#19 – Bon Voyage! (1962)
Fred MacMurray, Jane Wyman, and Michael Callan
Director: James Neilson, Producer: Walt Disney, with associate producers Ron Miller and Bill Walsh, Production Company: Walt Disney Productions, released by Buena Vista Distribution Company
An Indiana plumber and his wife take their three children on a cruise for an unforgettable French vacation. As they explore, the family faces many comedic misadventures, such as the two adolescent children’s romances.
I’ve written about a lot of Shurlock Era films during #AMonthWithoutTheCode2020. This isn’t just another Shurlock film, though. It is noteworthy because it is a Disney movies. Disney Productions stood out during the 1960s as some of the only films which were still basically Code-compliant. Of course, there is an exception to every rule. Bon Voyage! is Disney’s exception. This film didn’t get the memo that Disney pictures are supposed to be completely clean and decent for the whole family. Unfortunately, it falls into the category of a movie which is only a family film because it is about a family. It is quite comparable to Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, another family vacation film from 1962. Although this movie lacks the profanity, it has a lot of other problems. One particularly disturbing element is how much the father, Harry Willard (Fred MacMurray), drinks, becoming very intoxicated on more than one occasion during the trip. In France, the family encounters some very strange people, such as the Countessa DuFresne (Jessie Royce Landis). Their adolescent son, Elliott (Tommy Kirk), gets into significant trouble. Trying to be a big-shot, he wears a fake mustache and makes a big show of being wealthy in front of a French girl. It backfires when her greedy mother goes to his father, saying that Elliott compromised her daughter! This implication is very blatant and quite shocking. Even more shocking is a bathing suit which the daughter, Amy (Deborah Walley), wears on a Parisian beach. Trying to prove to a beau that she is sophisticated, she wears a leopard-print two-piece bathing suit, which suggestively covers her navel with a strategically placed bow. This is shockingly revealing. These are just a few recollections of a generally shocking two hour and eleven minute film. You could call this movie the Hardy family’s You’re Only Young Once (1937) family vacation film gone wrong. Walt Disney himself said of this film, “It’s far out for us but still Disney. I’m really a gag man and missed the kind of pictures Frank Capra and Harold Lloyd used to make. Since nobody else wanted to do them, I decided to make them myself.” This movie proves that even Walt Disney, like Harold Lloyd and Frank Capra, needed Joseph Breen’s guidance.
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