Friday, July 25

Good 60s Films: Parrish

1961 Drama
From Warner Bros.
Directed by Delmer Daves

Troy Donahue
Claudette Colbert
Karl Malden
Dean Jagger
Connie Stevens
Diane McBain
Sharon Hugueny
Hampton Fancher
Dub Taylor

Based on a 1958 best-selling novel by Mildred Savage, it was purchased by Warner Bros. because the studio needed a followup for its new, hot star, Troy Donahue.  He had wowed teenagers two years earlier in A Summer Place and had been and was a star in two television series catering to the youth market.  Warners' mail room was jammed with letters from teens and the studio needed something fast.  Parrish seemed to be the ticket.

Delmer Daves would write the screenplay, produce and direct.  Warners was the go-to studio at the time for youth-oriented films and television.  At a time when studios were falling apart and contract stars were let go, Warners had a bumper crop of beauties, male and female.  The trick was to find a story that wasn't too annoyingly stupid and assign several gorgeous youngsters to star.  In this regard, it doesn't get much better than Parrish.

Parrish warranted a little more attention than the usual lovesick teen screenplays because Daves got wonderful support from three true Oscar-winning Hollywood pros in the form of Claudette Colbert, Karl Malden and Dean Jagger.

For Donahue there was not only one love interest but three.  Connie Stevens and Diane McBain, each blonde and beautiful and former costars of Donahue's in a television series, and newcomer Sharon Hugueny, lent a decorative air to the proceedings.

The story deals with Connecticut's tobacco farms and of a young man (Donahue) and his mother (Colbert) who come to the valley where she is going to start work for a tobacco farmer named Sala Post (Jagger).  Her assignment is to keep an eye on his spoiled daughter, Alison (McBain).  Post was not expecting the woman's son and is chagrined to have him around his daughter.  Parrish is luckily hired by Post's field manager and ends up staying with a family of field workers, with comely Lucy (Stevens) as the star attraction.

Both Lucy and Alison are tramps... one rich, one poor, both troubled, and each determined to have Parrish as her own.  He is put off by both because each is involved with one of the Raike brothers, scions to the valley's richest and most unscrupulous landowner (Malden) and Parrish doesn't want to share.  Raike and Post are adversaries because Raike wants Post's land and will do most anything to get it.  Things get more serious when Parrish's mother marries Raike.

Parrish now has eyes for his dark-haired stepsister, Paige (Hugueny), who has more sense and beauty than anyone in her hateful family.  Parrish now goes to work for Raike, who turns him into a pretty good tobacco man but whose enmity he incurs.  After the dramatic finale as Parrish unleashes on one of the dirtbag brothers, with most of the cast present, Parrish ends as all good youth love stories did at the time, meaning it all works out as you hope it will.

The acting honors go to the older folks.  Claudette Colbert had not made a theatrical film in years and she would not make another one after Parrish.  She is the voice of reason in the story of some most unreasonable people.  She was one of my chief reasons for liking this film.

Another one is Karl Malden, although he didn't much care for making it.  He said in his autobiography that his sole reason for accepting the part of the tyrannical Judd Raike was to work with Colbert and on that score he was most satisfied.  He also mentioned that the younger actors were not much to his liking because they were so unprepared.  He took note of studio-manufactured stars coming from an entirely different place than the more seasoned pros.

From left... Malden, Colbert, Jagger

Dean Jagger has always been a great favorite of mine... one of the best character actors ever.  This is arguably my favorite Jagger performance.  Sala Post was so wise and kind, a counterpoint to Malden's vicious, controlling Judd Raike.

We've worked over Troy Donahue enough in the last couple of postings, however, I must go on record as saying I thought he was ideal casting as Parrish, and thoroughly cemented his standing as one of the decade's top heartthrobs.

Several actresses were considered for the roles of the three ingenues but ultimately the studio went for two of those under contract to them and one who made her film debut in Parrish.  Connie Stevens and Diane McBain had worked with Donahue before in television and each would work with him again in other films, none as popular as Parrish.  The one who winds up with him in the end, the good girl, is played by Sharon Hugueny, whose dark, good looks contrasts those of her blonde costars.

One of the best things about this film is Max Steiner's dreamy score.  It starts on a high note over the opening credits which feature fireworks as the cast is listed and continues with special themes dedicated to each of the actresses... there's Lucy's Theme, Alison's Theme and Paige's Theme, each distinct from the other and appropriate for each character. 

Additionally, Harry Stradling Sr.'s artful camerawork lifted Parrish beyond the usual teen romance stories.  All the actors are lovingly filmed as is Connecticut.  There is no wonder why Stradling was nominated for 13 Oscars in his long career.

I have no problem listing Parrish as one of the 1960s notable films.  Oh ok, it didn't rival Bonnie and Clyde or The Graduate but it did stand out as one of the best youth-oriented films of the period.  For that type of film, this at least came with a coherent, believable story, costarred three highly-respected actors and had fine technical credits.  It may appear on very few people's favorite films list (nor was it on mine) but it has a following of those far-removed from the halcyon days of the early sixties.

Here's a reminder:

Those "Parrish" Girls

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your entire blog :-) and yes it was a youthful inspired film from the way my parents described it and at the time my mother was 18 and my dad was 19 so you hit it right on the head didn't know I was named after that movie till I was in my 20s but I'm glad I was because it's fitting being such a classic movie lover wished I could post pictures on your blog I have a first addition original of the book Parrish and the movie motion soundtrack from the film as well 😎