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

Thursday, May 13, 2021


Jayne Mansfield, Delores Michaels, Rick Jason

THE WAYWARD BUS (1957). Director: Victor Vicas. 

Johnny Chicoy (Rick Jason of This is My Love) drives his bus on a route across the border into San Juan while his wife, Alice (Joan Collins of Land of the Pharaohs), runs the truck stop diner where the passengers embark. Both are afraid that they are not truly loved by their spouse. As Johnny walks out in anger, he gets involved with some of the passengers, who include the dyspeptic Van Brunt (Will Wright); Mr. and Mrs. Pritchard (Larry Keating and Kathryn Givney); their daughter Mildred (Delores Michaels), who has a yen for Johnny; travelling salesman Ernest Horton (Dan Dailey); and erotic entertainer Camille Oaks (Jayne Mansfield), who dodges passes from both Horton and Pritchard but winds up falling for the former. Not only is there the question of whether or not the passengers' assorted issues can be resolved, but if they'll even survive the trip when very dangerous weather conditions threaten their very lives. 

Rick Jason and Joan Collins
The Wayward Bus, taken from a John Steinbeck novel, is an unusual, imperfect, but ultimately worthwhile picture. With his handsome, masculine features and decided acting ability -- he gives a very strong performance in this -- Rick Jason should have become a major star, but the film was not a big hit. Almost completely deglamorized for this role of a drab housewife and cook, Joan Collins is less miscast than you might imagine and is effective. The romance between Dailey and Mansfield is never convincing, although Dailey is winning and Mansfield is at least competent, but there are dozens of actresses, Monroe included, who would have been stronger. Delores Michaels is lovely in the movie -- making much more of an impression than Mansfield -- but she only had a few credits after this. In addition to the actors already named, we have nice performances from Betty Lou Keim, as Norma the counter girl, and (Mr.) Dee Pollock as Kit, the teenager who assists Johnny and Alice; he had a long career. Robert Bray makes an impression as Morse, who has a hankering for Alice. 

In addition to some very good acting, The Wayward Bus has other plusses, such as the widescreen cinematography by Charles G. Clarke and a fine, evocative and highly interesting musical score by Leigh Harline. There is also a splendid action sequence when the bus must travel over a very, very long and crumbling wooden bridge directly over rushing rapids  -- this sequence is a nail-biter. The film was undoubtedly made just to take advantage of the publicity for the earlier Bus Stop, which starred Monroe, also featured bus trips and truck stops, and even had Robert Bray in the cast. 

Verdict: Memorable "lost" film with some very good performances. ***. 


angelman66 said...

Not a great movie, but I like its serious 1950s Steinbeck angst and the chance to see Miss Collins and Miss Mansfield in change of pace dramatic roles. You are right, Jayne is competent if not brilliant (she’s far better in a much earlier B noir called The Burglar with Dan Duryea, predating her Broadway stardom and the satirical persona she created there and was never able to shake…). This makes a nice double feature with MM in Bus Stop, which plays like a light romantic comedy in contrast to this soapy melodrama.
- Chris

William said...

Bus Stop is decidedly the better picture of the two, although I liked this one as well, especially the intense performance by Rick Jason. Mansfield was just okay.