What Movie Gave "Big Girls Don't Cry" Its Title?

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons
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GAB Archive/Redferns

For the second time in 1962, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons landed atop the Billboard Hot 100, spending the first of five weeks at No. 1 with a song inspired by a John Payne movie. As far as which movie, however, it depends on who you ask.

Written by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” followed up that year's breakthrough "Sherry," which also spent its own five-week run at No. 1. Crewe and Gaudio have different stories as to how they came up with the title of the song, however.

To hear Gaudio tell the tale, he was watching the 1955 John Payne film Tennessee’s Partner when he heard Payne (not to be confused with John Wayne - Payne was the lawyer in Miracle on 34th Street) slap his co-star, Rhonda Fleming, across the face, after which she snapped back, “Big girls don’t cry.” Inspired, Gaudio scribbled down the line, falling asleep immediately thereafter; when he awoke the next morning, he penned the tune. Crewe, meanwhile, says that he got the brainstorm for the title when he woke up to see Payne smacking around Fleming in a different film: 1956’s Slightly Scarlet.

We’ve got to give the advantage to Crewe on this one, mostly because the line in question isn’t actually in Tennessee’s Partner, but it is in Slightly Scarlet.

“Big Girls Don’t Cry” remains a classic tune, one which has been sung on The Lucy Show, 3-2-1 Contact, and Kids Incorporated…and, hey, if that’s not a cross-demographic hit, we don’t know what is. That said, here’s further proof of the song having such a status: it was The Four Seasons’ second hit to also top the R&B singles chart.

Not that it’s nearly as much of a status symbol as having Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance sing your song, mind you. But it’s still pretty impressive.

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