This was one of my first blog posts from the Blogger version of my blog. I wrote it in 2009. I am aware it is very long, not very good and basically a play by play of this very silly movie. I put it up because I’m deleting the blogger “Comet Over Hollywood” and wanted my earlier posts archived.
I have been meaning to write in my blog for about…2 weeks now. I watched several movies over spring break and I don’t plan on talking about every single one of them, but I do think a few are worth mentioning.
The first one is: Susan Slade (1961)
Susan Slade is one of those deliciously trashy movies that came out in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s (i.e Peyton Place, A Summer Placee, Imitation of Life, All the Fine Young Cannibals, etc). Some of them are pretty bad and there are serious moments where you will find yourself collapsing on the sofa in laughter. But each of those movies that has something about them that I just love: scandal and romance. It was originally a book, but I’m assuming it was one of those dime store trashy novels looking at the plot.
The movie begins with the narration of Susan’s father,Roger Slade played by Lloyd Nolan. He made his fortune out in the desert of Chile from an oil drilling company he started, and if it wasn’t oil it was some sort of natural resource. After living away from civilization for about 10 years, Roger is retiring and the Slade family is moving back to America, California to be specific.
While the family has been away, Susan Slade, played by the squinty eyed and baby voiced Connie Stevens, has turned into a beautiful young lady, of course. She doesn’t look any older than 16 years-old, but I’m assuming we are supposed to believe that she is in her 20’s. On the boat over to America, Mr. and Mrs. Slade express concern about Susan’s shyness and are worried that their daughter is socially awkward.
But lo’ and behold! Susan meets a man! But she is so attracted to him that she runs away every time he tries to talk to her.
The man she meets, Conn Williams played by Grant Williams, seems like a complete sleaze but Leah Slade, played by Dorothy McGuire, is in favor of the young and seemingly successful young man. With ole mom’s consent Susan goes forth to get her man.
All of a sudden, socially awkward Susan Slade, is flirting with Conn and acting coy like we all forgot that she was supposed to be socially awkward. For someone who has been out in the desert for 10 years, she obviously didn’t go without practice.
So Susan decides she is in love with Conn, though he seems mighty questionable if you ask me. Conn likes to mountain climbing, that is his “business.” It is pretty dangerous stuff apparently, when he tells Susan that one of his best friends died on one of their trips. To me, he still seems like a creep playing on a young girl’s emotions while he knows that she has no experience. He has a little party where everyone is necking and he asks her to stay a little longer when she says she has to leave. Susan later waltzes in at 4 a.m. and mommy is waiting. Leah Slade has all of a sudden decided that Conn is no good, after 12 hours earlier she was pushing her daughter on to him. Susan sticks out her little chin and proclaims that she loves him, and basically keeps screwing around with him against her mother’s wishes.
The boat has to dock eventually and it does, the couple parts: Susan headed to California and Conn going to climb Mt. Mckinley in Alaska (foreshadowing). Oh, and Susan and Conn are secretly engaged so I’m assuming he does care something for her, but I’m still suspicious.
The Slade family is met at the boat by their family friends, Stanton Corbett (Brian Aherne), Marion Corbett (Natalie Schafer: better known as Mrs. Howell from Gilligan’s Island) and their son, Wells (Bert Convey). Five minutes after Susan leaves Conn, Wells is flirting with her and making corny jokes about their childhood. I love how sheltered Susan is always surrounded by men.
The Corbett family takes the Slade’s to their new home, an oriental style house by the sea in California. Mr. Corbett designed the home and the Millionaire’s Wife was the interior decorator. It’s cool and all that she saved Mrs. Slade the time, but if I was Dorothy McGuire and I had lived in the desert for 10 years, I would have wanted to decorate my own home. It was nice and all, but nothing spectacular like they made it out to be.
Mr. Slade also has his own lab in the house where he can work and still get paid. AND THEN we learn his big secret in a conversation between he and Brian Aherne. Roger Slade has a serious heart condition, which is the real reason why he retired from his job in Chili and went to California to relax. One thing though, his wife and daughter do not know because he doesn’t want them to worry (noble and all, but pretty dumb if you ask me).
Fast forward, we see a trial of a man who apparently stole money from Mr. Corbett. The man is found guilty of embezzling the money from Corbett’s business and is going to have to go to jail. His son, Troy Donahue (Hoyt Brecker)- what kind of names do these boys have? Wells, Hoyt, Conn?- runs to his father and shouts mean things to Mr. Corbett. Later we see that Troy’s father hung himself in jail.
