February is the month of Valentine’s Day. A month to celebrate romance. A month to celebrate love. Typically, in lieu of the regular romance movie routine, I personally like to watch movies about obsessive love, like Leave Her to Heaven, where the antagonist, Ellen Berent’s only problem is that “she loves too much.” That’s putting it mildly. For this blogathon however, I’m going to go the more traditional route with a salute to my favorite movie couples. No, it’s not the most unique idea, but I hope that my selections are unique. These are the couples you hope will end up together. Even if they don’t, if the relationship ends on a satisfying note, it can still be a relationship worth coveting.
#1 Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund- Casablanca (1942). This isn’t a unique choice. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) are often held up as one of Classic Hollywood’s greatest romances; but for good reason. Rick and Ilsa’s goodbye scene at the airport is iconic. Who can forget Rick lifting Ilsa’s chin as she sobs, then delivering the iconic line: “Here’s looking at you, kid.” Yes he’s repeating a line that he says to Ilsa in Paris, but it’s this moment where the line is the most poignant. It’s the final callback to the passionate romance they shared before World War II changed their lives permanently. Yes, Ilsa was married to Lazlo (Paul Henried) while they were in Paris and she’s married to him throughout the film. But who cares about Lazlo? This is Rick and Ilsa’s romance. They fell in love in Paris. They were torn apart by the war when Ilsa discovers that her “dead” husband, Lazlo, is actually alive. They’re brought back together in Casablanca when Lazlo’s work with the French Resistance takes him to Morocco. Rick and Ilsa’s feelings for one another come back and it’s such a passionate romance, it’s almost a shame that they don’t end up together. But the ending allows Rick to be the bigger man and to find his place in the world, with Louis Renault (Claude Rains) by his side. It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship, indeed.
#2 Harry Morgan & Marie ‘Slim’ Browning- To Have and Have Not (1944). I’d be remiss to forget about Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s iconic first film together. For not being known as a matinee idol, Bogart found himself part of many classic on-screen romances. In this instance, it was his appearance as Harry Morgan (Bogart), a fisherman working in the French colony of Martinique, a Caribbean nation. Because this takes place right after the Fall of France to the Germans during World War II, the island of Martinique is a mish-mash of Germans (due to the control possessed by the Pro-German Vichy France), sympathetic French, and other people trying to escape their lives. One of these people that Harry meets, is “Slim” (Bacall), a young American woman who is a bit of a wanderer and has found her way to Martinique. The sparks between Harry and Slim are obvious, especially after Slim teaches him how to whistle. Bogie and Bacall’s on-screen chemistry leapt off the screen and into real life as Bogie and Bacall fell in love and became one of Classic Hollywood’s most iconic couples.
#3 Frances “Gidget” Lawrence & Jeffrey “Moondoggie” Matthews-Gidget (1959). If there’s one type of movie I love, it’s the teen beach movie and Gidget is the all-time best teen beach movie, in my opinion. Part of the reason I love this movie so much is for Gidget (Sandra Dee) and Moondoggie (James Darren). In this film, Gidget (nicknamed bestowed upon Frances by the surfer boys, it’s an amalgamation of “girl” and “midget”) is a 17-year old incoming high school senior who feels inadequate next to her more physically developed, boy crazy girlfriends. At the beginning of the film, we see Gidget and her friends try to attract the surfer boys at the beach, with Gidget failing miserably due to her awkwardness. But there’s something endearing about Gidget. She’s genuine. She can’t muster up the ability to try and attract the boys, because it seems fake. She just wants to swim. She doesn’t want to play stupid games trying to get their attention. She ends up catching the attention of one of the surfer boys, Moondoggie. At first Moondoggie is standoffish, but it’s obvious that he’s doing so because he’s trying to keep up his “cred” with the other boys. But through being protective of Gidget and later having a chance to spend time with her one-on-one, he realizes that he really does like her. Gidget’s liked him the whole time. When they have a chance to be together, they are smitten. Frankly, they are adorable and I love them. In the end, Gidget’s friends are still single and Gidget’s hooked herself a hot college guy by staying true to herself. Get it, girl!
#4 Connie Milligan & Joe Carter- The More the Merrier (1943). Connie (Jean Arthur) and Joe (Joel McCrea) are adorable. They’re brought together by the meddling, Benjamin Dingle (Charles Coburn), a retired millionaire who sublets half of Connie’s apartment during the World War II housing crisis. When Sergeant Joe Carter shows up to answer Connie’s ad, Mr. Dingle sees an opportunity to fix the uptight Connie up with a nice young man. Mr. Dingle sublets half of his half of the apartment to Joe. After learning about Mr. Dingle’s arrangement, Connie is upset. Especially when the men start razzing her about her fiance, Mr. Charles J. Pendergast. Despite trying to impress the two men with Mr. Pendergast’s good points (he makes $8600/year and has no hair), it becomes even obvious that she’s matched up with the wrong man. By this point, Joe has a crush on Connie and wants to spend time with her. Later one evening, Joe and Connie find themselves alone together on the front stoop of their apartment building. What unfolds on the front stoop is one of the sexiest, romantic scenes in Classic Hollywood, and nobody had to lose any of their clothes. I love them together and hope that they lived happily ever after… without Mr. Pendergast.
#5 Nick and Nora Charles, The Thin Man Series (1934-1947). Nick (William Powell) and Nora (Myrna Loy) Charles are the power couple that everyone wishes they were. They are part of society. They have a beautiful home. They have an amazing dog, Asta. And, they solve mysteries together, thanks to Nick’s background as a detective. Nick loves the thrill of the mystery and Nora desperately wishes to be a part of the thrill. Nick tries to keep her at home and safe from the danger, but Nora always manages to horn her way in, by finding a vital clue or having an alluring thought about a potential suspect. At the start of the film series, Nick had retired from his detective career when he marries socialite Nora. Nick and Nora have such an amazing rapport and chemistry with one another, that the mystery almost takes a back seat to their relationship. William Powell and Myrna Loy are so amazing together, that one wishes they’d been married in real life.
May 16th is National Classic Movie Day. And what would be better to watch during these trying times than a classic film? This year, the Classic Film & TV Cafe’s annual blogathon is devoted to the 1960s. All participants have been asked to list their favorite films of this decade.
The 1960s are an interesting time for classic film as the Production Code and Studio System were all but gone. Sandra Dee, 50s/60s teen queen, was Universal Studios’ last contract star. Most of the classic film stars of the studio system were either retired, and unfortunately, many were deceased. Some of the younger stars of that era, e.g. Doris Day and Lauren Bacall, to name a couple, were still active, but even then their stars were waning. The 1960s brought a new crop of stars: Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, to name a few. Some child stars, like Natalie Wood, had successfully transitioned out of juvenile roles and into ones for adults.
This year, the Classic Film & TV Cafe has asked bloggers to name their six favorite films of the 1960s.
Without further ado:
I’m sure everyone is familiar with this film. The violent shower scene where Janet Leigh meets her demise is iconic. Norman Bates’ name is synonymous with “mommy issues.” The fictional Bates Motel is infamous. I love Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. This is probably my second favorite Hitchcock film after Rear Window. I am not a big horror movie fan, but this film is more psychological than slasher and in true Hitchcock fashion, there are even some funny, albeit, macabre parts as well.
