Monday, July 07, 2003


1939 is often considered the greatest year in Hollywood history (WIZARD OF OZ, GONE WITH THE WIND, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, etc.), but the year had its share of stinkers, flops, and little-known films as well. This one, probably released as the bottom half of a double feature, is nothing special but is nonetheless a solid B-film for what I assume was a niche market of teenage girls (to whom much of Hollywood's product now seems aimed). Anne Shirley is a small town girl, daughter of a drug store owner (J. M. Kerrigan, who had small roles in 14 movies released in 1939). Dad has scrimped and saved and gotten bank loans to send his girl off to college. At the college boarding house, Shirley bonds with her roommates, one who is friendly but bookish (Barbara Read) and one who is friendly but social-climbing (Pamela Blake). The sororities are rushing and the social climber is sure she is a shoo-in, but she winds up blackballed due mostly to her pushy aunt who visits the house thinking she has influence. James Ellison, a "big man on campus," takes a shine to Shirley and tells people her father is rich so the sororities will be interested in her. The father shows up on bid night with some money that Shirley needs, but she is embarrassed by him and snubs him. In the climax, Blake nearly kills herself when she doesn't get a bid, and Shirley gets a bid but decides to turn it down to stay at the boarding house to start a more democratic social club. It sounds a little silly in the re-telling, but at 64 minutes, it speeds along nicely, and Shirley and Ellison make an appealing couple. Dalton Trumbo, later one of the writers who suffered from the HUAC blacklist, wrote the predictable screenplay, based on a story by Mary Chase who also wrote HARVEY. PS--I had a hard time finding information about this film, and I'm not absolutely certain that the social climber is indeed Pamela Blake; some info I found conflicts with other info. I'm fairly sure that the character was called Merle, and according to All Movie Guide, she is played by Blake.

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