Troy cries and becomes the brooding young man with the chip on his shoulder in the film.
Alot of nothing stuff happens, Susan gets a horse for her birthday and meets Hoyt, because he works at the stables near by. He is rude to her and she gets an attitude with him telling him to lighten his load by brushing the chip of his shoulder. He is surprised that she would want to talk to him because all of the blue blood’s moved their horses from his stable after the embezzlement scandal with his dad.
A little while later, Susan thinks she is pregnant with Conn’s baby! Conn has not written or called her either, which deepens our suspicions about his motives. Susan in turn writes him everyday like a sucker. Oh, well Conn does call once, but no one picks up the phone because they are all out in the yard.
Susan goes to a doctor while she is supposed to be shopping for a dress for her birthday party. The doctor confirms it, and Susan has a bun in the oven! And so she tries to hide it from her parents until Conn comes to save the day.
At her birthday party, Leah Slade throws Susan at Wells, because he apparently REALLY likes her. He didn’t really act like it though, if you ask me, I thought he was kind of a cold fish doing what his parents told him to do. Anyways, at the party (where Susan is wearing this weird dress that looks like just a see-through corset on top) she gets a phone call and excitedly runs in thinking it is Conn and she will tell him about the baby and everything will be honky-dory.
WRONG! Actually, it is Conn’s father telling her that Conn died while climbing Mt. Mckinley (we saw that from a mile away after he said his friend died). He wrote to his parents about her, and since they knew that he cared so much about Susan, they called her. My question is, if he cared so much why did he only try to call once and never return her letters?
So Susan freaks out and rips of her clothes.
And then goes to get her horse and rides into the ocean trying to drown herself. Brooding Hoyt, who is secretly in love with her, saves her and notifies her parents who leave their guests and go to Hoyt’s shack in their evening finery. While unconcious and under a seditive, Susan murmers that she is pregnant and to not tell daddy. Her mother hears this and is horrified. Troy got the gist of why she threw herself in the water while she was screaming at him for not letting her die and explains that the “chap” she was in love with (yes he said chap) had gotten her pregnant and now he is dead. Mother is devistated and upset that Susan didn’t tell her sooner.
After feeling guilty about calling Conn and Susan’s relationship a cheap, shipboard romance to Susan’s face earlier in the film, mom and dad are heart broken for her and surprisingly understanding about the pregnancy (!). On a side note, after getting her horse Susan took a pretty bad tumble off of it-she was already pregnant at this time too. Don’t you think she would have lost the baby?
Anyways, dad has been offered a job in Guatamala to do a similar mining job like he did in Chile. Orginally he turned it down since he was retired (and for his health as us viewers know). Roger and Leah Slade talk about the problem of the daughter and decide to take the Bree Hodge of Desperate Housewives way out of it. Roger will take the job in Guatamala-despite health risks-and Leah will pretend that she is pregnant. Since they will be away and in isolation for about two years, no one will know the difference. Susan demands that they can not do this because she feels bad about ruining everyone’s lives (she shouldn’t have thought about that before she had unprotected sex with Conn), but her parents demand that it is the only way.
Flash to a lunchion scene with Leah, the Millionaire’s wife and another group of women. Leah casually slips in that she “lost her breakfast” and feels quisey. All the women give knowing glances to each other and suggest that she is pregnant. Leah feigns surprise at the idea and says she is too old, but she has successfully planted the seed among her high society friends.
So the family miserably leaves for Guatamala. Susan promises to write Hoyt and seems more sad about leaving her horse than leaving him.
While in Guatamala, we never see Susan big and pregnant but there are scenes of her in cute, Spanish peasant blouses and fiesta skirts writing to Hoyt about her alleged pregnant mother. My question is, why is she dressed in the Spanish garb? Mom isn’t.
Anyways, we also see scenes of heart-problems dad climbing up high ladders to get to his office in the mining business in Guatamala, prespiring profusely and taking little pills.
The big day eventually comes and Susan has the baby. She talks about how she wants the whole world to know and how cute he is and how much she loves him. Leah wisks the baby out of her arms and reminds her that she has to start thinking of him like a baby brother and not her child to save the reputation of the family.
I don’t get the feeling that Susan does this very well. Later the Corbetts come and visit them in Guatamala for Christmas and want to take Susan back to California with them. Susan clutches the baby as the Corbetts coo over him and says she can not leave her “baby brother” (words that she uncertantly stammers out) because it is his first Christmas.
