Monday, October 01, 2007
cinema obscura: Delmer Daves Double-Bill
Inadvertently, the reliable director Delmer Daves (1904-1977) has been back in the spotlight of late, thanks to James Mangold's "3:10 to Yuma," a remake of the solid Western that Daves helmed in 1957 with Glenn Ford and Van Heflin. Every review of the current "Yuma" has made a reference to Daves, so much so that he seems to be receiving more attention in death than he ever did in life.
An admission: I've a soft spot for Daves, especially for the Western he made the year after "3:10 to Yuma" - 1958's "Cowboy," also starring Ford and based on the autobiographical novel by Frank Harris (played in the film by Jack Lemmon).
Tough, adult Westerns notwithstanding, Daves truly proved his skills with a series of soap operas made for Warner Bros. in the late 1950s and early '60s, among them the classic/guilty pleasure "A Summer Place" (1959), "Rome Adventure" (1962), "Youngblood Hawke" (1964) and "The Battle of the Villa Fiorita" (1965).
Which brings me to my own guilty pleasures, both from 1961 and both starring Troy Donahue and Connie Stevens - "Parrish" and "Susan Slade," teen agnst dramas extraordinaire. Incredibly popular in their day, both have virtually disappeared.
Of the two, "Parrish" was the studio favorite, also starring the estimable Claudette Colbert, Karl Malden and Dean Jagger and eliciting an opening at Radio City Music Hall, while "Susan Slade" was treated strictly as a B-movie, usually one-half of a double bill. For me, they're equal - and equally wonderful.
Set in the tobacco groves of the Connecticut River Valley, the 137-minute "Parrish" - adapted by Daves from the Mildred Savage novel - casts Donahue as a kid plagued by an evil stepfather (Malden), a tobacco tycoon, and equally awful stepbrother (Hampton Francher), when his widowed mother (Colbert in a lovely return to the screen) remarries. Stevens, Diane McBain (as Jagger's daughter) and Sharon Hugueny (as Malden's daughter) - all Warner contract players - essay the roles of Parrish's various love interests, each one given equal screen time. McBain and Hugueny represent forbidden fruit, women learly out of Parrish's league, making it easy to root for Stevens' mistreated lowlife heroine.
In "Susan Slade," based by Daves on Doris Hume's novel, the ever-underrated Stevens has the title role (her parents are played by Dorothy Maguire and Lloyd Nolan), a 17-year-old who ends up pregnant by a reckless, wealthy mountain-climber ("The Incredible Shrinking Man's" Grant Williams) who promptly dies in a climbing accident. What's a girl to do? Well, the family agrees to keep Susan's pregancy a secret and Mrs. Slade steps up to pose as the baby's mother to protect Susan's reputation. And on and on it goes, with Donahue and Bert Convy on the sidelines as guys interested in Susan. (Two guesses which one she ends up with.) The veteran actor Brian Ahern also stars.
Note in Passing: Daves' terrific "Spencer's Mountain" (1963), another personal favorite, starring starring Henry Fonda, Maureen O’Hara, James MacArthur, Mimsy Farmer, Donald Crisp and Wally Cox will be screened on Turner Classics at 10 p.m. (est) on October 25th. Watch it.
Cinema Obscura is a recurring feature of The Passionate Moviegoer, devoted to those films that have been largely forgotten. Suggestions welcome.
(Artwork: Poster art from Delmer Daves' Troy Donahue-Connie Stevens duo from 1961, "Parrish" and "Susan Slade"; Claudette Colbert and Karl Malden in "Parrish")
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Posted by joe baltake at 10:08 PM