Warner aims for the heart with DVD romance classics
In the early 1960s, Troy Donahue was one of the reigning heartthrobs of the movies. He never wowed critics, but he attracted plenty of fans with his blond hair, blue eyes, boyish charm and laid-back personality.
Donahue is the star of all four films in the "Warner Bros. Romance Classics Collection" ($39.92), released on DVD along with five other titles from the studio in anticipation of Valentine's Day.
"Rome Adventure" (1962) is about falling in love (not in lust) and unfolds against the splendid structures of Rome and the gorgeous Italian countryside. Suzanne Pleshette, in her first starring role, plays Prudence Bell, who ditches her teaching job at a stuffy girls' school and sets sails for Italy, where she hopes to find romance.
Once in Rome, she lands a job at a bookstore and meets fellow American Don Porter (Donahue) and love soon blossoms. Also in the cast are Angie Dickinson, Rossano Brazzi, Constance Ford and trumpeter Al Hirt. The song "Al di La" became a hit on the pop charts. "Rome Adventure" is for anyone who has experienced true love; the kind that causes your heart to skip a beat just at the thought of him or her. A terrific piece of escapism.
The film is deftly directed by Delmer Daves and features a lush, unforgettable music score by the legendary Max Steiner. Although Daves is best known for his Westerns - including the original "3:10 to Yuma" - he again demonstrates his ability to expertly handle a variety of genres.
"Parrish" (1961) has Donahue playing Parrish McLean, who moves to Connecticut with his mother Ellen (Claudette Colbert in her final film) when she foes to work for widower Sala Post (Dean Jagger). Her job is to help tame Post's college-age daughter Alison (Diane McBain). Post is a tobacco grower and is a thorn in the side of bully Judd Raike (Karl Malden), who wants to control all of the tobacco land in the area.
Parrish goes to work in the tobacco fields in an attempt to learn the business. Along the way, he has romantic encounters with Alison, field worker Lucy (Connie Stevens) and Raike's daughter Evaline (Saundra Edwards). Which one will win his hand? Parrish eventually finds himself at odds with Raike after the tycoon marries his mother. There are plenty of twists and turns in the story. Daves does the directing and Steiner again chips in with a sterling score. It's an entertaining film from start to finish.
"Susan Slade" (1961): This is another with Daves at the helm and Steiner providing the music. Connie Steven plays the title character who, as a teenager, has a baby out of wedlock after his father is killed in an accident. Her parents (Lloyd Nolan and Dorothy McGuire) offer to pass the infant off as their own. When Susan is romantically pursued by Hoyt Becker (Donahue) and Wells Corbett (Bert Convy), she must choose between the two and also decide if she should tell them about her child. It all makes for a grand soap opera.
"Palm Springs Weekend" (1963), with no Daves and Steiner on hand, is the lesser of the four films in the collection. Still, if you're a fan of the college spring-break movies of the 1960s, you'll probably enjoy this one. The cast is headed by Donahue, Connie Stevens, Robert Conrad, Stefanie Powers, Ty Hardin and Andrew Duggan. Donahue actually sings "Live Young" during the credits. The movie was written by Earl Hamner Jr., who went on to create "The Waltons" for television.
The other romantic releases, each priced at $19.97:
"Waterloo Bridge" (1940): Have some tissues handy because this one will tug at your heartstrings, During a World War I air raid in London, Roy (Robert Taylor) and Myra (Vivien Leigh) meet and fall in love. They plan to be married but before that can happen, Roy is called away to the front. A few weeks later, Myra reads in a newspaper that Roy has been killed in action. She is devastated and soon turns to prostitution. What she doesn't know is that the report was erroneous and Roy is still alive.
"The Yellow Rolls-Royce" (1964): Three distinctly different stories are tied together as a Rolls-Royce passes from owner to owner. The cast alone makes it worth watching. Starring in the film are Ingrid Bergman, Rex Harrison George C. Scott, Shirley MacLaine, Jeanne Moreau, Omar Shariff, Alain Delon, Art Carney and Wally Cox.
"Far From the Madding Crowd" (1967): Based on Thomas Hardy's 19th century novel, this lavishly produced film stars Julie Christie as the passionate Bathsheba Everdene, who has romances with three men; a soldier (Terence Stamp), a successful (i.e. rich) man (Peter Finch) and a sheep franer (Alan Bates). Beautifully photographed.
"Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (1969): Peter O'Toole plays the title character; an unemotional school teacher who eventually discovers the joys of life thanks in part to the influence of Katherine Bridges (Petula Clark). This musical version of James Hilton's novel should delight many. Still, it's several notches below the 1939 non-musical version starring Robert Donat, who won an Oscar for his performance
"Cannery Row" (1982): Based on the works of John Steinbeck, this film unfolds in Monterey, Calif., where marine biologist Doc (Nike Nolte) becomes involved with a carefree drifter named Suzy (Debra Winger). Their off-beat romance unfolds in a village populated by boozers, down-and-outers and hookers.