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

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Patty Duke pulls ahead of the boys
BILLIE (1965). Director: Don Weis.

15-year-old Billie (a 19-year-old Patty Duke) is a real tomboy who excels in sports, especially track. Before long the coach (Charles Lane) is making her his star player, but she's afraid this won't make her seem feminine enough. Will her new boyfriend, Mike (Warren Berlinger), accept her as an equal, or will she have to change herself to keep him? Billie, which was based on the play "Time Out for Ginger," has a surprisingly feminist perspective, until it completely cops out at the very end. [An entire book, which I have not read, has been written about this movie and its implications.] The elephant in the room, which is never mentioned outright, is that her family deep down probably fears that the boyish, athletic Billie may be a lesbian [or transgender]. She's given a whole song in which she rhapsodizes about discovering she's attracted to boys. The dated aspect of the movie is that even in the sixties there were female athletes, and they weren't all gay. [Not to mention the innumerable movies about tomboys who discover they're "women."] Duke [Curse of the Black Widow] is okay, although there are too many close-ups of her running, her scrunched-up face being positively thrust out at the viewer. A production number of chorus boy/athletes has them acting as if Duke were the sexiest teenager in the world, when actually Jane Greer [Run for the Sun], playing Duke's mother, is a lot more attractive (although Duke looks okay at the end when she's dolled up). Greer is excellent, Jim Backus is quite good as Billie's father, and there's nice work from Susan Seaforth as Billie's sister who, unbeknowst to her family, is married and pregnant. Others in the cast include Billy De Wolfe as Backus' political opponent -- who is not given enough to do -- and Ted Bessell as Seaforth's husband. Don Weis also directed Looking for Love with Connie Francis.

Verdict: Doesn't seem to understand that a woman can be an athlete and a "girl" at the same time. **1/2.

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