Janet Leigh stars as Marion Crane, a secretary for a local real estate company in Phoenix. On a Friday afternoon, she meets with her boyfriend, Sam Loomis (John Gavin), for a quickie during lunch. Their rendezvous is complicated when Sam announces that he cannot marry Marion because of debts he incurred after divorcing his first wife. Marion, disappointed, returns to work. When she arrives, her employer is in the middle of settling a large real estate deal. The client ends up giving Marion’s boss $40,000 cash as a down payment. Marion, seeing an opportunity to solve Sam’s money woes, so that they can marry, feigns a headache. Her boss, not wanting such a large sum of cash in the office over the weekend, asks Marion to deposit the cash on her way home. Marion absconds with the money instead and drives to California where Sam lives.
While enroute, there’s a fantastic scene (with Bernard Hermann’s amazing score) where Marion is driving and she imagines her boss’ conversation after he discovers that she’s stolen the money. Marion trades in her vehicle after a weird encounter with a police officer who keeps questioning her when she acts odd and suspicious after he wakes her up from a roadside nap. During a heavy rainstorm, Marion comes across a motel off the beaten path– The Bates Motel. The proprietor, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), is a little odd, but seems harmless.
Unfortunately, Marion is never seen again.
The remainder of the film deals with her sister, Lila (Vera Miles), Sam, and Detective Arbogast (Martin Balsam), trying to find out what happened to Marion. It becomes clear to all involved that Norman has a weird relationship with his mother. Lila and Arbogast decide that Mrs. Bates might hold the key to the whole mystery.
***SPOILER*** These are my favorite scenes:
Marion’s infamous shower scene
Lila tapping on the shoulder of “Mrs. Bates” and having the chair spin around only to see a skeleton wearing a wig.
“Mrs. Bates” stabbing Arbogast and him falling down the stairs.
Norman Bates’ reveal as “Mrs. Bates” That scene is funny, if anything.
The last scene featuring a close-up of Norman Bates’ face with “Mrs. Bates” providing the internal monologue. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Cape Fear (1962)
I saw this film for the first time a couple years ago. Prior to that, my only experience with Cape Fear was the Simpsons parody with Sideshow Bob assuming the Robert Mitchum role. I saw Scorsese’s 1991 remake last year and while it was okay, I preferred the original. Scorsese’s version was too graphic and gross. I liked the subtlety of the original. Cape Fear, in my opinion, is very progressive for 1962. It might be one of the first sexual thrillers. This film is terrifying and Robert Mitchum deserves all the credit for imbuing the film with the creepy and uncomfortable atmosphere present through the entire film. In Scorsese’s 1991 remake, Robert DeNiro assumes Mitchum’s role, and in my opinion, Mitchum was much more effective. DeNiro was just creepy, gross, and a complete psychopath. Mitchum, on the other hand, was creepy, but also possessed that dreamy quality (which also makes him excel in romantic roles). He was believable as a man who could charm a potential victim into spending time with him–only for her to realize his true character when it was too late. DeNiro is just a creep from the start.
The original Cape Fear takes place in contemporary 1962 Georgia. Max Cady (Robert Mitchum), has just been released from prison. He has just completed an 8-year stint after being convicted of rape. What’s interesting in this film is that Max’s crime is never explicitly stated, but is implied. After leaving prison, Max travels to the hometown of Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck), a lawyer who assisted in delivering the eyewitness testimony that sealed Max’s case and got him convicted and incarcerated. Max is determined to get revenge on Sam. He promptly discovers where he lives. The remainder of the film deals with Max stalking both Sam and his family. It gets even worse when Max sets his sights on Sam’s 14-year old daughter, Nancy.
There is a terrifying scene between Max and a woman he picks up at a bar, Diane Taylor (Barrie Chase). This scene is made even more disturbing in the 1991 Scorsese version.
The highlight (and scariest part) of the film is the famous houseboat scene–parodied perfectly on The Simpsons. Sam’s family heads to their houseboat in Cape Fear, North Carolina, in an effort to lure Max. The scene between Max and Sam’s wife, Peggy (Polly Bergen) on the houseboat is so disturbing– it just gives me the willies thinking about it.
This film is fantastic and highly worth watching. I recommend watching it in the dark to get the full effect. In fact, I may watch this movie tonight in honor of National Classic Film Day.
Yours, Mine, and Ours (1968)
Full disclosure: I love The Brady Bunch. I can watch it all day long and I never tire of it. However, other family sitcoms, e.g. Full House, I can only take an episode or two at a time. Both sitcoms have overly sappy moments, both can be saccharine at times, there are lessons to be learned in each episode… so what’s the difference between the two shows? I have no idea, except the The Brady Bunch is superior.
In 1968, when Sherwood Schwartz was looking for a new project, he came across a newspaper column offering the statistic that 30% of marriages involve children from a previous marriage. He created a pilot for a series involving Mike Brady, a widower with three children, falling in love with and marrying Carol Martin, a divorcee with three children. Due to objections from the network, Carol’s marital status was made more ambiguous. Schwartz presented his pilot to all the major networks. Each network liked the project, but requested multiple changes. Then, two films about mixed families premiered– With Six You Get Eggroll (Doris Day & Brian Keith), and Yours, Mine and Ours (Lucille Ball & Henry Fonda), the latter film turning a major profit. The success of ‘Yours,’ served as the impetus for one network, ABC, to take a chance and greenlight The Brady Bunch.
Yours, Mine and Ours is based on the true story of Frank Beardsley and Helen North, two widowers who, between the two of them, have enough children to play an entire baseball game–defense and offense. They meet and marry and then try to unite their families and manage their massive household. Lucille Ball’s production company, Desilu, purchased the rights to Helen Beardsley’s (nee North) autobiography, Who Gets the Drumstick? Ball enlisted her I Love Lucy writing dream team, Bob Carroll Jr., and Madelyn Pugh to write the screenplay. Ball, of course, would play the role of Helen North. She enlisted her friend (and former beau), Henry Fonda, to play her husband, Frank Beardsley.
Frank works in the Navy and has recently left his post on the USS Enterprise. He has taken on a new role (one that presumably keeps him at home) working as a project officer. One day, at the commissary, he meets Helen North, a nurse on the base. They have a friendly, cordial meeting. But nothing comes of it. Later, Frank and Helen reunite when Frank has to bring 12-year old daughter Louise in for an exam. Frank and Helen hit it off and decide to go out on a date. The trouble? Frank and Helen are both single parents to a large number of children. Frank has 10 children, Helen has 8.
While on the date (at a VERY crowded club), there’s a funny scene where Helen practices nonchalantly telling Frank about her 8 children. Since she’s practicing out-loud, the men around her think that she’s coming onto them. Later, there is another funny scene where her fake eyelashes (courtesy of her daughters) keep falling off and later her pinned up slip falls down (her girls also shortened her dress, making her slip too long).
Finally, the truth comes out when Frank and Helen make their respective broods known to one another. After some funny scenes with the children including a manic Lucille Ball crying/drunk scene, and a near break-up, Helen and Frank marry and then work on combining their respective households–but not without help from Frank’s buddy, Darrel (Van Johnson).
