Wealthy restaurateur Harvey Howard (Bing Crosby), a self-made man, widower and owner of "Harvey Howard Smokehouses", decides to go back to college at the age of 51 and earn a bachelor's degree. He faces opposition from his grown snobbish children, as well as a generation gap between himself and his much-younger fellow students. The first day in school he finds that just convincing older students, faculty and the admin personnel is a humorous task. He enrolls and receives freshman rooming, and is up front about his determination to be "just another freshman". Being assigned a quad rooming arrangement, this sets the standard for the upcoming years. Dealing with the student press, the dorm adviser and making that first toast with sauerkraut juice to seal their bond to complete their four years together.
The President's welcoming speech sets the tone for the effort facing the freshman class. Harvey has to convince the Physical Ed coach that he has what it takes to compete by doing ten plus one pull ups to the cheers of his fellow younger frosh, only to collapse on his face upon finishing his set. Another frosh challenge is the bonfire that must exceed the height of the prior years. Harvey meets the French professor, Helen Gauthier when removing a supporting wooden chair from her porch. The bonfire's total height comes up a foot short, Harvey climbs to the summit and deposits his three-foot chair, a very brave and daunting achievement. Having two brilliant roommates and jock Gil Sparrow (Fabian), the academic rigors are always fuel for comedy and camaraderie. Science Professor Thayer, is haphazard, and suffers numerous comedic moments, chemicals that take on a life of their own, pairs of wires that should never be brought near each other during a storm, zap, and improving one's skating skills except on thin ice.
Sophomore year again has Harvey being berated by his children, the school's beat reporter is there to welcome him and puts up with the snobby kids. Harvey is off to meet his last year's roommates and the requisite toast to success. He is asked to join their fraternity and has the usual hazing period to endure, polishing shoes, washing floors and the most challenging, dressing in drag and getting a retired colonel to sign his dance card at a costume ball. The elderly southern gentleman is suffering a gout attack and his social climbing children are attending the same event. While dancing with his son, he so discombobulates him that his dress is torn in half, and while having it fixed in the ladies lounge he floors his daughter. Back on the floor, Harvey bribes the band leader to play "Dixie", the colonel stands, Harvey pounces into his arms dancing the length of the floor, deposits the sputtering Colonel on his easy chair has him autograph his dance card, throws his wig into his lap and rushes the exit. The rest of the year is full of great football by Gil, academic pressure and more antics by Prof. Thayer.
Junior year starts with Harvey arriving in a red Mercedes convertible, and meeting the group at a "Harvey Howard Smokehouse" for a toast of goat milk, which only T.J. Padmanagham likes. The Smokehouse maitre D' at Harvey Howard's, super-snob Burdick doesn't like one bit of this. His first task is to rudely challenge the group to order their meals which is fine with Harvey who orders Harvey Burgers with special sauce for the lot. Burdick sneers back that it's too early for the special sauce, Navy Brat, Bob Bannerman chimes in with " . . . it's later than you think". The burgers arrive and are dry, carbonized and inedible. Harvey, who stands behind all burgers served in his Smokehouses, calls Burdick over to "take them back", Burdick challenges Harvey to do better, which he does. Burdick watching Harvey jump to it at the grill catches Harvey Howard's full name and faints. Burdick completes eating a burger prepared by Harvey and becomes a transformed Harvey employee, hilarious. Over the summer prior to Junior Year Harvey had hired Professor Gauthier to tutor him at Nags-head, his children in turn complain to the college and it appears that Gauthier has to resign to save face. The students protest and the President delays any action until the next Spring.
