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Tammy Tell Me True

Tammy Tell Me True(1961)

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teaser Tammy Tell Me True (1961)

Based on a novel by Mississippi-born writer Cid Ricketts Sumner about a smart but unschooled bayou backwoods teenager, the 1957 movie Tammy and the Bachelor starring Debbie Reynolds got off to a slow start, but eventually found box office success thanks to Reynolds's hit record of the title song. By the time Universal Studios got around to making a sequel four years later, Reynolds was pushing 30, the mother of two, and a big star with a very busy film career. Fortunately, Universal had a cute-as-a-button blond starlet under contract, ready to step into Tammy's jeans for Tammy Tell Me True.

Sandra Dee was a former teen model whose movie career was booming. She had become a major box office star in 1959 with two hits, Gidget and A Summer Place. Producer Ross Hunter of Universal box-office successes such as the romantic comedy Pillow Talk (1959) and the tearjerker Imitation of Life (1959), all of them slick, glossy and glamorous. Tammy Tell Me True was more homespun than those films, but Dee as Tammy was just as appealing as Reynolds in the title role. She even gamely warbled a new title song in a sweet, untrained voice, although it was not as memorable as the original.

In Tammy Tell Me True, the plucky heroine is pining for her boyfriend, who is away at college and not answering her letters. She meets a handsome professor, played by the astonishingly wooden John Gavin, who falls for her and persuades her to pursue her own college education, while she continues to live aboard her houseboat, along with her pet goat. The animal isn't her only companion. Tammy takes in Mrs. Call (the wonderful Beulah Bondi), an unhappy elderly woman, and helps her defeat a scheming relative who wants to have Mrs. Call declared incompetent. It's all charming and predictable, and Tammy Tell Me True was successful enough that Dee starred in one more Tammy movie, Tammy and the Doctor (1963). In 1965, the Tammy character was revived in a television series that starred Debbie Watson and lasted one season. Four of the TV episodes were stitched together and released as a feature film in 1967, Tammy and the Millionaire.

The author of the original "Tammy" story, Cid Ricketts Sumner, wrote two more Tammy books, so it's surprising to learn that her first novel tackled a more serious subject. Published in 1946, Quality was about a light-skinned black woman who passes for white, and was made into the acclaimed 1949 film, Pinky.

At least one major critic was surprisingly kind to Tammy Tell Me True. Howard Thompson of the New York Times called the film "exactly what might be expected--a wholesome, sentimental and utterly harmless little family comedy," and even "a mite perkier than its predecessor."

The film careers of Tammy Tell Me True's producer and stars declined as the turmoil of the 1960s rendered sweet, simplistic films and Ross Hunter's glamorous melodramas obsolete by decade's end. Hunter found his footing producing television movies and miniseries. John Gavin honed his political skills as president of the Screen Actors Guild and then turned to real-world politics, where his good looks, stiff demeanor, and friendship with President Ronald Reagan served him well. Gavin served for five years as Ambassador to Mexico, and later had a very successful business career. Look for a future television star making her feature film debut Tammy Tell Me True as one of Tammy's fellow coeds. Billed in the credits as "Taffy Paul," that's Stefanie Powers in a brief appearance in a classroom scene. She went on to fame as TV's The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. and as Jennifer Hart in the long-running Hart to Hart series, as well as in many guest appearances in other shows.

Sandra Dee, however, was never able to equal her early success. By the early 1970s, she was making only occasional appearances in television series and movies as her physical and emotional health declined. She suffered from anorexia, depression and alcoholism, and died in 2005 at the age of 62.

Director: Harry Keller
Producer: Ross Hunter
Screenplay: Oscar Brodney
Cinematography: Clifford Stein
Editor: Otto Ludwig
Art Direction: Alexander Golitzen
Music: Percy Faith
Principal Cast: Sandra Dee (Tammy Tyree), John Gavin (Tom Freeman), Beulah Bondi (Mrs. Call), Virginia Grey (Miss Jenks), Charles Drake (Buford Woodley), Julia Meade (Suzanne Rook), Cecil Kellaway (Captain Joe), Edgar Buchanan (Judge Carver), Gigi Perreau (Rita), Juanita Moore (Della)
97 minutes

by Margarita Landazuri

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