Grainbelt University has one attraction for Dobie Gillis - women, especially Pansy Hammer. Pansy's father, even though and maybe because she says she's in dreamville, does not share her ...
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Grainbelt University has one attraction for Dobie Gillis - women, especially Pansy Hammer. Pansy's father, even though and maybe because she says she's in dreamville, does not share her affection for Dobie. An English essay which almost revolutionizes English instruction, and Dobie's role in a chemistry lab explosion convinces Mr. Hammer he is right. Pansy is sent off broken-hearted to an Eastern school, but with the help of Happy Stella Kolawski's all-girl band, several hundred students and an enraged police force, Dobie secures Pansy's return to Grainbelt. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
After I warmed up to the taller, goofier-looking Bobby Van (compared to Dwayne Hickman), this movie really took off for me. Like many others, I didn't know there was a movie six years before the TV series debuted. I'm only a casual fan of DG (it doesn't get shown enough these days) but still wanted to see how this early version compared to the show. I wasn't disappointed. I noticed a similarity between this picture and Disney's Merlin Jones movies. But whereas Merlin was this semi-genius, Dobie is an underachiever out for fun and females.
Die-hard fans of Zelda will be crestfallen to learn that she is mercifully absent here. She is replaced by the much more feminine Debbie Reynolds, who ferments a good screen chemistry with Van; that's appropriate, as their most harrowing adventures take place in the chemistry lab (Pansy is fond of mixing assorted substances until they explode).
But where is Herbert T. Gillis, Dobie's workaholic grocer old man seen in the series? He was my favorite character, mainly because of Frank Faylen's inimitable characterization (he was also hilarious as Dearborne in Disney's THE MONKEY'S UNCLE). Instead of Dobie's family we get Pansy's blustery workaholic father, who wants to separate the lovebirds forever. Has anyone else noticed, by the way, how fathers are perpetually portrayed as silly windbags, while the boring cipher wife/mother is forever made out to be the "wise" one? Even in the 50's.
Strangely, it seems as though Dobie and Pansy only took two courses - English and Chemistry. And what about that chemistry prof, who boasts that his class is the hardest they'll ever encounter? Guess he never heard of Cartography at Radford U. After playing hooky (except when it rained) for several months, they return to class to find an essay due in English and a project due in Chemistry. I won't give away how they solve this crisis. But then the sky falls on our amorous pair. Deeming Dobie the worst possible influence, Mr. Hammer sends Pansy to NYC (blah - like that's the greatest place on earth to be sent) to live with her horrid maiden aunt. You really feel depressed for Dobie, now wandering aimlessly around campus. After all the scrapes they'd been through together - the chemistry lab explosions; the capsized canoe; and the most hysterical of all - Pansy's blouse getting caught in the car engine, then her trying to sneak past Ma and Pa and a couple of neighbors watching TV (yes, they had TV in 1953). Then when a gun goes off on TV, the startled viewers suddenly become aware of Pansy in her undergarments. That scene ended perfectly.
All this brings us to some intriguing questions about college life in the 50's. Was it common for professors to write their own textbooks? We have the deliciously snobbish, condescending Hans Conried (Prof. Pomfritt) announcing that he is rewriting his "English Usage For College Freshmen", suddenly accepting Dobie's belief that the rules should be according to the way people really talk. C'mon, a single professor rewriting the rules of grammar? And did academic buildings really have bells to dismiss the students? Sounds like high school all over again. All classes beginning and ending at the same time. Well, I know one thing in the movie that's definitely based in reality: the way school bookstores buy back used books for pennies on the dollar, then resell them at a 90% markup. This textbook racket is still flourishing!
Absent from AODG is Dobie's endless philosophizing in front of a marble statue. But I don't expect you'll really miss that.
All in all, I recommend THE AFFAIRS OF DOBIE GILLIS to even the most casual fan of the TV series, and to anyone who likes college slapstick/romance from the 50's. I only wish this movie had been long enough to include more professors played by character actors on the caliber of Hans Conried. Or a series of 75-minute films, where Dobie and Pansy take Psychology, physics, French...imagine the constant jams they'd've been in and out of. I know Debbie Reynolds went on to bigger things, like voicing Charlotte in CHARLOTTE'S WEB and giving birth to Princess Leia, but she could've been replaced by some other bodacious 50's babe. And no, I don't mean Zelda.
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