Marion Hargrove’s ‘original’ screenplay actually owes a little something to the Little Miss Marker-Sorrowful Jones school of screen comedy, but it’s a precocious and likeable offspring. The troublesome 40-pounder of the title is moppet Claire Wilcox, who makes her screen debut as an orphaned youngster who gradually melts the heart of the businesslike, efficient manager of a Lake Tahoe, Nevada gambling resort (Tony Curtis).
In the course of her conquest, she also aids the cause of husband-hunting nitery canary Suzanne Pleshette, whose romance with Curtis is complicated by the latter’s relationship with his ex-wife, to whom he refuses to pay alimony, a stubborn stance that places him in jeopardy every time he leaves his Nevada legal sanctuary and crosses the border to California.
Curtis dispatches his role with comic savvy. Pleshette, whose manner is reminiscent of Joan Bennett’s, handles her romantic assignment with finesse. Little Miss Wilcox is an appealing youngster, although director Jewison (in his first screen assignment after TV credits) might have obtained even better results from her by striving for more spontaneous, less practiced, childish reactions.
Phil Silvers has some memorable moments as the owner of the gambling establishment, notably one sequence in which he grandly strides into his domain, gruffly urging his customers to ‘play, play.’