Film Review: Susan Slade (dir by Delmer Daves)

Shortly after this 1961 film begins, 17 year-old Susan Slade (Connie Stevens) announces, “We’ve been sinful!”

She’s talking to her first lover, Conn White (Grant Williams).  You would think that anyone — even someone as unbelievably naive and innocent as Susan Slade — would know better than to ever trust someone named Conn White but no.  From the minute that Conn and Susan met on an ocean liner heading from South America to California, it was love at first sight.  In fact, Susan was so sure of her love that she spent the night in Conn’s cabin, fully knowing that it would mean surrendering her status as an Eisenhower era good girl.

Conn laughs off her concerns about sin.  He also tells her that it makes perfect sense for her not to tell her parents (played by Dorothy McGuire and Lloyd Nolan).  “When we’re married,” he asks, “are you going to tell your mother every time that we make love?”

Wow, Conn still wants to get married even though he’s already had sex with her!?  And he’s also extremely wealthy and stands to inherit control of a multinational corporation!  He sounds like the perfect guy!  Way to go, Susan!

Unfortunately, it turns out that Conn does have one flaw.  He really, really likes to go mountain climbing.  In fact, he’s planning on scaling fearsome old Mt. McKinley.  While Susan and her family settle into life in Monterey, California, Conn heads up to Alaska.  He promises Susan that he’ll keep in touch but, when she doesn’t hear from him, she fears the worse.  Has he abandoned her?  Was he lying when he said he wanted to get married?  Then one day, she gets a call from Conn’s father, informing her that Conn fell off the mountain and died.  Susan’s almost father-in-law tells her that Conn’s body cannot be retrieved from the mountain.  Though it’s neither confirmed nor denied by the film, I decided that this was because Conn faked his own death to get out of having to spend any more time listening to Susan talk about sin.

Anyway, Susan’s single again but, fortunately, she does not lack for suitors.  For instance, there’s the spoiled Wells Corbett (Bert Convy), who is kind of shallow and arrogant but who has a lot of money.  And then there’s Hoyt Brecker (played, in reliably vacuous style, by Troy Donahue), who is poor but honest and who is also an aspiring writer.  “Someday,” Susan declares,”they’ll say that Robert Louis Stevenson, Jack London, and Hoyt Brecker wrote here!”  Who will Susan chose?  The sensitive artist who loves her unconditionally or the arrogant rich boy who smirks his way through the whole film?

Complicating matters is the fact that Susan is …. pregnant!  That’s right, this is another one of those movies from the early 60s where having sex outside of marriage always leads to an unplanned pregnancy.  And, because this movie is from 1961, the only solution is for the Slades to move down to Guatemala for two years, just so they can fool the people on Monterey into believing that the baby is actually McGuire’s and that Susan Slade is not an unwed mother but is instead an overprotective older sister.  Will either of Susan’s two suitors be waiting for her when she and her family return to California?

Now, please don’t get me wrong.  I do understand that there’s a big difference between 1961 and 2019 and that there used to be a lot more scandal attached to sex outside of marriage and unwed pregnancy.  In fact, I guess that difference is really the only thing that makes Susan Slade interesting to a modern viewer.  As soon as we see that this film was directed by Delmer Daves (the poor man’s Douglas Sirk) and that it stars Troy Donahue, we know who poor Susan is going to end up with so it’s not like there’s any real surprises lurking in the film’s plot.  And none of the actors, though Connie Stevens sometimes to be trying, seems to be that invested in the film’s story.  Instead, Susan Slade is mostly useful of a time capsule of the time in which it was made, a time when sex outside of marriage was unironically “sinful” and the only possible punishment was either pregnancy, death, or both.  Indeed, Susan Slade is less concerned about the hypocrisy of a society that would force Susan to lie about her new “brother” and more about whether bland lunkhead Troy Donaue will still be willing to marry Susan even if she’s no longer eligible to wear white at their wedding.  The film seems to be asking, “After being sinful, can Susan Slade become a good girl again?”  As a movie, it’s fairly turgid but as a cultural artifact of a time in which everyone was obsessed with sex but no one was willing to talk about it, Susan Slade is occasionally fascinating.

Poor Susan Slade!  If only she had gotten pregnant in a 1971 film instead of one made in 1961, her story could have been so different.  But no, she was sinful in the early 60s and that means she’ll be have to settle for Troy Donahue.


Music Video of the Day: She’s Like The Wind, covered by Michael Spaulding (2013, dir by Michael Carroll)

Continuing yesterday’s Dirty Dancing theme, today’s music video of the day is for Michael Spaulding’s cover of She’s Like The Wind.  She’s Like The Wind was written and originally performed by Patrick Swayze and, while there’s official video for the original on YouTube, I think Spaulding’s cover serves as an acceptable substitute.


Music Video Of The Day: (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes (1987, dir by ????)

I watched Dirty Dancing last week so, needless to say, I’ve had this song stuck in my head ever since.

I’m going to guess that if you’re last name is Medley, you’re kinda required by law to become a singer.


Music Video Of The Day: David Bowie by Chloe MK (2019, dir by Hunter Airheart)

I miss David Bowie

I miss Prince

Today’s music video of the day is a tribute to dead artists, remembered dreams, past memories, and lost love.  That really is the way the think about music, isn’t it?  We don’t think about what a song has to say or any of that stuff.  Instead, we think about what we happening the first, second, or hundredth time that we heard it.  Music is all about emotion and that emotion is what runs through this video.


Music Video of the Day: Ride My Bike by Maude Latour (2019, dir by Tess Lafia)

To be honest, when I first heard this song, I assumed that “ride my bike” was a metaphor for something else and a part of my still suspects that it is.  I think it can be argued that a song ultimately means whatever the listener chooses it to mean.  That’s the collaboration between the artist and the consumer.  However, according to an interview that I just read, Maude Latour actually is singing about riding her bike in this song.

Well, okay.  That’s fine.  I have some issues with bicyclists, mostly because they always seem to get in front of me whenever I’m at a red light and I’m always worried that, when the light turns green, I’m going slam down on the accelerator and run them over before they have a chance to get out of the way.  That said, I do like to run and whenever I’m running, I feel the type of exhilaration that this song describes.

The music video, of course, leaves no doubt that the song is actually about a bike.  What I like about this video is that LaTour never stop riding and really, what better way is there to survive the end of the world?  Keep moving and don’t ask for directions.  Instead, draw your own map.  Create your own path.  That’s what I did and now, I’m very happy to say that it doesn’t even matter that I lost the map a few weeks ago.  I’m just going wherever.


Music Video of the Day: Make It Move by Penny Police (2019, dir by Penny Police)

This song and video are so optimistic that they almost feel like they should be played at a Marianne Williamson campaign rally.

Listen, we’ve all got a difficult week ahead of us and Monday is always the worst day.  So, my hope is that this music video and this song will help you get off to a good start!


Music Video Of The Day: Woodstock by Miya Folick (2017, dir by Sarah C. Prinz)

Since it’s the 50th anniversary of Woodstock right now, it seems appropriate to share this music video.

This is a cover of a song that Joni Mitchell wrote about the festival.  It’s a song that’s been covered by many different groups and, as is typical of the boomer folk music of the late 60s and early 70s, it’s a bit too self-serious for my taste.  That said, it’s definitely better than that Big Yellow Taxi song and Miya Folick brings a dream-like edge to her version of the song.  When you hear Folick’s version, it sounds like it’s possible that she’s being sarcastic when she sings about meeting a “child of God,” and that alone makes it better than most other versions of this song.