Susan Slade (1961)
Rome Adventure (1962)
Palm Springs Weekend (1963)
On first glance this set should perhaps have been titled the Troy Donahue collection, but perhaps since his star flamed out for the most part after Warners parted ways with the teen idol in 1966 we have the Romance Classics Collection. And although none of the four films included are classics on the lines of Casablanca they are harmless fun and very representative of the era in which they were made.
Parrish (1961) is probably the strongest film in the collection. Directed by Delmer Daves (as are two other films in this collection), Parrish takes the formula first created in A Summer Place and recreates it with only minor tweaking. Along with Donahue (starring as Parrish McLean), Parrish also stars Karl Malden, Connie Stevens (also in two more of these films), and Claudette Colbert- in her final onscreen appearance.
Parrish makes his way through a few of the local girls (literally) as he learns the ropes of the tobacco growing business, which for some reason is the setting here. Having learned the value of an honest day’s work, Troy heads off to the navy before returning to tie up loose ends.
The first half – even the first two-thirds is quite strong and holds the viewer’s attention without fail. The finale however is confused and we are left with a very abrupt ending which really leaves quite a bit of the story unresolved. Colbert’s character simply disappears.
Donahue himself is above average in this film as the strong supporting cast goes a long way to help him out. Max Steiner puts together a strong if unspectactular score- he also scored A Summer Place, the theme for which became a surprise hit. (Hopefully one can appreciate the formulaic methods here as many of the same folks reappear.)
Parrish is a fairly good film and is by roughly twenty minutes the longest of the four.
Susan Slade (1961) is somewhat of a welcome surprise addition to the set as it previously has not been available in any format – including VHS. In Slade Troy if anything plays second fiddle to Connie Stevens who has the title role. Stevens plays a young virginal woman who meets and gets pregnant by a fellow passenger on a cruise ship. To help disguise the parentage, her high society parents take on the newborn as their own.
Oh, and the father of the child is a professional mountain climber (!) who of course falls to his death. As Troy is only one of Slade’s potential love interests his weak acting is for the most part not a hindrance. The fact that the picture doesn’t revolve around Troy really strengthens the overall experience. Stevens seems adequate but there seems to be some humor (whether intentional or not) here – for example we actually hear the theme from A Summer Place– cookie cutter be damned!
Susan Slade is probably among the weaker of the films in this set but a new release is still a new release. Kudos to Warners for this one.
Rome Adventure (1962) is the final collaboration of Daves and Donahue. An out of work librarian (played by Suzanne Pleshette) heads to Italy where she falls in love with Don Porter (Troy Donahue). Along the way she is forced to win his heart from former love interest Lyda Kent (Angie Dickinson). This imaginary cat fight marks the height of action (and plot for that matter) as most of the film is spent looking at the fine sights of Italy. The only redeeming quality is the presence of Pleshette and Dickinson, who truly steal Troy’s film out from under him. I doubt he noticed.
The great trumpeter Al Hirt has a bit part which is nice to see and it is known that at least one of Troy’s co-starts here thought highly of him- Suzanne Pleshette became Mrs. Troy Donahue for a short time.
Palm Springs Weekend (1963) is the one film in this collection that almost doesn’t belong. It isn’t romantic at all and of course sports a different director – in this case Norman Taurog. Marketed to share some audience with Where the Boys Are (1960), Palm Springs Weekend really doesn’t belong with the other three films.
Weekend shows a basketball team on their way to Palm Springs for some innocent fun. There is a party, some of the boys fight, and most of the girls get picked up with some regularity. Nothing much of note happens. The cast looks good but most are visibly too old for their parts. (Did Jerry Van Dyke have his AARP card then?) The last reel tries to get a bit more serious but too little too late.
By far the weakest of the quartet.
As for the package itself- it’s okay, but nothing spectacular. Outside of the original theatrical trailers there are no extras and although additional features may have added some value the audience for these films probably doesn’t justify their inclusion.
If you are a fan of any of the key players – Donahue, Stevens, or director Delmer Davies you will want to grab this one. Also those that recall these films from original viewings in their youth may also want to check this set out- surely a great walk down memory lane. Be warned thoough – none of the films are available individually so if you really want Rome Adventure for example, you have to grab the other three as well.
The transfers are fairly clean and crisp and it looks like some very limited cleanup may have been done prior to transfer. Again, cost surely precluded a more extensive restoration. This is probably the best these films have looked since their original theatrical release- and is likely the best they will ever look.
None of these films could be called classics, but if one steps back and realizes the era in which they were filmed and the extremely limited talent of the star they become much better. They are all quite watchable with the exception of Palm Springs Weekend (which really is a train wreck) and if nothing else the portrayals of the parents are always hysterical.
Review copy provided by Warner Bros. Thanks!