My favorite scene is when Frank is doling out bedroom and bathroom assignments. Each bedroom is assigned a letter. The bathrooms are assigned a color. The children are assigned a number, based on their position within the group of children. There’s a funny quote when one of the younger children (11/18) walks down the hallway, repeating the mantra over and over: “I’m 11, red, A.” For the record, in my house, I’m 1, red, A. My husband is 2, red, A. My sister/boarder, is 3, red, B.
I’m not usually a big fan of children-centric movies/shows or actors (which probably makes my love of The Brady Bunch and Yours, Mine and Ours, even more bewildering)–but both The Brady Bunch and Yours, Mine and Ours are free of the annoying, precocious child with a catch phrase–so that’s probably why I like them. For the record: My favorite Brady kid is Marcia (close second: Greg), and my favorite Yours, Mine and Ours child is Phillip (perhaps the Jan Brady of the Beardsley household), close second: Veronica)
For the record, these are the children in their order of rank:
Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961)
I know that this is not the best movie in the world. It’s not even the best of the Gidget franchise. However, I love this movie. It’s so ridiculous in the best possible way. First of all, we’re supposed to believe that this is a continuation of 1959’s Gidget–just look past the fact that Deborah Walley (Gidget in Gidget Goes Hawaiian) looks absolutely nothing like Sandra Dee (the original Gidget in Gidget). The sequel even went as far as to film “flashbacks” of scenes from the first film, with Walley wearing some of Dee’s costumes! Gidget’s parents in the second film–Carl Reiner as Russ and Jeff Donnell as Dorothy, are completely different. Arthur O’Connell and Mary LaRoche assumed the roles in the Dee film. In the first film, only the surfer boys refer to Gidget by her nickname. Gidget’s parents refer to her by another nickname, “Francie,” based on her real name: Frances. In the second film, everyone calls Gidget by her nickname. The one constant in both films? And really the only constant that even matters? James Darren’s Jeff “Moondoggie” Matthews.
In Gidget Goes Hawaiian, Gidget and Jeff are still together. At the end of the first film, Gidget turns 17 and is entering her senior year of high school. Jeff is a college student, who is on summer break and planning to return to school in the fall. We can assume that Jeff is either a year or two older than Gidget. In Gidget Goes Hawaiian, the timeline is a little fuzzy. Presumably, this is a year or so after Gidget, based on the fact that Jeff is on summer vacation, returning to college again in the fall. At this point, Gidget is presumably at least 18, and perhaps Jeff is 20-21 (He’s still in college in 1963’s Gidget Goes to Rome. Super senior? Pursuing a MA?) He gives Gidget his pin at the beginning of the film, something that he did at the end of the Dee film. Is this a continuity error? I’m not sure. I choose to believe that perhaps Jeff got another pin and is giving it to Gidget. I really don’t know. Regardless, in Gidget’s world, Jeff has just proposed marriage, and they’re basically engaged now.
After an idyllic summer of surfing, bonfires on the beach and romantic dates, Gidget and Jeff reach their last two weeks of vacation together, before Jeff has to leave for school. Then Gidget’s dad drops a bombshell–he’s booked a two-week trip to Hawaii for the family. Most people would be ecstatic at this news, but not Gidget. She’s devastated, as two weeks is all she and Jeff have left together until he leaves for school. Her father is understandably both upset and bewildered at Gidget’s unhappiness. Gidget tries to get sympathy from Jeff, and he tells her that this trip is an opportunity of a lifetime (because it is) and that she’d be nuts not to go. Gidget, because she’s bonkers, takes Jeff’s encouragement as a sign that he’s indifferent to her leaving or not, gets mad, and breaks up with him. Meanwhile, Gidget’s parents have decided to turn their family trip into a romantic trip and cancel Gidget’s adjoining room. Gidget then announces that she’s coming on the trip after all, and her parents scramble to re-book her room. Her adjoining room is gone, but they’re able to book her a single room down the hall. Gidget and her family are on their way to Hawaii.
While on the plane, Gidget and her parents become acquainted with another family on board–Monty (Eddie Foy, Jr.) and Mitzi (Peggy Cass) Stewart and their daughter Abby (Vicki Trickett). Abby and Gidget are the same age. While seated on the plane together, Gidget and Abby get to talking. Gidget bares her soul to Abby about Jeff and how lost she is without him. The whole group is staying at the same Hawaiian hotel together. While at the hotel, Gidget and Abby meet Eddie Horner (Michael Callan), a dancer who is appearing at the hotel. The girls, Eddie and his friends all spend time together during the trip.
Gidget is miserable during the beginning of the trip. She just sits and mopes in the hotel, refusing to take in the sights of Hawaii. Her parents are understandably concerned. Gidget’s dad arranges to have Jeff fly to Hawaii as a surprise for Gidget. Between Gidget’s moping and Jeff’s arrival in Hawaii, she comes out of her shell and quickly wins over Eddie and the guys. Abby is jealous of Gidget’s popularity and appeal to the boys and quickly resents her.
I really like this film because it’s fun and has amusing moments. I do feel bad for Deborah Walley–only because I feel the costume team did her a real disservice. Gidget is presumably at least 18, but is dressed like she’s 12. Walley is not chubby by any means, but her tight, short waisted, twee dresses greatly undermine her figure. She looks best in her swimwear and when Gidget imagines that she’s a streetwalker. I also don’t know what’s up with the half up, half down hairstyle she sports–it’s not appealing. But I’ve seen it on other women during the early 60s, so I’ll assume that it was the style.
Where the Boys Are (1960)
If there’s one thing I love, it’s teen beach movies. I love all of them: Gidget, Beach Party, everything. One of the best films of this genre is Where the Boys Are. This film has more in common with the coming of age story in Gidget (1959) and less with the wackniess of the Frankie and Annette Beach Party movies. Much like Gidget, this film is progressive in its discussion of not only teenage sexuality, but the sexuality of young, unmarried, women. Where the Boys Are tells the story of four young college women (Freshmen) who travel to Fort Lauderdale, FL for a two week spring vacation.
Merritt Andrews (Dolores Hart) is a young woman who talks a good game when it comes to young women being free to date, makeout and have sex (aka “backseat bingo”) with whomever she wants. This progressive attitude of course scandalizes the professor of the “Courtship and Marriage” class. It is obvious that the four main characters in the film attend an all-female university. Merritt’s outspoken views have her kept under close watch by the school’s dean. At the conclusion of the school day, Merritt and her friends Melanie Tolman (Yvette Mimimeux), Tuggle Carpenter (Paula Prentiss), and Angie NoLastName (Connie Francis) set off for Fort Lauderdale.
While on the road, the girls come across TV Thompson (Jim Hutton) who is looking to hitch a ride to Florida. After being impressed by his height and shoe size, Tuggle (who stands 5’10.5 and desperately seeks a taller man) invites him into the car. They arrive in Florida and check into their apartment. As the events of the film unfold, it becomes apparent that each girl has a different viewpoint when it comes to sex.
MERRITT: Outspoken advocate of pre-marital sex. Talks a good game, but might not be as experienced and confident as she lets on. She meets Ryder Smith (George Hamilton), a senior at Brown University. He’s wealthy and his intelligence is on-par with Merritt’s. It becomes clear that he probably actually has the experience that Merritt talks about and it seems that he may have been led on by her at first.
