TOP 10 ’60s STARLET MOVIES: PARRISH
Starlets: Connie Stevens, Diane McBain, Sharon Hugueny, Troy Donahue (a male starlet if there ever was one)
After their success with A Summer Place (1959), star Troy Donahue reunited with director Delmer Daves for Parrish. The Golden Boy (who stepped in after reportedly Warren Beatty turned the part down) plays Parrish who reunites with his mother Claudette Colbert working as a governess for rich tobacco grower Dean Jagger inConnecticut’sTobaccoValley. They grow tobacco there? Who knew?
For me, Parrish is the most entertaining of Warner Bros.’ early Sixties romances (Susan Slade, Claudelle Inglish, Rome Adventure, etc.) that they released featuring their contract players. Donahue was one handsome man and never looked better though he seems so out of place in a tobacco field. He is paired with Warner Bros.’ top two starlets Connie Stevens and Diane McBain both going over-the-top with their melodramatic roles (though they are out hammed by Karl Malden) making Parrish a camp tour-de-force.
After arriving in Tobacco Road—oops, I mean Valley—Parrish immediately catches the eye of Conne Stevens as a slutty farm girl, who wears false eyelashes and makeup even while toiling in the steaming tobacco fields in the dog days of August. While Troy is attracted to her and they flirt during the day, she spends her nights with rich married Hampton Fancher, the son of ruthless tycoon Karl Malden, who marries Troy’s momma. After she gets knocked up, her popularity plummets, as Fancher deserts her and Troy only wants to be friends, leaving poor Connie to raise her baby alone.
Starlet #2 is Diane McBain as Dean Jagger’s spoiled, willful daughter who dumps our teen dream when he refuses an offer to work for wealthy Malden. McBain marries the rich man’s younger, weak-willed son and their dysfunctional, unhappy marriage causes her to drink and sleep around. Realizing money can buy lots of Jack Daniels but can’t buy you happiness; she makes a desperate attempt to reunite with Troy who soundly rejects her
In Parrish blondes may have more fun and better acting roles, but a brunette winds up with our Golden Boy. She is Sharon Hugueny as Malden’s independent youngest child, who rebels against her father felonious ways by helping Troy with his tobacco crop that Jagger lets him harvest. She rounds up all her high school friends to pitch in. This infuriates Daddy Dearest, but wins her the love ofTroy.
Diane McBain recalled making Parrish in my book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema. Below are some of her comments.
“I like Parrish. It was fun to do. I played my first movie bad girl in this film and it typed me almost forever. Troy Donahue was a star at that time and that’s what they wanted. Troy and I got along very well. He’s a good guy. Perhaps Connie Stevens and I should have been rivals but we were friendly. We had known each other from when I was working at the Glenville Center Theatre when I was doing a play. She was dating one of the actors I was working with. She was pretty feisty and let the studio know when she was unhappy about things. I was one of those folks who liked to go along. I didn’t like to fight. I just wanted to work.”
“They called [Delmer] Daves the director with the velvet whip. He was very tender and soft, but he let you know how he felt in very uncertain terms
“I didn’t sleep a wink the night before the first day of shooting. When it came time for me to say my lines I just froze. I couldn’t remember any of the lines I learned. In all honesty, I ruined the scene. It was pure terror for me. Claudette Colbert and the director got very upset with me. I think she looked upon me with some sort of disdain. I was very aware that she was not happy and she had every right to be unhappy. I swore that I would never let that happen again. And I haven’t. It was the only time.”