Parrish (1961) & Susan Slade (1961)

Parrish (1961) is a coming-of-age soap which follows young Parrish's (Troy Donahue) transition into manhood. Parrish relocates with his mother Ellen (Claudette Colbert) to Connecticut's Million-Dollar-Mile; a stretch of land boasting various tobacco farms. These farms produce some of the finest tobacco leaves that are used as wrappers for top-notch cigars. Parrish enters the world of tobacco farming and learns how the business works. He discovers the underhandedness of the business and what it is to be ethical and fair. He falls in love with field worker Lucy (Connie Stevens) who is a little to quick to become intimate with him. Then he falls into rebellious rich girl Alison's (Dianne McBain) snare. She sees Parrish as an opportunity for a continued life of wealth and pleasure. Finally there is quiet and wholesome Paige (Sharon Hugueny), daughter of tobacco tycoon Judd Raike (Karl Malden) and the only one of the Raike siblings who hasn't inherited her father's greed. Things get complicated when Parrish's mother marries Judd Raike and Parrish becomes part of Raike's dirty business.

There are two reasons you should watch this film. Karl Malden and Claudette Colbert. Karl Malden turns over a wonderful performance as angry man Judd Raike who's greed and desire for control are so overpowering that he will plow over anyone in his way, including his own kin. Malden excels in bad-guy roles, yet he can be genuine playing nice-guy characters too. He just has incredible range. Parrish happens to be Claudette Colbert's last feature-film role. She looked as beautiful as she did almost three decades earlier in the milk-bath scene in The Sign of the Cross (1933). It's quite a delight to watch her in this movie.

Susan Slade (1961) is another coming-of-age soap in Delmer Daves/Troy Donahue style. Similar to Parrish, it follows the story's title character, played by Connie Stevens, as she blossoms into womanhood. After spending 10 years in Chile, the Slade family is returning to the US. On the cruiseliner, Susan meets a young man, Conn White (Grant Williams), who is on his way to Alaska for a mountain climbing expedition. They fall in love and the close quarters of the ship speed up their romance and they become intimate very quickly. They separate once they arrive in California, but Conn promises that he will return to her after his expedition so they can marry. Susan writes to him everyday, longing for the day that he will come back to her and the baby she is carrying but he never returns. Now it is up to the Slade family to figure out how to protect their family and the future life of the baby from a less-than-understanding society. Oh and Troy Donahue is somewhere in their too.

This is not a film I would recommend to folks that did not like A Summer Place (1959). Both films are very similar in how they deal with premarital sex and teenage pregnancy. They also both star Troy Donahue and Dorothy McGuire. If however, you liked A Summer Place, you would enjoy this. The cinematography is beautiful and lush; candy for the eyes. The story is over-the-top in the only way a good soap can be. Also, if you happen to be a fan of Peyton Place (1957), this is right up your alley!

4 comments:

  1. Raquel,
    Great review as usual!
    I think the main reason I would watch this film must be Claudette Colbert. Why? Because she is a bright beacon for us tiny vessels on the sea of early talkies of course.

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  2. j'adore your blog! I happen to be from Boston too ;-D

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  3. I really enjoyed A Summer Place when I saw it, along with Parrish and Susan Slade, a few years ago on VHS tapes rented from the late, lamented rental section of Kim's Video on St. Marks Place in New York. The plots vanished from my mind, but the feeling of melodrama lingered pleasantly like the memory of a good meal. I want to see them on DVD now and you make these new discs sound enticing. Rome Adventure and Palm Springs Weekend will be new to me, which is nice! It's actually good to have gaps in one's knowledge to fill in years later with the pleasure of new discoveries.

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