Blue Denim


1h 29m 1959
Blue Denim

Brief Synopsis

A teenage girl gets pregnant by her boyfriend and together they decide to get an abortion. Their parents find out and try to convince them to marry and keep the child.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Jul 1959
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Blue Denim by James Leo Herlihy and William Noble (New York, 27 Feb 1958).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 29m
Sound
Stereo (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Arthur Bartley, a sensitive adolescent, comes home from school one day to find that his father Malcolm has put his beloved dog to sleep. Malcolm, a former Army major, treats his son like one of his enlistees, thus alienating the boy. As Arthur and his father clash, Lillian, Arthur's sister, blissfully readies for her wedding to dentist Axel Sorenson. That night, Arthur's smart aleck friend Ernie comes to the house, and using the pretense that they have to study, the boys disappear into the cellar, where they play poker and drink beer. Ernie, feigning an aura of sophistication, boasts that he has arranged for a friend to get an abortion. Soon after, Janet Willard, an earnest young girl who has a crush on Arthur, comes to the cellar to ask Ernie to forge her father's signature on an absentee excuse from school. After Ernie leaves, Janet flatters Arthur into kissing her. Upon returning home, Janet rebels when her father, Professor Jim Willard, compares her to his angelic late wife. Janet worries that her erudite father will intimidate her friends with his aloof, intellectual demeanor. Later, at a school basketball game, Janet watches Arthur with adoring eyes as he plays with the team. Janet waits for Arthur after the game, and when he offers to walk her home, she asks if they can go steady. Janet then confides that she is a virgin and asks Arthur if he has ever had sex. At first Arthur claims that he is sexually experienced, but then confesses that he is a virgin, too. They laugh at their response, then embrace and make love. Some months later at the school dance, Janet moodily runs off to the library, and when Arthur follows, he finds her studying a book about pregnancy. When Janet insists on hiding her condition from her father, they decide to apply for a marriage license, but are turned away because they are underage. As Janet becomes more despondent, Arthur asks Ernie to arrange for an abortion. When Ernie denounces abortion as murder, Arthur, provoked, attacks him, and Ernie admits that he was bluffing about knowing an abortionist. Desperate, Arthur begs Ernie for help and together they locate a soda jerk who offers to arrange an abortion for $150. After selling their possessions, the boys are short $90. Still opposed to the idea of an abortion, Ernie admonishes Arthur to marry Janet, but Arthur protests that he is not ready to rear a child. Ernie finally convinces Arthur to tell his parents about the baby, but when he tries to raise the issue with his mother Jessie, she is so engrossed with Lillian's wedding that she misunderstands and thinks that he is asking for advice about sex. Arthur next turns to his father, who is so preoccupied with the cost of the wedding that he refuses to let Arthur speak and instead advises him to enlist in the Army, where his financial future will be assured. Desperate, Arthur steals a blank check from his father and has Ernie forge the major's signature. After the wedding, Lillian and Axel leave for their honeymoon while Janet anxiously awaits the car that will take her to the abortionist. When the vehicle arrives, Janet begs Arthur to cancel the abortion. She then resolutely climbs in and drives away, and Ernie chastises Arthur for lacking the courage to tell his parents the truth. When the banker presents Malcolm with the forged check, Malcolm confronts Arthur, who breaks into hysterics. Alarmed, Malcolm shows concern and Arthur finally tells him about the abortion. After eliciting the location of the abortionist from the soda jerk, Malcolm, Professor Willard and Arthur speed to the doctor's office, arriving just in time to prevent the operation. They take the sedated Janet home, where Professor Willard and the Bartleys engage in self-recrimination. Realizing that they failed Arthur when he turned to them for help, the Bartleys worry that fatherhood will severely curtail their son's future. After Professor Willard vows to abide by his daughter's wishes, Janet awakens and declares that she initiated the sexual relationship and therefore Arthur should not be held responsible. Soon after, Arthur learns that Janet has left town to stay with an aunt while awaiting the delivery of their baby. Stricken with a new sense of responsibility, Arthur decides to meet Janet's train at its next stop and marry her. With his father's blessings, Arthur hurries to the station, and when the train stops, Janet looks up and is overjoyed to see Arthur.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Jul 1959
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Blue Denim by James Leo Herlihy and William Noble (New York, 27 Feb 1958).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 29m
Sound
Stereo (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Blue Denim -


Throughout the 1950s, Hollywood churned out countless melodramatic films, giving audiences what they wanted: the idyllic post-war suburban family thrown into dramatic chaos. While many of these movies are viewed today as over-the-top or campy, they were groundbreaking for the time because they frequently addressed taboo subjects such as extramarital affairs, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, abortion and divorce.