TUGGLE: Strives to become a wife and mother “the chaste way,” she says. Tuggle believes that her height and build has her destined to become the mother to multiple children. She is more traditional and doesn’t particularly share Merritt’s opinion about sex. She wants to meet a man, marry and then have sex after marriage. TV ends up becoming her beau throughout the film and at first seems to be upset about her wanting to be a “good girl.” However, TV seems like a good guy.
MELANIE: She’s insecure about her lack of experience and takes Merritt’s outspoken views to heart. Her main goal while in Florida is to meet a “Yale-ie” and lose her virginity. Unfortunately for Melanie, she might be dealt the worst hand in this film. She meets a couple Yale-ies in the film.
ANGIE: Angie is your classic tomboy. She’s a pretty girl, but isn’t tall like Tuggle, or blonde like Melanie and Merritt. She’s short and brunette and a little curvier than the other girls. Angie is the captain of her school’s field hockey team. Nobody worries what Angie is doing on vacation or while at school. It is implied that everyone just assumes that Angie won’t have to worry about pressure to have premarital sex. The one asset Angie does have is that she has a killer voice. Her voice attracts the attention of Basil (Frank Gorshin) a didactic jazz musician.
This film has some very funny scenes such as at the club when the gang watches Lola Fandango (Barbara Nichols) perform an Esther Williams-esque underwater number; and when Angie and Merritt attempt to save money by ordering hot water (and dipping in their own contraband tea bag) at a restaurant. I also love the scenes showing the mob at the beach and in their hotel room (the girls end up sharing their 2-bed room with 7 other girls). There are also some very serious scenes as well as some sweet ones.
This is an excellent film for anyone who loves coming of age stories, teen beach movies, or movies with killer title theme songs.
Valley of the Dolls (1967)
Last but not least, one of my other favorite films of the 1960s is the cult classic, Valley of the Dolls. This film is so ridiculous in all the best ways possible. Prior to watching this film, I was unaware that “dolls” was a term for pills. I always thought that the “dolls” in the title referred to the women in the film. Oh how I was wrong.
This movie is amazing. Everyone in this film has a million problems. The most sane person is probably Susan Hayward’s Helen Lawson, and even she’s a piece of work. Based on Jacqueline Susann’s 1966 novel of the same name, this film tells the story of Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins) a recent college graduate who takes a job as a secretary at a theatrical agency. Their number one client is Helen Lawson–an aging, and cutthroat Broadway star. Helen is appearing in a new show, which is featuring a young ingenue, Neely O’Hara (Patty Duke). Neely is very talented and Helen fears that Neely will overshadow her performance. In an effort to get Neely to quit the show, Helen orders for all of Neely’s best scenes, including her big musical number, cut. The ruse works and Neely is out. Anne is immediately disheartened with show-biz after witnessing Helen’s cruel behavior toward Neely, but is convinced by her employer to not quit and stay with the company.
Anne and Neely befriend another young woman, Jennifer North (Sharon Tate). Jennifer is gorgeous, but her talent is limited. Neely’s agent at the theatrical agency (which employs Anne) lands her an appearance on a telethon, which leads to a nightclub gig, and so-on. The audience is treated to an amazing 1960s montage of Neely’s rise to success. Neely is offered a Hollywood contract and off she goes. Unfortunately, the pressure of the business and instant success gets the best of Neely and soon she’s a glorious, alcoholic, doll-addicted disaster. In all honesty, Neely’s complete collapse and self-destruction is the highlight of the film. I know it’s campy, over-the-top, and absolutely absurd, but I love it. Neely O’Hara was my hero in this film. One particular highlight is when a drunk, drugged out of her gourd Neely goes to a bar. She plays her own song on the jukebox and plays the “don’t you know who I am?” card. Nobody knows who she is because she’s a shell of her former self.
Unfortunately, the other two ladies, Anne and Jennifer, don’t fare much better, though Anne’s plight lasts all of 5 minutes. I wish she’d self-destructed a little bit more.
The absolute best part of the entire film is the showdown between Neely and Helen. It is amazing and one of my all-time favorite movie scenes. I absolutely love this movie from start to finish. It is worthy of its status as one of the all-time best campy, cult films. Lee Grant has an appearance as the sister to Jennifer’s beau. Dionne Warwick sings the very melancholy theme song.
Now I want to watch this movie. Valley of the Dolls / Cape Fear double feature? Is that weird?
Once again I’ve fallen off the posting train. I need to make it more of a habit, but I struggle to find time. Then, I had trouble with my WordPress account and I couldn’t post. I finally got that fixed. I didn’t want to miss posting on National Classic Movie Day. I also plan to post about the late, great Doris Day soon.
For this year’s National Classic Movie Day, the Classic Film and TV Cafe are asking participants to post his or her top 5 favorite films from the 1950s.
Without further adieu, here are mine:
The Long, Long Trailer (1954)
This is my absolute favorite movie of all time. I have probably seen it a hundred times (no exaggeration). I’m a big fan of I Love Lucy and Lucille Ball. The Long, Long Trailer is basically a 90-minute I Love Lucy episode. Ball and Desi Arnaz’ (aka Lucy and Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy)character’s first names in ‘Trailer’ are very similar to those of their Ricardo counterparts– Tacy and Nicky, respectively. This MGM comedy is hilarious and I never tire of it, even though I’m at the point where I can recite the dialogue. Quotes from this film regularly make it into everyday conversations I have with friends and family (only those who have seen this film of course). My favorite quote to use, while driving, is “Turn right here, left.”
The Long, Long Trailer tells the story of Tacy and Nicky Collini, newlyweds who are embarking on a road-trip for their honeymoon: Los Angeles to Colorado. The Collinis decide to purchase a 40′ New Moon trailer for their journey. The film depicts the Collinis trying to handle trailer life and all the trials and tribulations that come with it: noisy trailer parks, parking on uneven surfaces, getting stuck in the mud, spending the night on a noisy highway, weight limits, cooking, parking, backing in, and more. Will the newlyweds’ marriage survive the trip?
My favorite part of the movie is when Tacy and Nicky decide to go off-roading and end up stuck in the mud. The trailer is all whopperjawed. Tacy and Nicky get through dinner and go to bed. Nicky is on the downhill side. He has no issues getting into bed. Tacy on the other hand, is on the uphill side and can’t stay in bed. One may ask why she doesn’t make her husband move over and she can share his bed. Well that would be the logical solution, but since this is Lucy, that isn’t going to happen. After a couple of feeble attempts to get into bed, the jack holding the trailer up (kind of) collapses in the mud and Tacy goes flying out the door. Nicky, awoken by his wife’s blood-curdling scream, comes to the door and says: “What’s the matter honey? Can’t you sleep?” While sitting in a 5′ deep mud puddle, Tacy gives him a look that could only convey “[expletive] you.”
I’ve mentioned Gidget many times on this blog, but it’s worth mentioning again. I love this movie. I’ve seen it dozens of times and I never tire of it. Sandra Dee is adorable. James Darren is hunky. The story is relatable. Gidget was the start of the 1950s-1960s teen surf movie craze and I’m all in for teen surf movies. Of all the teen surf movies (the ‘Beach Party’ films, For Those Who Think Young, Gidget Goes Hawaiian, etc.) the original Gidget film is the best.
