Friday, June 5, 2020

THE THIRD ANNUAL BROADWAY BOUND BLOGATHON: Blue Denim, 1958 and 1959


Rebecca Deniston is back with The Third Broadway Bound Blogathon which runs on June 5 - 7 at her wonderful site, Taking Up Room.  Day 1  Day 2  Day 3
Chester Morris, June Walker, Burt Brinkerhoff

Blue Denim, described as a comedy in three acts and four scenes by James Leo Herlihy (Midnight Cowboy) and William Noble was staged on Broadway by Joshua Logan (South Pacific) in 1958.

Teenagers Janet Willard and Arthur Bartley are faced with the prospect of unplanned parenthood. They do not find their own parents to be the source of comfort and information they seek. Instead, they turn to Ernie Lacey, a friend who boasts of his knowledge of such mature matters. After much soul-searching, they seek and obtain an abortion. The teens have grown much living through this traumatic experience.

Joshua Logan, Burt Brinkerhoff, Chester Morris, Carol Lynley
Opening Night - Blue Denim

Controversial for its exploration of teenage sex and abortion, the play ran for 166 performances. It won the Tony Award for Best Scenic Design, and 20-year-old Warren Berlinger received a Theatre World Award in the role of Ernie Lacey. 16-year-old Carol Lynley made her Broadway debut as Janet Willard opposite Burt Brinkerhoff as Arthur Bartley.




20th Century Fox bought the rights to the film which was adapted by Philip Dunne (How Green Was My Valley) and Edith Sommer (The Best of Everything) with Philip Dunne directing. Ms. Sommer's 1955 play A Roomful of Roses had featured Warren Berlinger who, along with Carol Lynley reprised their stage roles in this 1959 film release.

Neither Arthur Bartley played by Brandon de Wilde nor Janet Willard played by Carol Lynley has a very open relationship with their parents. Arthur's parents played by Macdonald Carey and Marsha Hunt don't seem to be able to talk to Arthur as he's going through a non-communicative phase. Janet's widowed father played by Vaughn Taylor sees in his daughter the image and characteristics of his late wife, not a teenaged girl.

Brandon de Wilde, Carol Lynley

Janet's unexpected pregnancy is something the kids feel they must deal with on their own. Their first thought is that they must marry, but find bureaucracy stacked against them. Next, they consider abortion. The term "abortion" was banned by the Production Code so it an "illegal operation" they seek, recalling that their friend Ernie once help a fellow with that very thing.

Arthur learns that Ernie has what he terms a "big shot complex." Most of the things Ernie brags about knowing are all boast. However, he has an idea of how to find a doctor. At the same time, showing the maturity he didn't know he had, Ernie tries to talk Art out of this drastic step as Janet could be hurt.

Marsha Hunt, Brandon de Wilde, Macdonald Carey, Warren Berlinger

Frightened at the prospects before him, Art tries to speak to his parents but the little things that get in the way, like his sister's wedding the next day, keep him from following through. The "illegal operation" is underway when there is a showdown with his parents. The rush is on to stop the abortion and then to settle the future for the wayward teens. Overhearing the conversation among the adults, Janet decides that she will move away and have the baby. Her determination convinces the parents to agree with her decision.

Arthur is kept in the dark about the decision until Ernie discovers and shares the news. Facing his responsibility, Arthur joins Janet at the end of the movie.

The play was described as a comedy and the movie as a drama. The serious nature of this film is evident and there is humor in the teenagers stumbling toward adulthood, and the adults and their way of communicating. Marsha Hunt is particularly and subtly funny as a seeming ditz of a mother, and Macdonald Carey's delivery as an exasperated father is on the money.

Certainly, the three young leads, Carol Lynley, Brandon de Wilde, and Warren Berlinger handle their roles naturally and impressively. Blue Denim may seem strictly a product of its time, but the underlying theme of communication within a family will never be out-of-date.












32 comments:

  1. WOW. A movie about abortion from the 50s? Never would’ve dreamed. I would love to see this one.

    I see Brandon deWilde had a career post-SHANE. He looks pretty much the same.

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    1. It is funny how you can see the mature person (or even teenager) in childhood photos. It is a shame that Brandon passed so young. Who knows what the future would have held? He was 9 years old when he was on Broadway in The Member of the Wedding. A talented youngster whose father was a Broadway stage manager. I guess fate put him in his career.

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  2. Yikes! I had to do a scene from this play in a high school drama class. Just the mere mention of "Blue Denim" gives me PTSD! The "boy" could barely utter 2 words in public, much less remember his lines. I had to say his lines AND mine to get through the scene. Thanks (I think) for the reminder!

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    1. I applaud your fortitude and commitment as an actress. I know that feeling of staring into your scene partner's eyes and knowing they are gone .... gone .... gone... The horror!

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  3. This does sound an interesting film and I think I may well check it out thanks to your review.

