Monday, December 14, 2015

Movie review - "Bernadine" (1957) **

The novelty of seeing Pat Boone in a leading role helped propel this musical to box office success, but it's not a very good movie.. although in the right hands, with decent treatment, it could have been. This wasn't director/writer/actor proof material in the way that, say, April Love was - this is coming of age, gentle teen stuff. It needed careful handling not songs shoved in and some uninspiring contract players.

This movie really Dick Sergeant's story as much as Boone's - they are two high school buddies who like to race boats and cars and have an imaginary dream girl called Bernadine. Sergeant rings up a girl at random and decides she's Bernadine - it's Terry Moore. The "plot" has Sergent's moter (Janet Gaynor!) be so annoyed with Sergeant's crappy marks that she threatens to marry a guy Sergeant doesn't like - so he's got to study. Instead she falls for Boone's brother.

Now all this Sergeant stuff should so patently go to Pat Boone - it's easily the best role (you get to fall in love, have your heart broken, worry about your parents). I'm assuming Fox and Boone were worried about Boone's ability to carry the action so reduced pressure on it - in the way that Elvis in Love Me Tender was really a support character. It's a shame because while Boone is charming (although green) Sergeant isn't much chop. (This would have made a great Mickey Rooney movie in the 1940s and Sergeant is no Mickey Rooney.)

The writers and director Henry Levin are unable to capture any small town atmosphere or sense of camaraderie or teen life - you never feel Boone and Sergeant are friends, or that Boone was a brother, or indeed these kids are teenagers living in a town. There's colour and cinemascope and a few songs.


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