In this coming of age story, Sandra Dee plays the titular character, Frances “Gidget” Lawrence, a seventeen year old tomboy who is uneasy about her girlfriends’ new hobby: manhunting. Frances is more interested in snorkeling than finding a boyfriend. Her friends on the other hand, act like they’ll be old maids if they aren’t “pinned” by the end of the summer aka the beginning of their senior year of high school. The girls (except Frances) try posturing and flaunting themselves in front of a group of male surfers, but fail to catch their attention. Frances clumsily tries to play along, but gets frustrated and goes snorkeling instead. Her friends ditch her. Frances, swimming in the ocean, gets stuck in kelp.
In the first of a couple kelp episodes, Frances is saved by one of the surfer boys, “Moondoggie,” played by James Darren. Frances is infatuated with him from the get-go. And frankly, who wouldn’t be? Frances is nicknamed “Gidget” by the boys (a portmanteau of “girl” and “midget”). She also takes an interest in surfing and is soon hanging out with the boys everyday. Her surfing skills steadily improve and pretty soon, she’s good enough to really “hang” with the boys. Throughout all the surfing scenes, Gidget and Moondoggie grow closer, culminating with a kiss at the luau. However, Gidget’s awkwardness threatens to keep them apart.
My favorite part of this film is probably Moondoggie serenading Gidget at the luau and planting the kiss on her. I also love the scene with the fight at Kahuna’s beach shack and the elderly neighbor’s witness statement to the police: “When I saw that other one (Moondoggie) run in there (the beach shack). I knew there’d be trouble. I can spot trouble through a crack in the blinds.”
All About Eve (1950)
One of the best known classics in Hollywood, I never tire of this film. The cast. The dialogue. The story. Everything about this film is perfect–except Thelma Ritter’s abrupt exit during the first half of the film. What happened to Birdie? She went to get the guest’s coat and never came back! This story is timeless, even in real life. No matter how great and indispensable you think you may be, there’s always someone waiting in the wings who is better than you are.
All About Eve begins at the Sarah Siddons Award ceremony. Rising star Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) is slated to receive the prestigious Sarah Siddons award, the highest honor given to persons in the theater community. As acerbic critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) introduces the cast of characters, us as the audience knows that there is a story behind Eve’s rise to stardom. Huge star Margo Channing (Bette Davis) looks like she wants to shoot Eve. The playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe) and director Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill) of Eve’s award-winning play do not look proud or happy in the slightest. Lloyd’s wife, Karen (Celeste Holm) takes over the narration and lets the audience in on the true story about Eve Harrington.
On a rainy night, after another performance of Margo’s hit play, “Aged in Wood,” Karen comes across Eve, a young woman she’s repeatedly spotted waiting outside the backstage exit. Thinking she’s doing the young woman a favor, Karen invites the young woman inside to meet her idol, Margo Channing. Little does Karen know what lurks ahead. As the story progresses, we see Eve slowly insinuate herself into Margo’s personal and professional life. Perhaps this is why Birdie disappears! Eve’s goal is to star in Lloyd’s next play, Footsteps on the Ceiling.
What I love about this film is how slowly Eve’s scheme unfolds. It is not obvious that Eve is taking over Margo’s life. It’s only through the music, Birdie’s “I told you so” face, and Margo’s growing frustration that we figure out what Eve is doing. As Eve gets away with more and more, the more brazen she becomes–such as calling Lloyd to her apartment in the middle of the night. My favorite part of the film is Addison’s take-down of Eve and Eve’s comeuppance at the end when she meets #1 fan, Phoebe (Barbara Bates).
Pillow Talk (1959)
Starring the recently departed Doris Day, this film is her first of three films with co-star Rock Hudson. Of their three films together, the others being Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964), Pillow Talk is my favorite. I love the catchy theme song, Doris and Rock’s undeniable chemistry, Tony Randall, and Doris’ gorgeous wardrobe. The film is funny, romantic and a little sexy.
In Pillow Talk, Doris stars as Jan Morrow, an interior decorator. She’s a successful career woman who’s driven up the wall by the romantic escapades of her party line partner Brad Allen, played by Rock Hudson. Tony Randall portrays Jonathan Forbes, a mutual friend of Jan and Brad’s. Jan and Brad bicker constantly on the party line. Jan tries to offer a compromise over the use of the line, but Brad is unwilling to participate. Jan ends up (unsuccessfully) filing a complaint against Brad with the phone company.
One night, Brad and Jan just happen to be at the same nightclub. Brad sees her and learns her name, figuring out that she’s the one who he bickers with on the party line. He concocts the fake persona of “Rex Stetson” a Texas cattle rancher. Using a Texas drawl, Rex successfully picks up Jan and takes her home. Soon they are seeing each other regularly. Jan finds herself falling for “Rex.” Brad/Rex finds himself falling for Jan.
My favorite part of this film is watching 6’5 Rock Hudson try to squeeze himself into a tiny sports car, Jan’s maid Alma (Thelma Ritter) drinking Hudson under the table, and every scene with Tony Randall. He is hilarious. Pillow Talk set the pace for the sexy 1960s sex comedies. Watch 2003’s Down With Love (with Renee Zelwegger and Ewan McGregor) for a fun send-up of Pillow Talk and the other sex comedy tropes.
Rear Window (1954)
This is my favorite Hitchock film. Everything about this film is fantastic: the story, the dialogue, the cast, the sets, everything. I absolutely love the set of this film. Hitchcock’s courtyard set is amazing. The attention to detail is fantastic. I love how the other neighbors all have storylines, even though they never set foot in James Stewart’s apartment. Miss Torso, Miss Lonelyhearts, The Songwriter, all the neighbors are fantastic. The only fault in this film is the cheesy way the ending looks, but I’ll chalk that up to 1950s technology.
In Rear Window, James Stewart plays photographer LB “Jeff” Jeffries, who is homebound after breaking his leg. He is bored and spends most of his days watching the goings on of his neighbors in the courtyard. He devises names for the neighbors and keeps up on their lives. One neighbor in particular, Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), catches his attention. It seems that Thorwald had an invalid wife, until all of a sudden, he didn’t. Curious about what happened to Mrs. Thorwald, Jeff begins watching him more intently with a large telephoto lens.
Jeff sees Thorwald engaged in all kinds of suspicious activity and is determined that he was behind his wife’s disappearance. Using his binoculars and camera lenses, Jeff basically engages in a stakeout. Throughout all his investigation work, Jeff’s girlfriend, Lisa Fremont, played by Grace Kelly, and his nurse Stella, played by Thelma Ritter come and go. At first the ladies are dismissive of Jeff’s interest in Thorwald and his determination to prove him a murderer. However, after seeing Thorwald’s behavior first-hand, the ladies are hooked and soon join Jeff in his stakeout. Lisa and Stella become further involved in Jeff’s independent investigation when they leave the apartment to gather evidence from Thorwald’s garden and home.
My favorite part of this film is the scene with Jeff, Lisa and Stella watching Thorwald scrub his walls. “Must’ve splattered a lot,” Stella says matter of factly. Lisa and Jeff look at her disgusted. She then defends her position, saying “Come on. That’s what we’re all thinkin’. He killed her in there, now he has to clean up those stains before he leaves.” I also love Grace Kelly’s wardrobe. If there was ever an actress who epitomized Hollywood glamor, it’s Grace Kelly.
