Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


SUSAN SLADE (1961). Director: Delmer Daves.

This slick soap opera with a nice, if minor, score by the great Max Steiner presents the saga of young Susan Slade (Connie Stevens), a somewhat sheltered gal who has a shipboard romance (with Grant Incredible Shrinking Man Williams), discovers she's pregnant, and then learns that the father has been killed overseas in the war. But weep not for Susan, because waiting in the wings is handsome wannabee writer Hoyt Brecker, played by Troy Donahue. (It's likely that the women who saw this in the theaters in 1961 probably wondered why the hell Susan spends so much time resisting the guy, who's not only a handsome hunk but nice.) Susan's wise, warm, and womanly mother (Dorothy McGuire), decides that they will all pretend that Susan's baby boy is actually her brother, and the whole family takes off for faraway parts to aid in the deception. But Susan finds it difficult not being able to be a mother to her own child, and it all leads to a rather nice wind-up where she makes a brave and inevitable decision.

Stevens gives a nice performance in this, and Dorothy McGuire is excellent; Lloyd Nolan also has a nice turn as Susan's father, and Burt Convy, Natalie Schafer, Brian Aherne, and Kent Smith also add to the film's appeal, as does the striking cinematography of Lucien Ballard.

And then there's Troy Donahue. Well .... let's just say he's a good-lookin' fellow and leave it at that. He doesn't stink up the picture and he allows the character's sensitivity to sort of come through. Not too awful but not great. Ditto for Grant Williams, another pretty boy with a decidedly limited range.

Verdict: Somehow the stupid thing works. ***.

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