Monday, January 26, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Take Care of My Little Girl (1951)

TAKE CARE OF MY LITTLE GIRL is a cautionary tale about college sororities which provides enjoyably soapy Technicolor entertainment.

Jeanne Crain, one of my favorite actresses, stars as starry-eyed Liz Erickson, a freshman who goes off to college hoping to join her mother's old sorority.

Liz is thrilled when she's asked to join the sorority, but is also unsettled when her best friend from back home doesn't make the cut. Liz's head is turned when a popular -- but perpetually drunk -- fraternity man (Jeffrey Hunter) courts her, but as time goes on she questions that relationship and much more about her sorority experience. The sorority's cruel treatment of an unpopular pledge (Lenka Peterson) provides a turning point for Liz.

Crain is excellent in the lead role, and very believable as a young college student, despite the fact that in real life by this point Crain had already given birth to three of her seven children! The same year this film was released Crain starred in a more mature role in PEOPLE WILL TALK with Cary Grant.

The supporting cast includes Dale Robertson as an older WWII vet pre-med student who doesn't have the time or patience for Greek silliness; Mitzi Gaynor as an outgoing friend of Liz's who refuses to rush sororities; striking Jean Peters as the sorority Queen Bee who is wrapped up in appearances; Betty Lynn and Helen Westcott as sorority sisters; and Natalie Schafer as a sorority den mother.

It's not a great movie, but it's diverting, and along the way it raises some interesting ethical questions. I've never understood the concept of "till death" friendships based on complete strangers being asked to join a group based on looks and other surface impressions. The concept strikes me as pointless and potentially hurtful, as Liz finds in the film. ("But don't forget we do charity work!" one sister halfheartedly throws in in defense of the sorority. Whatever...) I've also never understood the willingness of anyone to put aside things like kindness and self-respect and participate in idiotic "Hell Week" rituals. The movie delves into all of these issues.

The film runs 93 minutes and was directed by Jean Negulesco. You can read a bit more about Negulesco in a post on another "college" film he directed, 1955's DADDY LONG LEGS. Negulesco's wife, Dusty Anderson, has an uncredited bit part in the film as a cashier.

TAKE CARE OF MY LITTLE GIRL is not available on DVD or video, but it can be seen on cable in the library of Fox Movie Channel.


Blogger Moira Finnie said...

My fellow Jean Negulesco and Jeanne Crain fan!

I've only caught a few minutes of the beginning of Take Care of My Little Girl (1951), but thought that any movie that presented John Litel as the realistic Dad of Jeanne, taking a bit of the gloss of mother Marjorie Crossland's memories of college was pretty intriguing. I'll have to try to catch this one soon. Have you seen my two favorite Jeanne Crain movies (other than the splendid Letter to Three Wives & enjoyable People Will Talk), Apartment for Peggy (1948) and Margie (1946)? If you've never had an opportunity to see the rarely shown Margie, you might like to know that it is, reportedly, currently in the public domain, and has been posted on youtube, found at the link below. It's fine Americana about a likable girl desperate to fit into the "in crowd" of kids in a jazz age high school:

Thanks for reminding me of Ms. Crain's appealing presence.

9:04 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Moira!

Thanks so much for your note. I neglected to mention Litel and Crossland in my post, and thought they were each very good as Liz's parents. I hope you have the chance to see the entire movie soon.

I love APARTMENT FOR PEGGY, which might be my favorite Crain film. As it happens, I got a copy of it last fall and was able to watch it again for the first time in many years, and posted my thoughts here if you'd like to check it out.

I also love MARGIE. I have a Beta (!) tape recording of that film I haven't looked at in a long time. I'm surprised it might be in public domain rather than Fox having the rights. Thanks for providing the YouTube link.

A few months ago I wrote about my hopes for a Jeanne Crain DVD set. It's probably just wishful thinking, but I can dream...perhaps more realistic is the chance that movies like MARGIE or CENTENNIAL SUMMER might be released as a Marquee Musical, since Fox has also released relatively little-known films like THE GIRL NEXT DOOR in that series.

I've never seen her film CENTENNIAL SUMMER, have you? I'm especially curious about it as it pairs Crain with another of my favorite actresses, Linda Darnell.

Crain starred in so many good films, and I don't think she has received the recognition she deserves for her role in making those movies so enjoyable.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

Best wishes,

9:19 AM  

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