A young man returns home after a three year tour of duty in the navy only to find things are somewhat different from when he left. His kid sister has grown into a young woman, the job he thought was waiting for him turns out to have some unique conditions, and perhaps most importantly his former sweetheart has married a wealthy and much older man. Disillusioned, he drifts from job to job while trying hard to avoid the advances of his former girlfriend, who is unhappy in her marriage and longs for something extra. While all he wants to do is make something of his life, his will power will be put to the ultimate test. Written by
Kevin Steinhauer <K.Steinhauer@BoM.GOV.AU>
It's amazing that Ann-Margret had any friends left in Hollywood after she was put in the forefront of "State Fair", then the producers of "Bye Bye Birdie" geared that film around her then in this film, she was given top-billing and the story was re-structured to bring out her character more than was intended or necessary! It's not to say that she didn't do a good job on these movies, it's just that more than a few people involved got their feathers ruffled along the way and she seems to be none the worse for wear from it herself! Here, it was the author of the piece (William Inge) who tried to disassociate himself from the film when the producers decided to steer the production her way. The story is supposed to be about the title character (Parks) and the events that befall him when he comes home from a three year stint in the U.S. Navy. He has trouble finding his way and interacts with various locals and family members as he searches for purpose and the security of a bright future. Standing in the way of this is old flame Margret who, when he shipped out after a break up with her, married a wealthy older man. Parks and Margret have a great push-pull, moth-to-a-flame chemistry with Parks desperately trying to avoid what he knows will be his undoing. Fans of Margret will be doing backflips when watching this film as she purrs and slithers around in her Jean Louis dresses and tosses her lionesse mane of red hair. Her character makes little or no sense half the time (partly because it has been unduly featured as a starring part when it is actually just a plot device), but her followers won't care when she's writhing around and whispering romantic dialogue in lighting that would make Lucille Ball jealous. Parks can't quite shake the James Dean label entirely and the way he acts and looks sometimes, maybe he wasn't even trying, but he does give a thoughtful, often empathetic performance. The whole film is dotted with great character actors giving little doses of themselves. Sometimes, they get short shrift or their scenes don't add up to much, but their presence is enjoyable nonetheless. Brando gets one of her better roles as Parks' worried mother. The lovely Farmer plays his tarty, blonde sister while Darby does a fantastic job as his adoring younger sister. Her performance provides the film with a great deal of heart and realism. Other enjoyable work is done by Somers (she did something before "Match Game"?!) as a fussy boarder, Martin as a slovenly neighbor, Dexter as a slick salesman, Pearce as a dotty housewife and Griffies as a cantankerous mortician. Less showy, but just as good is Margolin as Darby's troubled friend. If the parts don't all add up to a brilliant whole, at least the film is pretty to look at and mostly entertaining. The characters are interesting enough to hold the viewers attention for the bulk of the time. Amusingly, the one hot pub in town (purportedly a straight bar) plays only Petula Clark songs until Margret slips a nickel in the juke box for one of her slinky come-ons. There's also a rather forward (for its time) scene of an older man attempting to make Parks his live-in "buddy". It would be interesting to see how the film played with Inge's perspective kept intact. As is, it's still a more than passable piece of entertainment.
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