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    1. It is fairly unique and worth your time. If only to retroactively applaud the attempt at such a controversial storyline.

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  4. This sounds very interesting--it's too bad it hasn't gotten more attention. Kinda reminds me of "Peyton Place." Thanks again for joining the blogathon with this great review. :-)

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    1. People were willing to look at previously forbidden subjects, but the studios were slow to realize what they could do. It is what makes these movies stand out from their period.

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  5. Great review!
    I have neither seen nor heard of blue denim and it sounds like something I would enjoy.
    Thank you for putting this story on my radar! 👍

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  6. Great review. Thank you.
    www.rsrue.blogspot.com

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  7. You made a good point about the value of communication in a family, which is always relevant.

    I'm going to look for this film, to see how this subject was handled in the 1950s. Thanks!

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    1. I found it a most sincere and interesting look into the situation and times.

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  8. This movie might be the perfect example of how the "Code" was a dying animal at this time. You couldn't have even considered making this movie ten year earlier.

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    1. So true. The times, they were a-changing. The movie audience was the same audience for novels and plays; a fact the production code seemed to overlook.

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  9. BRANDON DE WILDE received a special GOLDEN GLOBE award(juvenile performance) for THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING. That was the year WALT DISNEY received the CECIL B. DEMILLE award. (1954). Later Brandon did two movies for WALT. They were THOSE CALLOWAYS and one for TV-THE TENDERFOOT. They both had one of the most naturals actors of all time-BRIAN KEITH.

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    1. I, obviously, meant one of the most natural actors of all time. Brandon also worked with JIMMY STEWART, AUDIE MURPHY and JOHN WAYNE.

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  10. This film seems like it got lost throughout the years- I only heard of it because of Twilight Time's liquidation sale and I saw it on the roster. Maybe if fox movie channel shows it, I'll check it out!

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    1. Fingers crossed. Sometimes when you least expected the title you have been looking for shows up.

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  11. I haven't heard of this film, but I was fascinated to see that Chester Morris was in the original Broadway cast. He was a fine actor in his day (the 1930s-40s), and today is probably best known for the Boston Blackie film series (though he also co-starred with such greats as Norma Shearer, Jean Harlow, and Wallace Beery). Morris always gave a sincere performance, and it would have been nice if he could have reprised his stage role for the movie.

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    1. Chester Morris had a vitality that always appealed to me. My husband and I were musing the other day that actors don't disappear because we don't see them. They are probably acting somewhere, like Chester Morris on a Broadway show.

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  12. I was disappointed that you didn't comment on my posts about BRANDON DE WILDE, especially being you commented on the posts that the others did. I thought it was interesting about Brandon getting a GOLDEN GLOBE award the same year that WALT DISNEY received his special award. I have never seen that TV-Movie THE TENDERFOOT.

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    1. I had to go back and check. I can only assume I inadvertently went past your response in my scrolling because it registered as something already handled because of the set-up.

      I am a fan of Those Calloways but, like you, do not recall seeing The Tenderfoot.

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  13. Having seen the movie, I was taken aback when you described the play as a comedy! In fact, I didn’t know it was a stage play, so that was fascinating to learn. I liked the movie principally for Carol Lynley’s performance. I always found her to be an appealing actress.

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    1. I was taken aback as well, but the humour is there in our human foibles.

      Carol Lynley had a lovely appeal that must have been a ray of sunshine on the stage as it was onscreen.

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  14. What are some of your favorite movies with BRANDON DE WILDE? Who were some of your favorite co-stars of his? Like I said earlier, he worked with JIMMY STEWART, AUDIE MURPHY and JOHN WAYNE. Also he worked with PAUL NEWMAN, PATRICIA NEAL and JULIE HARRIS. I know that you are a big fan of Jimmy and Julie.

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  15. Shane, Those Calloways, Goodbye, My Lady and Night Passage are particular favourites. I remember enjoying his guest appearances on The Virginian and on Ironside.

    One movie I will never want to see again, despite Brandon's fine performance is All Fall Down. The abhorrent character played by Warren Beatty with the obnoxious name of Berry Berry is just too much. Even Angela Lansbury and Karl Malden drove me crazy.

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  16. Wow, how interesting! It will be fascinating to see how this subject matter was handled in the late 50's.

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    1. That was what drew me to the material. Very interesting stuff.

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  17. I didn't like ALL FALL DOWN either. The mother fussed over Berry Berry like he was a king. I don't remember a lot about the dad but I felt sorry for the youngest boy played by Brandon. I remember EVA MARIE SAINT and CONSTANCE FORD were also in the movie. P.S. I thought that it was odd about the name Berry Berry.

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    1. Karl Malden as the dad drank all the time but never seemed to be drunk. The whole thing was just a mess. And, yes, what sort of a name is Berry Berry?

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