So the Corbetts leave and Roger and Susan take a father daughter walk. Roger tells his little “Susie” how proud he is of her for becoming such a grown up woman (Proud? For getting pregnant?) and THEN Roger suddenly collapses. He gasps for her to run and get his pills out of his room or pocket but instead Susan just screams and hugs him. Roger dies as we should have probably all seen coming from the very beginning.
The Corbetts, who had just left the Slade home and were about to get on their plane back to America when this all occured, come to the resuce and are there to comfort them and read the will.
Now through out this movie there is a lot of weird and silly philisophical talk which doesn’t make any sense. Sort of like the way the dad talks when you are watching the Brady Bunch. Roger Slade’s will has some of this in it. He says something along the lines of “I know you are glad that it is me who died and you are the ones who have to bear the burden of mourning and sadness. I know that you would rather it be you who have to carry that weight than me.” What? So basically he was saying, I’m glad I’m dead and don’t have to be the one who is sad and depressed about ya’ll.
Leah and Susan Slade return to California to their home by the sea. The Corbett’s once again meddle in the interior decorating. Susan’s room, which had been next to Mr. and Mrs. Slade’s room has now been made into the baby nursury of little Rogie (that’s the baby’s name). Susan now wondering, well where the heck do I sleep? No worries little Susie, they have put you out in dad’s old laboratory in the back of the house. It’s not a bad room or anything. It’s sort of like a little guest house out back, but Susan is furious that she won’t be able to be near her baby.
Next blow, Susan goes to see her horse that she hasn’t seen in years and finds that Hoyt has sold it! My question is, what right did he have to sell someone else’s horse? He bought it back though, but wasn’t back soon enough to beat Susan to the stables. Right when she is reunited with her old horse, Wells Corbett shows up with two fancy expensive horses for Susan to win her over. Hoyt and Wells glower with hatred towards each other, and the fact that Wells just hurt Hoyt’s manhood by one uping him with two brand new horses after Hoyt just bought Susan a horse. Though Wells hates Hoyt, he wants to house the horses in those stables because they would be in walking distance from Susan’s home.
Later that day Wells proposes to Susan and gives him a “I’ll have to think about it” answer. She is in love with Hoyt, but knows he can not provide for her. At the same time, she doesn’t think she can marry Wells and not tell him that she has a baby. Third, she also plain doesn’t want to live little Rogie with Mommy Dearest, Leah.
Leah is pissed that Susan turned down a fine boy like Wells, since she insists that he is in love with her. I really don’t think he is. When he proposed he wasn’t brimming with love or anything, and he also made it seem like his family would be really happy to have her join their clan. It sounds to me their families just want them to marry, and Wells doesn’t care one flying leap. When Susan tells Leah that she loves Hoyt and not Wells, Leah retorts with the “How will he support you” question and “Where will you live, in a stable?” remark. Susan then expresses guilt about marrying Wells without him knowing that she has a son, and Leah flips out again and insenuates that it will ruin their social standing to do something like that.
Hoyt shows up shortly after the mother-daughter fight, giddy with love for Susan. He has sold a story and is ready to get married. Fickle Susan, after just telling Leah that she doesn’t want to marry Wells, tells Hoyt that she is marrying Wells. Hoyt is basically like “What? You sure have given me the run around then by pretending you like me.”
While they are fighting, we turn to little Rogie climbing out of his crib and down to the floor. We early saw Susan and Leah putting Rogie to bed, and my mom was freaking out because they didn’t pull up the sides of the crib and obviously she was freakig out for good reason. Rogie crawls in to Leah’s room and grabs a very large cigarrette lighter off of her side table. About 20 minutes earlier in the movie, we saw Rogie playing with the same lighter and Leah grabs it away from him and shakes her head about how big the baby is getting. (If she thought this shouldn’t she have moved the lighter to a higher place so that the baby wouldn’t reach it? Stupid.)
So we flick from Hoyt and Susan fighting to Rogie playing with the lighter. All of a sudden we hear a scream and Susan and Hoyt run into Rogie’s nursery and find him on fire! Crazy as it sounds, it really does happen and is probably the best and most laughable part of the movie.
Hoyt wraps the baby in a blanket to stop the fire and they rush it to the hospital. During all of this I’m wondering, where is mom? Apparently she went to the Corbett’s for the evening, but we did not know this until the whole family showed up at the hospital.
