directed by: Richard Thorpe
Ah, back to familiar turf. Debbie movie #12 of 37. Well, Ladies and Gentleman, I think we’ve found Debbie’s peak. Because The Tender Trap (see earlier review) was made a year later and the only movie between this and Athena was Hit the Deck, which was more of an ensemble musical movie, I think it’s safe to make the assumption we’ve found the apex. So yes, it’s safe to assume that I enjoyed this movie. Rather, I enjoyed Debbie’s performance in this, mainly because she doesn’t actually play the titular character Athena and isn’t the main focus of the film. Which I kind of actually enjoyed. Because plot wise, this movie was on thin ice the entire time; but more on that later.
Okay, so let’s run run run through it. Athena is one of 6, err, 7 sisters who live with and are under the tutelage of their grandparents. What happened to the parents? Never appeared nor mentioned. Minor unnerving point about the movie, but still. Okay, so the movie starts out, after a weird theater/TV stage musical number with Vic Damone, as a gardening movie! and I’m like this is going to be the best movie ever! but it was only a scene to get Athena (Jane Powell) and Adam (Edmund Purdom) to meet. I’ve never yet met anyone at a nursery. But it’s nice to know it happens, well, at least it happens in the movies. Probably should include that scene in the screenplay I’m never going to write. Now Jane Powell was good in this, good singer, good emotions, but more a girl for a man who prefers blondes. Debbie doesn’t arrive til about 20 minutes in. But they set up her first scene perfectly, and from the start, it’s assumed she’s going to be the love interest for Vic. I liked their pairing, it worked, (He was 26, and she was 22). Hey, I’m 26 ! Alright, I’ll stop throwing myself into this movie.
So plot wise, it’s pretty bizarre, at least for the 50’s I’m sure. Basically the grandparents are like Greek hippie/vegan/yoga/exercise nuts before there was really such a thing. So everyone they come into contact with thinks they’re absolutely bizarre. When ironically, they would fit right into LA today. I don’t want to make it sound like this was a bad thing, because they were honestly just a genuinely nice carefree “family”, and really tried to hammer out everyone else in the movie as snobs. Speaking of which, the straight-laced Adam (who is basically a Cary Grant knock-off) is a lawyer with political aspirations. He’s got the hot, dull fiance. He’s got the overtly racist caricature Japanese butler. And I don’t want to ruin the movie for you, but oh what the hell. He throws it all away and lives happily ever after with Athena! Didn’t see that coming, did we? Debbie shines in the scenes she’s in, definitely taking them away from anyone else. Great dresses; great outfits; great singing; great, great, great.
Oh and there’s a Mr. Universe pageant in it for some reason.
Underrated Actors: Vic Damone as Johnny Nyle. One last thing, there’s absolutely no reason for this guy to be in the movie. None of his dialogue or plot points make sense or get resolved. Just a blatant excuse for him to sing in a movie. The man made gold records.