In 1958, writer James Leo Herlihy’s play Blue Denim addressed the issue of teenage pregnancy and abortion, a practice that was illegal and quite dangerous at the time. The play debuted at the Playhouse Theatre on Broadway, directed by Joshua Logan and starring Carol Lynley. The play was a modest success, prompting 20th Century-Fox to purchase the rights to Herlihy’s story. With an adapted screenplay by writer and director Philip Dunne and Edith Sommer, and star Carol Lynley reprising her role, Blue Denim was released the following year in 1959.

Lynley is Janet Willard, a 15-year-old high school student living in Michigan. Janet falls in love with one of her classmates, Arthur (played by Brandon De Wilde). As their relationship becomes more serious, Janet discovers that she’s pregnant and despite their feelings for one another, Janet and Arthur realize they are too young and unprepared for the consequences of their actions. Afraid to seek help from his parents, Arthur, with the help of his and Janet’s friend Ernie (played by Warren Berlinger, who reprises his stage role), finds a way to raise money for Janet to get an abortion.

While Herlihy’s play clearly addresses Janet’s predicament and her subsequent abortion, the Production Code was clear in its condemnation of any depiction of the then-illegal act, or any seemingly consequence-free sexual activity outside of a traditional marriage. With this already-taboo subject clearly forbidden, writers Philip Dunne and Edith Sommer wanted to stay as true as possible to Herlihy’s original story, while slightly altering the outcome to satisfy the demands of the Production Code. Blue Denim pushed the limits of the Production Code, as well as the average American’s moral and ethical standards, by giving details on what it was like to get an abortion in 1959. According to director Allison Anders, Blue Denim is significant because it “gives teenagers the dignity of their problems.”

Blue Denim was quite controversial upon its release, prompting boycotts and religious leaders marking it as a forbidden film. For her performance as the tragic Janet Willard, Carol Lynley was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Following her film debut in Walt Disney’s The Light in the Forest (1958), Lynley was signed to a contract with 20th Century-Fox, starring in her first film for the studio, Holiday for Lovers (1959). After her performance later that year in Blue Denim, Lynley starred in several more films for the studio and on loan-out to Columbia Pictures, including Return to Peyton Place (1961), Under the Yum Yum Tree (1963) co-starring Jack Lemmon, Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965) and the star-studded disaster flick The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Lynley also worked steadily in television for over 30 years, including appearances on The Virginian in 1962, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in 1967, The Big Valley in 1968 and several episodes of Fantasy Island from 1977-1984.

Brandon De Wilde first got his start on Broadway in the hugely successful production of The Member of the Wedding in 1950, earning critical praise for his performance. De Wilde reprised his role from that play for the film adaption in 1952. In 1953, De Wilde starred as the young Joey Starrett in George Stevens’s Western Shane, starring Jean Arthur, Alan Ladd and Van Heflin. For his performance, De Wilde was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Despite the trappings of childhood stardom, De Wilde worked steadily in both film and television until his untimely death in 1972 at the age of 30.

Director: Philip Dunne
Producer: Charles Brackett
Screenplay: Philip Dunne and Edith Sommer
Cinematography: Leo Tover
Editing: William H. Reynolds
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Cast: Carol Lynley (Janet Willard), Brandon De Wilde (Arthur Bartley), Macdonald Carey (Major Malcolm Bartley), Marsha Hunt (Jessie Bartley), Warren Berlinger (Ernie), Buck Class (Axel Sorenson), Nina Shipman (Lillian Bartley), Vaughn Taylor (Professor Willard), Roberta Shore (Cherie) and Mary Young (Aunt Bidda).
BW-89m.

