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College students Andy Shaeffer and Susan Daniels are pinned. While Susan works hard to put herself through college, Andy sponges off his parents, his mother, Madeline Shaeffer, who in particular will give him whatever he wants. In other words, Andy is a mama's boy, which he doesn't really realize. Andy and Susan have used the word love to describe their relationship, but Susan isn't sure if that's what they are really feeling for each other or if it is solely a loveless passion. And if it is love, she isn't sure their relationship can survive without Andy taking some ownership of his life. The near end of their relationship, initiated by Susan, leads to Andy starting to flunk out of college, which in turn makes Andy a prime candidate to be drafted. During basic training at Camp Ord, California, Andy makes it clear to his superiors and his fellow privates that he doesn't want to be there and will do only what is requested of him without any extra effort. His superiors and fellow ... Written by
The title role of The Girl He Left Behind is none other than Natalie Wood. But it is Tab Hunter who is doing the leaving because he's gotten a greetings letter from President Eisenhower inviting him to join the US Army. Those draft notices can ruin the plans of many a young man.
In this case the young man Hunter is playing is quite rich and really acts to the manor born. If he's got the right stuff it will take all the people above him in his training company from captain David Janssen to First Sergeant Jim Backus to platoon sergeant Murray Hamilton to bring it out of him.
Fifteen years after this film was made I was doing basic training at a lovely garden spot of the earth called Fort Polk, Louisiana. It would never have occurred to me to mouth off the way Tab Hunter was doing to those above him. I've also never seen a basic training film that didn't have one trainee doing a single pushup. Hunter should have been down in a prone position on all fours pushing the good earth of Fort Ord away from him.
The Girl He Left Behind was filmed at Ford Ord and that certainly made it look authentic if it wasn't quite. In the cast as Hunter's fellow trainees are Alan King, Henry Jones and James Garner in what was his second film appearance.
Both Hunter's memoirs and a recent biography of Natalie Wood mention that at this time the two of them were linked romantically in a series of studio arranged dates. We know now just how far from the truth that was, but at least from Hunter's point of view, Natalie Wood was a good scout about it all. One of the lines I remember best from his autobiography was that he (Tab) could have qualified for veteran's benefits with all the military movies he was cast in. He certainly did have that all American military look about him.
The Girl He Left Behind is one of the most unrealistic of army films I've ever seen, still it has a great cast and I'm a fan of a whole lot of the people in this film.
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