Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Parrish: Our Choice for the Classic Comfort Movie Blogathon

Troy Donahue as Parrish.
A "comfort movie" is like a good friend who is always a welcomed visitor, no matter how long it's been since you seen him or her. It's fun to share familiar characters, plots, and settings and remember how one felt when that movie first became your chum. That's certainly the case with Parrish (1961), which I first saw on TNT in the early 1990s.

I think I inherited an enjoyment of big-screen soaps from my mother. Make no mistake, Parrish is unabashedly a soap, but don't let that sway you from watching this opus about young Parrish McLean (Troy Donahue) and the four women in his life. The first of those is his mother Ellen, who has perhaps kept her son too close in the ten years following her husband's death. That changes when Ellen (Claudette Colbert) takes a job as a chaperone for the daughter of Connecticut tobacco farmer Sala Post (Dean Jagger).

Diane McBain as Alison.
Parrish winds up working for Sala and quickly falls for Lucy (Connie Stevens), one of his fellow crop workers. Lucy has the hots for Parrish, too, but is reluctantly seeing someone else. However, what  really cools their passion is the arrival of Sala's debutante daughter Alison (Diane McBain). She wants three things in life: wealth, fun, and Parrish. 

Meanwhile, Ellen is being wooed by Sala's tobacco rival Judd Raike (Karl Malden). Judd is a ruthless, powerful man, but he genuinely cares for Ellen and, as she admits to her son, Judd's fortune is an attraction, too. While the Raike sons, wimpy Wiley and hateful Edgar, make quick enemies of Parrish, Judd's teenage daughter Paige develops a crush on him. 

Who will Parrish end up with? The passionate Lucy, the sultry Alison, or the sweet Paige? Or none of the above?

Troy Donahue and Connie Stevens.
Parrish is a faithful adaptation of Mildred Savage's 1958 bestseller. According to Diane McBain's autobiography, Warner Bros. originally purchased the film rights for director Joshua Logan (Picnic). Logan wanted Vivien Leigh as Ellen and Clark Gable as Judd. He also screen tested Warren Beatty for the lead role. McBain says that Logan rejected the first draft of the screenplay and he was replaced by Delmer Daves. The latter was coming off A Summer Place, a big hit which shared a lot in common with Parrish (e.g., parents experiencing romance as well as the youths, star Troy Donahue).

I can't imagine a more appropriate cast than the one assembled by Daves. Troy Donahue certainly lacks Beatty's dramatic chops, but he brings sincerity and naivety to the lead role. Colbert (in her final film appearance) and Jagger add a nice touch of class.

Malden looking intense as Judd.
But the film belongs to Karl Malden and the young actresses who play Parrish's loves. Malden is delightfully over-the-top as Raike and makes him the most demanding movie boss this side of Everett Sloane in Patterns. Connie Stevens shines as the vulnerable, free-spirited Lucy, her performance earning her the lead in another Daves-Donahue collaboration Susan Slade (1961). Diane McBain smolders as Alison, although she was subsequently typecast as the bad girl in films like Claudelle Inglish (1961). (Interestingly, McBain claims there was a bit of a rift on the set between the young performers and the older ones.)

Actress Susan Hugueny, who played Paige, met producer Robert Evans (Chinatown) while making Parrish. She was 17 and he was 30, but they were married (though it was short-lived). It was the first of seven marriages for Evans, who once described Hugueny as "so pure I felt guilty kissing her."

Susan Hugueny as Paige.
In addition to the cast, Parrish's other virtues are its colorful outdoor photography (a staple of Daves' latter films) and another fabulous score from frequent Daves' collaborator Max Steiner. The famed composer includes separate themes for each of the four female characters, with my favorite being the lilting melody for Paige.

I saved one of the most fascinating facts about Parrish for last. Hampton Fancher, who played Edgar, was relegated to TV guest star roles for much of his career. In 1982, though, he tried his hand as a screenwriter and adapted Blade Runner. He also penned the story and co-wrote the script for Blade Runner 2049 (2017). As always, should this knowledge net you a large cash prize on Jeopardy!, be sure to show your gratitude to the Cafe.

Click here to check out the rest of the awesome schedule the Classic Comfort Movie Blogathon in support of National Classic Movie Day.


  1. Oh, there's nothing like wrapping yourself up in the arms of a faithful and familiar soap. The Best of Everything and Madame X can do it for me. The hubby loves to cuss at Connie Ford in A Summer Place.

    The outdoor/farm locations in Parrish take me away to a world I'll never know and that's one of the grand things about movies.

    Thanks for National Classic Movie Day, and for the blogathon.

  2. I love “Parrish” with the billowing white tents covering the shade tobacco plants, the score (especially Paige’s theme), and the angst of youth. The characters are well defined and the viewers follow along as if they are turning pages with the characters as their stories unfold. This is an excellent choice for a comfort film. Happy National Classic Movie Day, Rick!

  3. I haven't seen this but you make it sound very intriguing Rick. The cast is great as you state, anchored by Malden,and with Connie Stevens, Claudette Colbert and Troy Donohue. Delmer Daves is a very good director too, and Fancher's name pops out to Blade Runner fans. Thanks for this selection and sponsoring the NCMD and Comfort Movie Day Blogathon Rick.

  4. Oh gosh - did this post bring back memories. I remember clipping photos of this film out of movie magazines. Soap and nostalgia are a real recipe for comfort. Great post. And many thank for hosting this awesome blogathon.

  5. This sounds like a tremendously enjoyable film. I do appreciate a good soap opera, especially if it packs some emotional depth. I do like Delmer Daves (3:10 to Yuma comes to mind), so I can imagine his talents were well used here. Thanks for highlighting this film and hosting the blogathon!

  6. I am not much for soaps, but I remember how big Troy D. was in the teen fan magazines of the day. Diane McBain was a beauty. I remember her from all those Warner TV shows (Surfside 6, 77 Sunset Strip, etc.)back in the day,

  7. Wow – that really is interesting re: Hampton Fancher. If I win the "Daily Double" with that info, Rick, half of it goes to you.

    I'm not much of a soap person, but I was so caught up in all the relationships that I HAVE to know how it all ends! Plus, Delmer Daves always seems to make a good film.

  8. Soap opera sort of movies aren't really my thing, but if you like those, tough to beat "Magnificent Obsession". I watch it a little more for laughs than the story, it's so sincere it's kind of amusing.