References:
Allison Anders on Blue Denim for Trailers From hell

By Jill Blake
Blue Denim -

Blue Denim -

Throughout the 1950s, Hollywood churned out countless melodramatic films, giving audiences what they wanted: the idyllic post-war suburban family thrown into dramatic chaos. While many of these movies are viewed today as over-the-top or campy, they were groundbreaking for the time because they frequently addressed taboo subjects such as extramarital affairs, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, abortion and divorce. In 1958, writer James Leo Herlihy’s play Blue Denim addressed the issue of teenage pregnancy and abortion, a practice that was illegal and quite dangerous at the time. The play debuted at the Playhouse Theatre on Broadway, directed by Joshua Logan and starring Carol Lynley. The play was a modest success, prompting 20th Century-Fox to purchase the rights to Herlihy’s story. With an adapted screenplay by writer and director Philip Dunne and Edith Sommer, and star Carol Lynley reprising her role, Blue Denim was released the following year in 1959. Lynley is Janet Willard, a 15-year-old high school student living in Michigan. Janet falls in love with one of her classmates, Arthur (played by Brandon De Wilde). As their relationship becomes more serious, Janet discovers that she’s pregnant and despite their feelings for one another, Janet and Arthur realize they are too young and unprepared for the consequences of their actions. Afraid to seek help from his parents, Arthur, with the help of his and Janet’s friend Ernie (played by Warren Berlinger, who reprises his stage role), finds a way to raise money for Janet to get an abortion. While Herlihy’s play clearly addresses Janet’s predicament and her subsequent abortion, the Production Code was clear in its condemnation of any depiction of the then-illegal act, or any seemingly consequence-free sexual activity outside of a traditional marriage. With this already-taboo subject clearly forbidden, writers Philip Dunne and Edith Sommer wanted to stay as true as possible to Herlihy’s original story, while slightly altering the outcome to satisfy the demands of the Production Code. Blue Denim pushed the limits of the Production Code, as well as the average American’s moral and ethical standards, by giving details on what it was like to get an abortion in 1959. According to director Allison Anders, Blue Denim is significant because it “gives teenagers the dignity of their problems.” Blue Denim was quite controversial upon its release, prompting boycotts and religious leaders marking it as a forbidden film. For her performance as the tragic Janet Willard, Carol Lynley was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Following her film debut in Walt Disney’s The Light in the Forest (1958), Lynley was signed to a contract with 20th Century-Fox, starring in her first film for the studio, Holiday for Lovers (1959). After her performance later that year in Blue Denim, Lynley starred in several more films for the studio and on loan-out to Columbia Pictures, including Return to Peyton Place (1961), Under the Yum Yum Tree (1963) co-starring Jack Lemmon, Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965) and the star-studded disaster flick The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Lynley also worked steadily in television for over 30 years, including appearances on The Virginian in 1962, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in 1967, The Big Valley in 1968 and several episodes of Fantasy Island from 1977-1984. Brandon De Wilde first got his start on Broadway in the hugely successful production of The Member of the Wedding in 1950, earning critical praise for his performance. De Wilde reprised his role from that play for the film adaption in 1952. In 1953, De Wilde starred as the young Joey Starrett in George Stevens’s Western Shane, starring Jean Arthur, Alan Ladd and Van Heflin. For his performance, De Wilde was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Despite the trappings of childhood stardom, De Wilde worked steadily in both film and television until his untimely death in 1972 at the age of 30. Director: Philip Dunne Producer: Charles Brackett Screenplay: Philip Dunne and Edith Sommer Cinematography: Leo Tover Editing: William H. Reynolds Music: Bernard Herrmann Cast: Carol Lynley (Janet Willard), Brandon De Wilde (Arthur Bartley), Macdonald Carey (Major Malcolm Bartley), Marsha Hunt (Jessie Bartley), Warren Berlinger (Ernie), Buck Class (Axel Sorenson), Nina Shipman (Lillian Bartley), Vaughn Taylor (Professor Willard), Roberta Shore (Cherie) and Mary Young (Aunt Bidda). BW-89m. References: Allison Anders on Blue Denim for Trailers From hell By Jill Blake

Quotes

Trivia

This originally began as a Broadway play in 1958 written by "Midnight Cowboy" author James Leo Herlihy

Notes

The film opens with the following written quote: "Youth is like spring, an over-praised season. Samuel Butler." According to a Hollywood Reporter news item in August 1958, Dick Powell was to take over the production reins from Henry Ephron. Only Charles Brackett is credited onscreen as producer, however. At that time, Ray Stricklyn tested for the part of "Arthur." An April 1958 Los Angeles Examiner news item adds that Diane Varsi, Hope Lange and Lee Remick were considered for the role of "Janet." Although a Hollywood Reporter production chart places Malcolm Atterbury in the cast, his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
       Carol Lynley and Warren Berlinger reprised their roles from the Broadway production of James Leo Herlihy and William Noble's play. According to the Variety review, in the play, Janet goes through with the abortion. In an August 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, producer Charles Brackett stated that he decided to eliminate the abortion because it would have made the story more anecdotal than dramatic, and that the PCA played no role in his decision. Although a September 1960 Los Angeles Examiner news item states that Twentieth Century-Fox considered producing a sequel entitled Blue Denim Baby, that picture was never made.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1959

CinemaScope

Released in United States 1959