How 'Where The Boys Are' Created Spring Break As We Know It

Fads | October 2, 2018

Left: Dolores Hart, Yvette Mimieux, and Connie Francis in a publicity still for 'Where The Boys Are' (1960). Right: Hart and George Hamilton. Source: eBay

Where The Boys Are, a 1960 book by Glendon Swarthout that became a hit movie starring Connie Francis, Dolores Hart, Yvette Mimieux, and Paula Prentiss, changed the American college experience. Prior to 1960, few college students used their week off from school in the springtime, typically around Easter, to travel to warm, sunny beaches to party. But Swarthout's groundbreaking novel planted the seed, and the quickie movie rushed out in the same year, a low-budget blockbuster, sealed the deal. Suddenly, college kids across the country knew exactly what they wanted to do on their spring break. 

Swarthout’s book tells the story of a group of young college girls who go to Florida for spring break to experiment with sex and alcohol. It sparked a Spring Break craze and made Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the place to be. With his novel, Swarthout inspired college students to use Spring Break as a rite of passage, explored the changing face of sexual attitudes among college students, depicted women as in control of their sexuality, and led to a blockbuster movie and hit song.

Glendon Swarthout Was a College English Teacher

Novelist Glendon Swarthout

As a college level English teacher, Glendon Swarthout of Michigan had an inside look at the lives of college students at the start of the sixties. He noted that the times were changing, and those young college students, male and female, had adopted a looser, freer attitude about sex and dating. He chose, as his lead characters for Where the Boys Are, four young women from the Midwest and followed them as they travel to the beaches of Fort Lauderdale, looking for sex and romance. In fact, one of his characters, the foursome’s leader, Merritt, is clear in her belief that all women should experience premarital sex, a revolutionary idea for 1960. 

Almost Immediately, the Novel Was Made into a Film

George Wells began writing the screenplay for the film version of Where the Boys Are almost as soon as Swarthout’s novel came out. He recognized the screen potential of the story and knew that it would be popular among the teen market. The coming-of-age story garnered some negative publicity due to the mature subject matter, but it was also acclaimed for being one of the first motion pictures to address the changing sexual attitudes of the time. Where the Boys Are won two Laurel Awards, one for Best Comedy of the Year and the other went to star Paula Prentiss for Best Comedy Actress. 

The Film Featured a Cast of Attractive Young Adults

The cast of Where the Boys Are included four attractive young actresses as the four lead roles. Dolores Hart played the smart girl, Merritt. Yvette Mimieux portrayed the shy, insecure Melanie. Paula Prentiss played the husband-hunting Tuggle, and Connie Francis was cast in the role of the athletic girl, Angie. This was the first movie for both Frances and Prentiss. There was an equal amount of man candy in the film, too. George Hamilton plays Ryder, the senior from Brown University. Jim Hutton played TV, a junior from Michigan State. Rory Harrity portrayed the Yale boy, Franklin, and Frank Gorshin was the eccentric jazz musician, Basil. 

Connie Francis Recorded The Theme Song

In addition to playing one of the lead roles in Where The Boys Are, Connie Francis also sang the theme song for the film. The song, which shares its name with the title of the movie and novel, was written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. Francis had worked with the team of Sedaka and Greenfield before. They wrote Stupid Cupid for Francis in 1958. 

Movie Goers Found the Date Rape Scene to Be Disturbing

In one scene from Where the Boys Are, the naïve Melanie, who has already lost her virginity to Franklin, agrees to meet Franklin in his hotel room. What she doesn’t know is that Franklin has moved on to another girl, but has told his friend to wait in the hotel room for the “easy” Melanie. The unsuspecting Melanie is raped by the friend when she arrives at the hotel. Afterwards, dazed and confused, she stumbles into traffic and is sideswiped by a car. As the other girls rush to her hospital bed, they all come to the realization that being sexually active, independent young women come with risks and dangers. They all agree to act like mature, responsible adults now that Spring Break is over. For many movie-goers, the rape scene was too disturbing and depressing for a comedy film, but other noted that it shed light on date rape for the first time in cinematic history. 

Fort Lauderdale Was Never The Same After 'Where The Boys Are'

The immense popularity of the novel, the film, and the song versions of Where the Boys Are inspired young college students to leave their textbooks behind and hit the beaches for Spring Break. The beaches of Ft. Lauderdale, after 1960, were crowded with Spring Breakers every spring and college students from across the country flocked to Florida. Where the Boys Are is credited with starting the Spring Break phenomenon in the United States. 

Tags: 1960 | Glendon Swarthout | Movies In The 1960s | Music In The 1960s | Where The Boys Are

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Karen Harris


Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.