Well the time comes when Susan asks to see the baby and the doctor tells her only the mother can go. Susan runs over to her stoic mother and pleads. Her mother discusses this with her through the side of her mouth so that the Corbett’s won’t know that her daughter is a whore. She tries to convince her not to but Susan takes a stand and basically says “I had this baby and I have the right to see it.”
So when the doctor comes back out and asks the mother to come back with him she makes her confession in front of doctor, the Corbett family-including Wells, Hoyt and her mom who stands by and looks rather pissed if you ask me. Mr. Corbett hugs her and tells her how brave she has been, Mrs. Corbett is wide eyed and looks a bit disgusted and Wells looks like he is trying to find the nearest exit. Mr. Corbett tells her in a round about way that she is like their daughter, they love her, support her but they definately don’t want a used product marrying their son.
The doctor tells them all that the baby is going to be fine and was brought to the hospital in the nick of time. Susan wearily returns home after an evening of burning babies and ruined reputations. She doesn’t care too much about Wells, but is depressed that she has lost Hoyt forever. When she goes back to her glorified guest house she finds Hoyt standing their awkwardly since he is about 10 feet tall compared to her 5’5” self. They embrace and he says he doesn’t care about her past and he loves her and move somewhere else. He will write and they will take the baby in be happy. So they kiss and everything ends happily ever after.
So what did I think of this film after I picked the plot apart scene by scene?
Frankly, I was a disappointed. Sure, it was trashy and romantic and all of the great elements that emulates Peyton Place and Summer Place, but that is just it, I was comparing it to Summer Place the whole time. Connie Stevens drove me nuts. She has this stupid little baby voice and I don’t even find her that pretty. I think the movie would have been a lot better if it had been Sandra Dee in the lead, instead because then it would have been sort of a Summer Place reunion with Dorothy McGuire and Troy Donahue.
Also, who’s parents are that understand when they find out that their daughter is pregnant? This was 1961, they would have been certainly as concerned about their reputation as Mr. and Mrs. Slade were, but not that understand. They probably would have sent her abroad or to one of those pregnant girl homes or something. Even in 2009, if I came home and said “Hey mom and dad, I’m pregnant” my hide would probably be a new pillow cover or something because I would be dead!
Speaking of babies, the burning baby….It was expected since we saw a random scene of him playing with the lighter and it being taken away, but it was pretty exciting. It was sort of funny too…it’s just not something you see everyday in films. I love babies, don’t worry I won’t go lighting any on fire. I was reading about the burning baby on an IMDB message board and people were complaining about how fake it looked….I mean…it was 1961…did they want them to really light the baby on fire? Oh, and speaking of which, people always say there is no such thing as an ugly baby, only ugly toddlers. That is such a lie. This was one ugly baby. It was one fat baby too!
The movie also said alot of silly philosophical stuff that really didn’t make any sense. Like I said earlier witht he dad’s will. I wish I could remember it so I could put it on here for a good laugh.
I also really didn’t like Dorothy McGuire in this movie. I looove her in everything else I’ve seen her (well not Till the End of Time, but that was a crappy movie not her). She’s great in Swiss Family Robinsons, Old Yeller, Three Coins in a Fountain, Summer Place, Invitation, etc. but she acted like a royal you-know-what in this movie. Plus, who gave her that god awful hair cut?
I did like Lloyd Nolan. He is one of those actors that, good guy or bad guy, can never go wrong. I felt bad for him though, poor sucker. He should have told his family from the start about the heart problem. I know he didn’t want them to worry and burden them and all, but I think in the long run he might have lived a little longer.
I never really felt that the Corbett’s were very good friends though. Maybe rich people just act fake like that with their friends, but Mrs. Corbett just seemed gossipy and Wells seemed like a jerk who was just trying to climb to the top through his father’s and Mr. Slade’s connections. Mr. Corbett didn’t seem so bad but I think he was just always stuck in corporate mode. I do like Brian Aherne. He used to be so attractive in his early films.
And last but not least, Conn. Do we know if he really loved Susan? At the beginning when he first sees her on the ship he just seems like a lech trying to get some. They got engaged and he told his parents about her, but why did he never contact her when he supposedly contacted his parents? We knew this because she went to go look for him at his home in San Fransisco and the butler told Susan that he had phoned his parents or something that he would be home shortly, but then he died. Maybe he was going to surprise her. I just wonder how it would have been if he hadn’t died. I still think he was up to no good.