The high potency film “Sex and the Single Girl” has a high potency film score. One man is most responsible: composer-conductor Neal Hefti. An internationally renowned jazz composer and arranger, Hefti makes his film debut with “Sex and the Single Girl.” Famed for his swinging works for the Count Basie Orchestra (which is featured in the film), Hefti has composed his score not with the customary giant studio orchestra in mind, but rather with a small, swinging jazz orchestra. The result is a startlingly different kind of movie score . . . one that rocks along with a modern, jazz-based sound.
A major feature of the film is the singing role which vivacious Fran Jeffries plays. The tall and terrific cabaret and recording star, in the role of Tony Curtis’ girlfriend, is heard here in two numbers featured in the film, a jump version of the Al Jolson his of years ago, “Anniversary Waltz,” and the title song of the film, which was written by the film’s versatile director, Richard Quine.
Hefti’s rocking score (the instrumental star is flute soloist Buddy Collette, heard often and never better) is ideally suited to the bright and biting satire of the film itself. Authorized by Joseph (“Catch 22”) Heller and David R. Schwartz, “Sex and the Single Girl” is, of course, inspired by runaway bestseller of the same title by Helen Gurley Brown. Her handbook for the footloose femme has been devoured by hundreds of thousands of readers, and transformed into a film with a definitely modern attitude.
The story of the film begins when Tony Curtis, hired to sensationalize a venerable magazine, picks on Natalie Wood, research psychologist and author of “Sex and the Single Girl,” with an expose charging her with fraud and fakery. To gain her confidence for an intimate, follow-up story, he impersonates Henry Fonda and seeks marriage counsel from Natalie, explaining that his stormy marriage to Lauren Bacall is going on the rocks. Fonda, a bumbling hosiery manufacturer with a leg ogling habit (hence Hefti’s “Legs” track; Fonda also is responsible for “Blues for Frank,” the name of his film character) is next-door neighbor to Curtis. After numerous psychiatric sessions, Natalie and Tony fall in love, and the film is off to the races.
Neal Hefti’s fast-paced score races right along with every twist in the hectic story, even going so far as to accompany the principals on their hilarious, “Midnight Swim” with its “yeah-yeah” film tune. It all adds up to one of the most delightful and different motion picture scores to come out of Hollywood, or, for that matter, anywhere.