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The World of Henry Orient

theatrical poster
Directed by George Roy Hill
Produced by Jerome Hellman
Written by Nora Johnson
(novel & screenplay)
Nunnally Johnson (screenplay)
Starring Peter Sellers
Paula Prentiss
Merrie Spaeth
Tippy Walker
Tom Bosley
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Boris Kaufman
Arthur J. Ornitz
Editing by Stuart Gilmore
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) 19 March 1964 (NYC)
Running time 106 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The World of Henry Orient is a 1964 American comedy film based on the novel of the same name by Nora Johnson. It was directed by George Roy Hill and stars Peter Sellers, Paula Prentiss, Angela Lansbury, Tippy Walker, Merrie Spaeth, Phyllis Thaxter, Bibi Osterwald, and Tom Bosley. Filming started in June 1963 and wrapped in October of that year. The premiere was at Radio City Music Hall on March 19, 1964. In 1965 the film was nominated for the Golden Globe Award in the category "Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy", and for a Writers Guild of America Award for "Best Written American Comedy".



Concert pianist Henry Orient (Peter Sellers) is trying to have an affair with a married woman, Stella Dunnworthy (Paula Prentiss), while two teenage private-school girls, Valerie Boyd (Tippy Walker) and Marian Gilbert (Merrie Spaeth), stalk him and write their fantasies about him in a diary. Much of the humor of the film derives from Orient's paranoia that the two girls, who seem to pop up everywhere he goes, are spies sent by the husband of his would-be mistress. When Val's mother, Isabel Boyd (Angela Lansbury), finds their diary, she suspects that Henry has acted inappropriately with her daughter. She contacts Orient and they have an affair. Tom Bosley has a supporting role as Mr. Boyd.



The pianist's unusual surname, "Orient", came about because Nora Johnson based the character on Oscar Levant, a real-life concert pianist, raconteur and film actor. Since the word "levant" means orient in French (literally the direction from which the Sun rises), the name is a play on words. In the film, the only comment on the pianist's unusual name occurs when his two teenage fans put on Chinese conical hats and address their idol as "Oriental Henry".


The World of Henry Orient was the official U.S. entry at 1964 Cannes Film Festival.[1][2]

The film was well-received by critics and has an 88% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. In his review for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther wrote that it was "one of the most joyous and comforting movies about teenagers that we've had in a long time".[3]

It was voted one of the Year's Ten Best Films by the National Board of Review in 1964.[4]

Musical adaptation

A Broadway musical adaptation of The World of Henry Orient called Henry, Sweet Henry, with music and lyrics by Bob Merrill, book by Nunnally Johnson (the father of Nora Johnson), direction by George Roy Hill and choreography by Michael Bennett, opened at the Palace Theatre on October 23, 1967. It starred Don Ameche as Henry Orient, Neva Small as Marian Gilbert, Robin Wilson as Valerie Boyd, Milo Bouton as Mr Boyd, Carol Bruce as Mrs. Boyd and Louise Lasser as Stella. Pia Zadora also appeared in the role of a student. The show ran for 80 performances and closed on December 31, 1967, receiving less than stellar reviews.[5]

Although the show was not a success, one of its performers, Alice Playten received a 1968 Theatre World Award, and was nominated for a Tony Award for "Best Featured Actress in a Musical." In addition, Michael Bennett was nominated for a Tony for "Best Choreography."[6]


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