I love a good fluff film. And you can’t get much fluffier than 1950s-1960s teen beach movies. These films are never going to rank on the top of any “Greatest Movie of All Time” list (except for mine probably), but they’re a fun insight into a nicer, gentler time. A time when teenagers weren’t grinding each other in clubs or at school dances, or doing stupid “challenges” like eating detergent (I’m sorry that’s NOT a challenge, that’s just dumb) but rather are doing “The swim” and goofy dances at beach luaus. These are films where the biggest worry is whether the surf is good, or whether someone has a date to a luau. There’s usually a romantic element. These films have so much charm (and usually a little eye candy), I love them. The music, the silliness, the dancing, everything that I want in a film. Not everything needs to be Citizen Kane.
Gidget and Moondoggie embrace on the beach in 1959’s “Gidget.”
Gidget (1959).I covered this film earlier when I participated in the “Reel Infatuation” blogathon last summer. I covered the object of Gidget’s affection–Moondoggie. To give a short recap, Gidget is the coming of age story of 17-year old Frances “Gidget” Lawrence, portrayed by 50s-60s teen queen, Sandra Dee. Gidget is at an age where her friends are boy-crazy and want to find boyfriends. The beginning of the film finds Gidget being coerced into going to the beach to go “man-hunting.” Gidget is self-conscious (she isn’t as well developed as her friends) and doesn’t feel that urge to partner off with a boy. At the beach, she befriends a group of surfers and quickly discovers how much she loves surfing. The surfers, all boys, quickly take Gidget under their wing.
While surfing with the boys, Gidget meets super-hot college student Moondoggie, played by teen idol James Darren. At first, Moondoggie is indifferent to Gidget and gives her the cold shoulder. Moondoggie it seems is determined to strike out on his own and get out from under his father’s thumb (and wallet), and decides that he wants to shirk the responsibility of college and take up the occupation of beach bum. Under the tutelage of older friend Kahuna aka Burt Vail, played by Cliff Robertson, Moondoggie is determined to live life on his own terms. To him, Gidget seems like some kid who is perpetually in the way.
James Darren (Moondoggie) and Sandra Dee (Gidget) in “Gidget” (1959).
However, it soon becomes apparent that Moondoggie is putting up a big facade. He doesn’t really want to be a beach bum (neither does Kahuna either, it turns out). He also displays a protectiveness toward Gidget (as evidenced by him intervening in Gidget’s “surf lesson” with the handsy surfer “Loverboy”). Later, he finds himself enamored of her and they have their first kiss at the luau. At the end of the film, “the Gidg” and “Moondoggie” are going steady, he’s given her his pin! As Gidget would say, “this [film] is the ultimate!”
Where the Boys Are (1960). This film, while it takes place at the beach and features teenagers, has a different vibe and feel than the typical teen beach movies of the era. While it has some silly scenes and characters, the film overall has a more serious tone. Where the Boys Are is the coming of age story for four teenage girls, Merritt (Dolores Hart), Tuttle (Paula Prentiss), Melanie (Yvette Mimieux) and Angie (Connie Francis).
The four girls decide to escape their snowy college campus in the midwest (don’t blame them there) and head to spring break in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. While in Florida, each girl meets a man who indirectly teaches them something about themselves. Merritt puts up a facade as being sexually progressive, an attitude which she expresses in her relationships class (much to the chagrin of the prudish teacher). Melanie, inspired by her best friend’s attitude towards sex decides to jump headfirst into dating boys when she gets to Florida. Tuggle is more traditional and wants marriage and children, in that order. She’s looking for a man who not only shares her values, but is also taller than her. She’s 5’10.5″ tall. Angie is the “plain one” of the group (every teen movie seems to have one) and she’d just be happy to have someone be interested in her. She is the most down to earth member of the group.
The ladies in “Where the Boys Are” (1960) from left to right: Dolores Hart (Merritt), Connie Francis (Angie), Yvette Mimieux (Melanie) and Paula Prentiss (Tuggle)
Merritt ends up meeting Ryder Smith (George Hamilton), an older, rich college student who is experienced. He tries to ply her with alcohol and tries to get her to spend the night, but she refuses. Ryder soon discovers that Merritt talks a good game, but she’s really a virgin who isn’t ready for sex. Tuggle meets tall “TV” Thompson (Jim Hutton). He is goofy, but Tuggle finds that she likes him. He doesn’t drop her instantly when she tells him that she won’t have sex before marriage. However, he seems to have a roving eye which casts doubt on him being a suitable, long term partner. Angie meets the goofy musician, Basil (Frank Gorshin), who she loves. She’s able to show off her singing abilities in his “dialectic jazz” band. Finally, Melanie has the worst wake-up call when she meets some Ivy leaguers, namely Franklin and Dill. She genuinely feels something for Franklin but is taken advantage of by Dill after Franklin gives him the scoop that Melanie will be an easy score.
This film has a great theme song (sung by Connie Francis) and features a great cast. I love the more realistic storylines and the vibe of the film. Melanie’s storyline is a bummer, but I think it was needed to balance out the other characters’ storylines. Unfortunately, Melanie’s situation is all too relatable. Each girl features a different facet of relationships and I felt that all were portrayed very realistically.
Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961). I’m not going to lie, this film isn’t nearly as good as Gidget (1959). In this film, Gidget is portrayed by Deborah Walley. Sandra Dee unfortunately was under contract to Universal and they wouldn’t release her to reprise her role in this Columbia film. Gidget’s parents are recast as well. Carl Reiner and Jeff Donnell portray Gidget’s parents Russell and Dorothy Lawrence. James Darren, thankfully, reprises his role as Jeffrey “Moondoggie” Matthews.
I’ll admit that when I first saw this film, I didn’t like it. Deborah Walley got on my nerves. However, I rewatched it, and now it has kind of grown on me. While Walley’s Gidget is different than Dee’s, I find her entertaining and it’s a fun take on the Gidget character. I did like Reiner and Donnell’s portrayal of Gidget’s parents more than Arthur O’Connell and Mary LaRoche’s in the original film. My criticism with this film is that I wish the costume designers had done service to Walley’s figure. While Dee was very petite (not necessarily short though, she seems to be of average height), her costumes were flattering and chic. Walley, while a little more curvy than Dee, but not fat by any means, was outfitted in some very twee looking costumes. Assuming that the Gidget character is supposed to be at least 18, she’s dressed like she’s 12. Unfortunately, these costumes gave Walley a short, squatty appearance.
James Darren (Moondoggie) and Deborah Walley (Gidget) dancing in “Gidget Goes Hawaiian” (1961).
Gidget Goes Hawaiian is meant to be a sequel to the original Gidget. We’ll forget about the fact that every character is portrayed by a different actor except for Moondoggie. The film even goes as far as to present “flashbacks” from the original film with Walley outfitted in Dee’s costumes and re-creating scenes from the original film. One error I found however, is that Moondoggie gives Gidget his pin at the beginning of the film. He gave his pin to Gidget at the end of the first film. In the second film however, Gidget treats him giving her his pin as an engagement ring, or an “engaged to be engaged” type symbol.
