At first glance, it appears to be something of a low-budget, watered-down version of "Peyton Place" (another book and film that I happen to love), but this effort is more intimate, providing a closer look at the main characters, and their home lives. Filmed in black and white CinemaScope, it was based on a play entitled "Teach Me To Cry" by Patricia Joudry. Ross Hunter immediately envisioned it as a vehicle for his latest discovery, Sandra Dee. Dee, a former child model, had done a screen test with John Saxon, a young actor who was rising in popularity after his break-through role as a troubled youth in "The Unguarded Moment" (1956). Before appearing in this film, Dee was first loaned to MGM for "Until They Sail" (1957), opposite Paul Newman, Joan Fontaine, Jean Simmons and Piper Laurie.
|Sandra Dee as Melinda Grant|
|John Saxon as Will Henderson|
Will is also on the outside looking in at school; he's ignored and ridiculed by Bruce Mitchell (Jody McCrea) and Polly Fisher (Luana Patten), two of the popular kids who also make a point of tormenting Melinda for her illegitimacy. At a school dance, Will and Melinda catch each other's eye and decide to go for a walk, but Will notices that Melinda is somewhat evasive, especially when he mentions the bandstand. Later, as Will is driving Melinda home, Bruce Mitchell and his friends attempt to run them off the road.
|Luana Patten and Jody McCrea as Polly Fisher and Bruce Mitchell|
|James Whitmore and Margaret Lindsay as Will's parents|
|Teresa Wright as Melinda's mother, the reclusive Elizabeth Grant|
|Will and Melinda rehearsing for the school play|
|The locker room confrontation on Parents' Night|
|Sandra Dee and Luana Patten taking a break during filming|
Luana Patten turns in a very good performance as Polly, who conceals her own personal pain behind a snobby, vindictive front. Patten was a child actress who began in Disney films, but progressed to playing love interests in Westerns, dramas and rock 'n' roll films - in 1956 she appeared alongside John Saxon and Sal Mineo in the low-budget "Rock, Pretty Baby". By 1970, she had retired, and like Sandra Dee, she died at a relatively young age, from respiratory failure in 1996.
|Sandra Dee and John Saxon|
|Melinda wonders why her tormentors decide to be nice to her|
|"Kiss me once, before it's too late"|
Of course, it can also be argued that it is a product of its era, but that's also part of its charm. There didn't have to be outstanding special effects, foul language, extreme violence or explicit sex scenes to get the point across. That's the beauty of this type of film, the kind that just is not made anymore. Times have changed, but emotions and love haven't. There will always be people who appreciate films like this, and the studios should really restore these movies and release them.
|Young love blossoms on the bandstand|
Having said that, I'm grateful that it has been given an official release; perhaps one day it will be available in a restored format on DVD. It's long overdue and it deserves that much, especially for fans of Sandra Dee and John Saxon.
|The special dynamic between these two actors lights up the screen|
|John Saxon, Sandra Dee and director Helmut Kaunter|