When I was a teenager, Jonathan Miller (a doctor as well as a comic performer, and other things) came to my hometown for a spell, on account of our apparently (and improbably) world-famous medical school.
For years I casually planned to write a Peter de Vries type novel based on that, using …Orient as the underpinning, but never got around to it, obviously.
You might recognize this film’s basic conceit in the frankly funnier later movie, Dick — and, weirdly and as acknowledged below, Heavenly Creatures (“weirdly” because that film is based on a true, horrible story — which simply confirms how even fatally compelling teen girl friendships, and adolescent fandom, can be.) Naturally, all three of these movies are among my favourites…
The World of Henry Orient was Sellers first American picture following the release of The Pink Panther (1963) and he is wonderful as the ham-handed musician. The role was based on the pianist and actor Oscar Levant so Sellers cleverly masks his British accent with a touch of Brooklynese that occasionally cracks through his phony Latin Lover facade. Thanks to his eccentric personality and flashy wardrobe, Sellers makes a lasting impression and it’s understandable why women are drawn to him despite the shady nature of his character. This was pre-Beatles America after all and the youth culture that would come to dominate the decade hadn’t found its voice yet. Henry Orient is representative of the romantic male figures at the time the book was written such as Mario Lanza who was the symbol of teenage longing in Heavenly Creatures (1994). (…)
Tippy Walker, who played the unruly and vivacious Val, had a more robust career in Hollywood and appeared in a handful of films (Seven in Darkness , The Jesus Trip , Jennifer on My Mind ) and TV shows (Dr. Kildare , Peyton Place [1968-1969]) before she retired from acting to focus on other creative pursuits. During the making of the movie Walker reportedly developed a romantic relationship with director George Roy Hill that was purely platonic. Despite the details, their relationship is bound to raise some eyebrows since she was just 16-years-old at the time and Hill was 42, married and the father of four children. Walker and Hill’s May-December romance mirrors Val’s fixation with the much older Henry Orient proving that fact is often stranger than fiction.