In this film, Moondoggie is home from college for summer vacation. Continuing with the timeline established in the first film, we can assume that Moondoggie has probably just completed his sophomore (maybe junior) year of college and Gidget has graduated high school. He and Gidget are inseparable. Their love for one another is continuing to grow, we see a montage of them at the beach, on a date, and dancing closely. There is a funny scene toward the end of the film where Gidget basically hints at sex, or at least asking Moondoggie if he’s experienced, to which he refuses to supply an answer. I will presume that Moondoggie has some experience with the ladies prior to Gidget, and why wouldn’t he? He’s a fox!
Russell surprises his wife and daughter with a two week trip to Hawaii. Dorothy is overjoyed (of course) and Gidget is less so. Moondoggie will be home from school for only two more weeks. Gidget refuses to go because she doesn’t want to lose their last two weeks together. At first Russell is upset, but then he and Dorothy make peace with the idea of a two week romantic Hawaiian vacation sans Gidget. Gidget tells Moondoggie of this injustice of having to go to Hawaii and he tells her to go, saying that it’s a great opportunity (because duh! it is). Gidget ridiculously assumes that Moondoggie doesn’t love her anymore.
The remainder of this film involves the Lawrence’s trip to Hawaii, friends that Gidget meets along the way, including a new boy, and a misunderstanding between Gidget and her parents. It’s ridiculous, dumb at times and doesn’t make any sense. But I really enjoy this film. I think it deserves its own post.
For Those Who Think Young (1964). This film (based on a 1960s Pepsi ad campaign slogan) also features James “Moondoggie” Darren. In this film, he plays Gardner “Ding” Pruitt III, a rich college boy who is constantly on the prowl for a new flavor of the week. He keeps a fancy rolodex of his dates with comments about each. His car has two (!) phones in it. Bob Denver plays his sidekick, “Kelp.” Another thing to love about these surfer movies, the absurd nicknames! Anyway, Ding has his sights set on Sandy Palmer, played by Pamela Tiffin. Sandy is the niece of Woody Woodbury, a comic who works at the dive bar, the Silver Palms. The Silver Palms is located next to the college campus and is well known as an establishment that serves alcohol to minors. This club also features a burlesque dancer named Topaz McQueen (Tina Louise).
Pamela Tiffin (Sandy) and James Darren (Ding) in the 1964 COLOR film, “For Those Who Think Young.”
One day, Woody and his comic partner, Sid Hoyt (Paul Lynde) find themselves out of work. It seems that their act at the Silver Palms is not that great. Woody, performing the last show, decides to just perform a stand-up routine instead of the usual song. His stand-up act is a massive success and soon the Silver Palms is rebranded into “Surf’s Up,” a brand-new college hangout that actually cards the patrons and brands them with a black-light stamp that says “No booze for youse” if you’re under 21.
Of course, the neighboring university thinks that nothing but debauchery happens at this club and want it shut down. The main ringleader behind this movement is Burford Cronin (Robert Middleton) who just happens to be Ding’s grandfather. The university even goes as far as to send their Professor of Sociology (Ellen Burstyn, billed in this film as “Ellen McRae”) to observe. She gets drunk on two spiked “fruit juices” but ends up giving her seal of approval to the establishment anyway.
Aside from Surf’s Up, the main conflict in this film is the relationship between Ding and Sandy. Ding actually finds himself genuinely liking Sandy and Sandy feels the same for him. However, Ding’s grandfather, Burford, thinks that Sandy is too “low class” for his family. It seems that his daughter, Ding’s mother, married a man whom Burford thought brought some “bad blood” into the family. To further anger him, Ding announces that he and Sandy intend to marry when they graduate college. Of course, Grandpa Cronin is upset, but like how these movies always turn out, his viewpoint does a 180 in 5 minutes and he’s welcoming Sandy into his family and embracing Surf’s Up, the club he wanted to close down 10 minutes ago.
Nancy Sinatra (Frank’s daughter) and Claudia Martin (Dean’s daughter) provide additional support in this film. There is a bizarre musical number in this film that features Bob Denver’s chin.
Beach Party (1963). I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention at least one of the Frankie and Annette “Beach Party” films. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen all of them, but I do own the box set. I’m going to go with the first film in the series. What I love about these films is that they have the most random co-stars. Aside from Frankie and Annette, these films often have old Hollywood stars like Robert Cummings, Dorothy Malone, Keenan Wynn, Boris Karloff, Buster Keaton, Mickey Rooney or people like Paul Lynde, Don Rickles, and Stevie Wonder, everyone whom you wouldn’t expect to pop-up in a teen beach movie. These movies usually have a common theme, the main one being that Annette is mad at Frankie and Frankie being too clueless to know what he did. In Frankie’s defense, sometimes Annette is being ridiculous.
In Beach Party, Robert Cummings stars as an anthropologist who, along with his secretary Dorothy Malone, is studying the sex habits of teenagers. He comes across a clan of surfer kids, led by Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Frankie and Annette aren’t “Frankie and Annette” in this movie, they’re “Frankie and Dolores.” In most of the films, Frankie is “Frankie.” Annette usually plays “Dee Dee,” but in Beach Party, she’s Dolores. In the Beach Party series, Frankie always seems to be frustrated by Annette’s tendency towards being a cold fish. This film is no different. Frankie invites Annette aka Dolores, to a beach house for some alone time. Annette, not trusting herself (or Frankie) with Frankie, has invited everyone to the beach house to chaperone. Because this is a “Beach Party” movie, Frankie is mad at Annette and she’s mad at him.
Annette Funicello (Dolores) and Frankie Avalon (Frankie) in “Beach Party” (1963).
In true Frankie and Annette fashion, they spend a bulk of the film jealous of one another. Annette decides to flirt with Cummings, who is too dense to see what’s going on. His secretary, Malone, who is in love with him (and closer to his own age), sees exactly what is happening. Frankie hooks up with some floozy that he meets in an effort to retaliate against Annette. There’s also a motorcycle gang, led by Eric Von Zipper who terrorizes the gang.
I enjoy these movies because, while they’re pretty dumb at times, the teenagers are cool. They sing fun songs, wear cool bathing suits and hang out in some pretty neat looking clubs.
When I heard about the “Reel Infatuation” Blogathon by Font and Frock and Silver Screenings , I knew that I needed to join. How can I resist writing about some of my favorite movie crushes? I’ll never turn down an opportunity to post some beefcake photos! For my entry, I decided to write about one of my favorite teen idols, James Darren, aka “Moondoggie” from the first three Gidget films: Gidget (1959), Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) and Gidget Goes to Rome (1963). He is so cute and for me, he makes the film–even though I also love Sandra Dee too.For all intents and purposes, I am going to focus on his first Gidget film co-starring Sandra Dee. But don’t think you won’t be treated later to an entry about Gidget Goes Hawaiian co-starring Darren with Deborah Walley as the spunky surfer girl. I can’t help it, I love the 1950s/1960s teen beach movies.
James Darren as Moondoggie
Gidget is a coming of age story about 17-year old Frances “Gidget” Lawrence, portrayed by 50s/60s teen queen Sandra Dee. The film takes place during Frances’ summer vacation between her junior and senior years of high school. Her friends: Nan, Patti and Mary Lou are pressuring Frances to go with them on a “manhunt” to attract a boyfriend. Apparently, if a girl hasn’t found a man before senior year of high school, she might as well become a nun. The girls all go down to the beach and try to flaunt their stuff in front of the group of surfer boys, one of which is superhunk James Darren, aka Moondoggie. Moondoggie is about 1-2 years older than Frances, he is starting college at the end of the summer.
