a successful 1959 Broadway play titled Tall Story, by the writing team of Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. The film was a considerable departure from Logan’s previous two projects, the drama Sayonara, which won multiple Academy Awards, and the blockbuster South Pacific and was Robert Redford’s first film, where he played a basketball player in an uncredited role.
The film is a farcical social satire of American campus life, making fun of the way college life can become a marriage market for some students. Fonda portrays a character who is the complete opposite of the independent liberated woman she later personified.
Jane Fonda, who saw Tall Story on Broadway and hated it, was pleasantly surprised when she received the script and saw that her character June Ryder had been expanded into a larger role and was now, in fact, the major focus of the film. Logan, who was a longtime friend of Henry Fonda (he roomed with him during his bachelor years and directed him on stage in Mr. Roberts), always sensed that Jane had the talent to be a major star and wanted to prove his hunch by guiding her through her first feature.
The film’s working title was The Way the Ball Bounces. Producer/director Joshua Logan originally intended the film to be a vehicle for both Jane Fonda and Warren Beatty to make their screen debuts, but Warner Bros. would not approve the unknown Beatty for the part, and Logan had to settle for his second choice, Anthony Perkins.
Jane Fonda, who saw Tall Story on Broadway and hated it, but was pleased that her part in the film script had been expanded. Logan was a good friend of her father Henry Fonda and saw Jane as a potential major star. He wanted to guide her through her first film experience – she had been modeling for several years – but Fonda found it a “Kafkaesque nightmare,” explaining in her autobiography My Life So Far that during the making of Tall Story she suffered from bulimia, sleepwalking and irrational fears that she was “boring, untalented and plain.”
When Tall Story went into general release, the critics were unusually hard on the picture. Time magazine wrote “Nothing could possibly save the picture, not even the painfully personable Perkins doing his famous awkward act, not even a second-generation Fonda with a smile like her father’s and legs like a chorus girl.” The Films in Review writer said, “The film wouldn’t be reviewed in these pages but for the fact that Henry Fonda’s daughter Jane makes her screen debut in it. She is a good-looking lass and she can act.”
Below is a collection of some of vintage photographs of Jane Fonda and Anthony Perkins during the film.