Senior Year, Harvey shows up in a taxi, the group gathers and toast their final year, both Harvey and Gil are still hitting the books hard, with some success. Hay rides with phone booth body jams and a smooth procession towards graduation. Harvey is in denial about his love of Professor Gauthier and she coyly asks him would he like to marry her, he stammers, but the gauntlet is cast. Harvey is the Class of 1960 Valedictorian and his speech covers all the bases, why he challenged himself to find a greater purpose, put up with the struggle, his growing admiration and acceptance of his adult children and his friends own accomplishments. One final challenge is for them to never quit and say something like " I could no sooner do that, than I could fly ", a perfect entry into Harvey being hoisted above the audience on cables to fly around the auditorium. A wink to Professor Gauthier, a smile to all, the end.
High Time was scripted by Garson Kanin, Frank Waldman and Tom Waldman. It was originally titled "Big Daddy", with the starring role to be played by Gary Cooper. When Cooper's terminal illness forced him to turn down the role, Bing Crosby was signed as lead, and the script was revised to his requirements.
The movie was known as Daddy-O before being changed to High Time.
Simone Signoret was once announced for the female lead.
Filming started 2 February 1960.
The movie was shot in Stockton, California, at the University Of The Pacific, Stockton Junior High School, Amos Alonzo Stagg Senior High School and other locations in Stockton.
It was originally intended to be filmed at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but shortly before shooting was to begin the school was informed that filming had been moved to California. As a concession to disappointed students, faculty and alumni, many of the landmarks of Wake Forest University (such as "Bostwick Dormitory", then a women's residence hall) are mentioned in the script.
Filming was interrupted by the strike of the Screen Actors Guild on 7 March. Fabian's manager was reported as wanting to buy the film so it could be completed. "Now I've heard everything," wrote Hedda Hopper. "Fabian, who admits he can't sing and is perfectly honest about it, has been in our business a little more than a year." The strike ended and filming resumed on 12 April.
Fabian later called Bing Crosby "a great artist, a great actor, and a great musical person" but "not a nice man.”
The film introduced the song "The Second Time Around". It was the last song Bing Crosby introduced that would be nominated for an Oscar for Best Song. The song became a hit single for Frank Sinatra, and would later be recorded by a number of artists, including Barbra Streisand for "The Movie Album" (2003).
The title song, "High Time," was adopted in 1961 as the opening theme music for Mr. Peppermint, a long-running children's show in the Dallas–Fort Worth area."High Time" (Henry Mancini)- music only
"The Second Time Around" - sung by Bing Crosby
"You Tell Me Your Dream" (Charles N. Daniels / Gus Kahn) - sung by Bing Crosby and Nicole Maurey and chorus.
"It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" - sung by Bing Crosby, Fabian, Nicole Maurey and others.
"Nobody's Perfect" (Jimmy Van Heusen / Sammy Cahn) - a duet between Crosby and Fabian was omitted from the released print of film.
The film was released on September 16, 1960 and had a mixed reception. Variety saying: "High Time is pretty lightweight fare for a star of Bing Crosby’s proportions, and all the draw of the Groaner, who only trills twice, will be required to sell it. . . . Crosby handles his role in his usual fashion, perfectly timing his laughs, and delivers a pair of Sammy Cahn-James Van Heusen songs, “The Second Time Around” and “Nobody’s Perfect.” (sic).
Bosley Crowther of The New York Times was clearly disappointed by it, saying, inter alia. "...Thus Mr. Crosby, still pretending to be youthful, goes to college again, but a few necessaries are lacking. One of them is a script. The other is youth. The screen play by Tom and Frank Waldman, based on a story by Garson Kanin, is awfully sad, awfully burdened with hackneyed situations. And Mr. Crosby, alas, is no kid. He tries hard to be casual and boyish, to prove modestly that he’s in the groove, to match the animal spirits of the swarming youngsters, such as Fabian and Miss Weld. But as much as director Blake Edwards has tried to help him with a lively beat that keeps the action thumping and gives an illusion of vitality, at least, there is a terrible gauntness and look of exhaustion about Mr. Crosby when the camera gets close and peers at his face. We don’t blame his children (in the film) for objecting to his going to college. He should have stayed at home with his feet to the fire."