Plot: As his sister’s nuptials approach, teen Arthur (Brandon de Wilde) is having a romance of his own with his beautiful girlfriend Janet (Carol Lynley), just a couple of typical teens in a whirlwind courtship. The two have a good connection and while she wishes he wouldn’t bluster in front of his friends, Janet is happy with Arthur and has a lot of faith in him. That faith is soon to be tested however, as Janet learns she is now pregnant and Arthur is in shock, desperate to tell his parents, but scared of what will happen if he does. The two have few options in a straight laced community that won’t take kindly to a pregnant teenager, but will the young lovers find some kind of solution that doesn’t drive them apart?
Entertainment Value: Blue Denim has a familiar premise, as two teens try to cope with the realities of an unexpected pregnancy, but few movies from this period would handle it with such a grounded, open minded approach. A lot of similar films tend to take a juvenile delinquent style view, even if the teens are “good kids” at first, they often fall into wayward habits. In Blue Denim, the movie plays out in a more natural style that shows how the teens are in way over their heads, but doesn’t judge them for what happened or how they handle things in the wake of the news. Also while the film centers on Arthur and Janet’s situation, the movie also weaves in the dynamics of both families and how those relationships influence how the narrative unfolds. Arthur’s internal struggles to reach out to his parents, especially his father, while Janet almost seems relieved at times, perhaps close to an escape from her father’s side. The topic of abortion is also prominent here, even if the film never mentions the word, it never tries to hide it otherwise. I appreciated the restrained, thoughtful approach to such controversial material and certainly recommend Blue Denim.
As I said before, the movie takes a more reserved approach to the concept, which allows the cast to shine in skilled, natural performances. Brandon de Wilde is the main force that drives the movie, with a presence that blends that youthful kind of naive with an overwhelmed sense of inevitable adulthood. He shines in the late scenes when he is at risk of losing his love, but de Wilde is rock solid throughout. The chemistry between he and Carol Lynley has a sweet, innocent texture, despite the situation. Lynley has a bright presence here and handles the material well, whether she is asked to be light and brisk, or deal with darker moments. I also really like Macdonald Carey as the no nonsense dad of Arthur, especially in the scene where he discovers the truth, after a tense exchange that he really nails. The cast also includes Marsha Hunt, Warren Berlinger, and Vaughn Taylor.
The Disc: Twilight Time offers a super clean, very crisp treatment for this black & white movie, which gives us a lot more fine detail than I expected. The print looks so clean, it is almost like a brand new movie here. The contrast is spot on as well, with deep blacks and sharp, distinct shadows. The extras includes an isolated score (from Bernard Hermann no less) and the film’s trailer.