Wednesday, September 08, 2021


Claudelle is the teenage daughter of tenant farmer Clyde and his wife Jessie who work for property owner S.T. Crawford. Crawford, a widower, leers nastily at Claudelle and hints to her parents that he would take good care of her if she would be his wife, but Claudelle isn't interested in a man thirty years older than her. Clyde refuses to consider Crawford's wishes, but Jessie, a sexually frustrated woman worn beyond her years and tired of Clyde's promises of better times, is ready to pimp her daughter out to a rich man, and if Claudelle isn't interested, Jessie might like a little Crawford on the side. Meanwhile, Claudelle falls hard for high school senior Linn Varner who heads off to the Army but tells Claudelle he wants to marry her when his stint is over. To clinch the deal, they have sex under the night sky and the rustling tree branches. But months later, Linn writes with the news that he's getting married to someone else. This leads Claudelle to tramp herself up and sleep with a string of men. Dennis, the grocer's son, is first; young Charles, an assistant at the grocery store, is next, with studly, slightly older Rip not far behind. Even Dennis’ dad wants his turn. Jessie eventually leaves to stay with Crawford, and melodrama turns to tragedy when two of the studs fight, leaving one dead. Claudelle and her dad decide to try and pick up the pieces of their shattered lives, but fate may have other plans.

In its day, I imagine this was seen as racy and serious, but now it's easier to appreciate either as a period piece or high camp. Romantic teen melodramas were all the rage in the late 50s and early 60s, from the cheap B-films of American International to the high gloss productions of Warner Bros., which is what this film is. Diane McBain had a supporting role in an earlier Warners melodrama, PARRISH and was given the lead here. She's actually pretty good, giving some weight to her character who becomes promiscuous because of her rejection by Linn (a very young and handsome Chad Everett). Her bevy of studs were pulled from the ranks of the young Warner Bros. contract players, most of whom would become better known on TV: Will Hutchins (from the western series Sugarfoot) as Dennis, Robert Logan (briefly Edd Byrne's replacement on 77 Sunset Strip) as Charles, and Robert Colbert (The Time Tunnel). All of them are attractive and convey various tones of rural boy horniness with conviction. Arthur Kennedy brings some gravitas to the role of the beleaguered father, but Constance Ford is awfully one-note as the mother. To reinforce the glossy teen romance connection, the main theme of the movie recalls the famous hit theme to A SUMMER PLACE from a couple of years earlier--Kennedy and Ford were also in that movie. Approached on a camp level, and with appreciation for male eye candy, this was quite watchable. Pictured are McBain and Hutchins. [TCM]

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