57 Years Ago Yesterday…
Parrish opened starring everybody ‘s wet dream Troy Donahue with not 1 but 3 leading ladies – Connie Stevens as a gold digging slut, Diane McBain as booze-swilling rich bitch, and Sharon Hugueny as the (yawn) good girl. All set in the tobacco fields of Connecticut!?!
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 in Connecticut’s Tobacco Valley. 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 both going over-the-top with their melodramatic roles though under stated as compared to the hammy Karl Malden as the meanest richest tobacco grower in the valley making Parrish a camp tour-de-force.
Connie Stevens beat out Tuesday Weld to play a slutty farm girl who wears false eyelashes and makeup while toiling in the steaming tobacco fields of Connecticut in the dog days of August. While new boy in town Troy Donahue is attracted to her, she spends her nights with rich married Hampton Fancher. 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.
In contrast, Diane McBain played tobacco farmer Dean Jagger’s spoiled, willful daughter who dumps teen dream Troy Donahue when he refuses an offer to work for wealthy tycoon Karl 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 pathetic attempt to reunite with Troy who rejects her and chooses Malden’s much nicer rebellious daughter Sharon Hugueny.
Commenting on making Parrish in my book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema, Diane McBain said:
“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.
This was Claudette Colbert’s swan song in the film business. I’m sure she wanted to make a good impression. I was a novice actress. Even though I had done some things in television, I still was quite green. 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. 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.”