The girls are trying too hard to attract the boys’ attention, except for Frances. She’s a bit of a tomboy and ends up shunning the manhunt in favor of snorkeling. Her friends think she’s hopeless. Frances, in the first of multiple incidents, ends up getting tangled in some kelp. Moondoggie sees her, grabs his surfboard, and fishes her out of the water. From that moment on, we as the audience know that Moondoggie and Frances are going to end up together. Moondoggie, though acting standoffish and too cool for school towards Frances, actually has a crush on her though he won’t admit it until the luau later in the film.
Left to right: Sandra Dee (Gidget), Yvonne Craig (Nan) and Jo Morrow (Mary Lou). Craig’s bathing suit is hideous. I love Dee and Morrow’s bathing suits. I also love that Gidget couldn’t care less about impressing the boys–she’s going snorkeling.
Moondoggie’s crush on Frances is obvious. He is the one who nicknames her “Gidget.” Gidget is a portmanteau of “girl” and “midget.” Basing her nickname on “midget,” might not be seen as being very endearing, but this action shows that Moondoggie is accepting Gidget into the group. Earlier in the film, while talking to the group leader, Kahuna, Moondoggie vents about Gidget’s presence in their group. Kahuna, at least a decade older than the other boys in the group, knows that Moondoggie has a crush on Gidget and easily accepts her into the group and suggests that the others do the same. Kahuna, I think, also doesn’t take the surf group as seriously as the other boys, and doesn’t really care if Gidget’s there. He just wants to surf.
Moondoggie has fun teaching Gidget how to surf. As an aside, I love Gidget’s orange bathing suit.
Moondoggie’s infatuation with Gidget is also apparent when he sees Lover Boy (another boy in the surf group) giving Gidget surf lessons. Lover Boy is getting very “handsy” with Gidget and it is very visibly making her uncomfortable. It is obvious that Lover Boy has some other goals in mind besides teaching Gidget how to surf. Moondoggie looks on at the lesson, and is very visibly irritated and jealous. He intervenes when Lover Boy really gets carried away with the lesson. Moondoggie not only wants to protect Gidget, he also doesn’t want other the other boys getting that up close and personal with her. He later takes Gidget surfing himself and gives her lessons on his board. Moondoggie places his hands on her waist to help her stay up right on the board.
When Gidget gets tangled up in the kelp (again. Come on Gidget!) and nearly drowns, Moondoggie saves her (again) and nurses her back to health in Kahuna’s tent. As Nurse Moondoggie croons the movie’s theme song, “Gidget,” Gidget looks up at him adoringly and smiles. She can’t keep her eyes off of him. Moondoggie also smiles at her as he prepares a hot water bottle to warm her up.
“A regular tomboy, but dressed for a prom Boy, how cute can one girl be? Although she’s not king-size, her finger is ring-size Gidget is the one for me…”
Later, Gidget finds out about the upcoming luau and convinces Kahuna to let her come. It seems that the surfer boys think she’s too innocent to attend their annual shindig. Gidget has an ulterior motive for attending the luau: she wants to get together with Moondoggie. Because Gidget is awkward and can’t just tell Moondoggie, she puts together a scheme to make Moondoggie jealous. She’s going to attend the luau with another one of the surfer boys and pay him to act friendly with her within sight of Moondoggie. However, her plans are messed up when the surfer boy she hired ends up bailing and giving the job to Moondoggie!
Gidget makes cow eyes at Moondoggie as he sings to her.
Moondoggie shows up to earn his money and also out of amusement after being told of Gidget’s scheme. Now instead of doing the smart thing and admitting to Moondoggie that he was the boy she wanted to make jealous, Gidget pretends that she’s in love with Kahuna, despite him being twice her age. Gidget has Moondoggie hold her tight while they sway to the music. Entranced and in love, Gidget is soaking up every moment in Moondoggie’s arms. One can’t help but notice that Moondoggie has the same facial expression as Gidget. Both are holding each other, swaying to the music, eyes closed.
Moondoggie then brings out the big guns and serenades Gidget with “The Next Best Thing to Love.” As Moondoggie sings, Gidget looks at him with big cow eyes. Moondoggie is holding Gidget close and is just as smitten with her as she is with him. He goes in for the big kiss and Gidget accepts it willingly… because, duh! Then of course, one of the surfers has to come over to remind Moondoggie that its past midnight and he no longer has to pretend with Gidget anymore. Embarrassed, Gidget runs off.
Seeing that Gidget is leaving, Kahuna approaches Gidget for a ride to a friend’s beach shack. Wanting to keep up the facade that she’s in love with Kahuna, Gidget agrees to give him a ride home and follows him into the beach shack for “one of his private parties.” It is apparent that Gidget is hoping to get together with Kahuna, intimately. Kahuna plays along and almost falls under her spell until he comes to his senses and tells her to go home. Moondoggie, not trusting Kahuna and wanting to protect Gidget, shows up at the beach shack and has it out with Kahuna.
Gidget’s dad plays matchmaker and inadvertently sets his daughter up on a blind date with Moondoggie, despite warning her to “never again go near those beach hoodlums.” Don’t look so upset Gidget! He’s gorgeous! Your dad could have done a lot worse!
Gidget ends up being picked up by the police when her car breaks down. She’s picked up by her parents and is grounded for the rest of the summer. Had she just told Moondoggie about her scheme to make him jealous, she could have just avoided the whole Kahuna/beach shack debacle. Fortunately for Gidget, the young man whom her father has been trying to fix her up with throughout the entire film turns out to be Moondoggie! Of course, to Gidget’s parents, he’s Jeffrey Matthews, the son of one of Gidget’s dad’s colleagues.
Gidget and Moondoggie on their “blind” date, end up going back to the beach. They manage to get to the beach just as Kahuna is dismantling his shack. They find out that Kahuna aka Burt Vail, has accepted a job as a pilot and is giving up the beach bum lifestyle. Kahuna, knowing the whole time about Gidget and Moondoggie’s infatuation with one another, gives Moondoggie a reminder:
“Just remember, [Gidget] might be pint-sized, but she’s quite a woman.”
Gidget and Moondoggie embrace and Moondoggie asks Gidget to wear his pin:
GIDGET: “Oh boy, would I? Just wait until the girls get a load of this! Honest to goodness, it’s the absolute ultimate!”
The Gidg has got her man!
I don’t blame Gidget for being such a nerd when Moondoggie “pins” her. This is the ultimate symbol of “going steady.” Moondoggie has essentially asked Gidget to be his girlfriend and she wholeheartedly accepts. Her friends, the ones who were flaunting themselves trying to attract a boyfriend, are still single at the end of the film. Gidget, who didn’t try hard at all, and was just herself, has managed to not only snag a boyfriend, but a super hot one to boot! You go girl.
Moondoggie shows up two-years later in Gidget Goes Hawaiian. The story is presented as a continuation of the first film, despite having a different Gidget. Moondoggie and Gidget are a year or two older, but are still madly in love. Moondoggie is hands down, the best part about Gidget Goes Hawaiian.