Palm Springs Weekend: Taurog’s Romantic Melodrama, Starring Troy Donahue, Stefanie Powers, Robert Conrad, Ty Hardin, Connie Stevens

Norman Taurog directed Palm Springs Weekend a romantic comedy with elements of the beach party genre. It was described as “a Westernized version of Where the Boys Are” by Billboard magazine.

The movie stars Troy Donahue, Stefanie Powers, Robert Conrad, Ty Hardin, and Connie Stevens.

Donahue later complained that the film was “really bad … a beach movie set in the desert.”

Some college students from Los Angeles travel to Palm Springs to spend the Easter weekend there. Jim Munroe (Troy Donahue) falls for Bunny Dixon (Stefanie Powers), the daughter of the overprotective Palm Springs police chief (Andrew Duggan). Munroe’s roommate Biff Roberts (Jerry Van Dyke) and plain-jane Amanda North (Zeme North) try to seduce each other, while hampered by having to babysit inquisitive young boy. Spoiled rich playboy Eric Dean (Robert Conrad) and Hollywood stuntman from Texas Doug Fortune (Ty Hardin) compete for the attentions of pretty Beverly Hills girl (Connie Stevens).

A wild auto chase between Eric and Doug, and serious crash ensue on the long drive home after an evening at folk music club in Las Vegas.

Connie Stevens, Robert Conrad, Tina Cole, and Troy Donahue all appeared in the 1959–63 TV series Hawaiian Eye.

Jack Warner, impressed by the success of Where the Boys Are (1960), wanted to make a similar film about teenagers in Palm Springs during Easter vacation break, using the large number of young actors they had under contract. The studio had the title, Palm Springs Weekend even before they had a script.

Earl Hamner Jnr, whose novel Spencer’s Mountain had just been bought by Warners, was hired to write the screenplay.

The lead actors were all under contract to Warner apart from Stefanie Powers and Jerry Van Dyke. Tuesday Weld was originally considered for the role of Gail, before Connie Stevens was cast. Troy Donahue was always considered for Jim Munroe. Donahue says he refused to play the role – “nobody thought this was the kind of movie that would be particularly advantageous to our careers.”  The studio put him on suspension, and when he ran out of money, he agreed to make the film.

Ty Hardin’s character was written for him as Hoey due to his impressive work in Cukor’s 1962 melodrama, The Chapman Report.

It was filmed on location in Palm Springs, as well as in the studio at Warners.

Troy Donahue later recalled: “The best thing about the film was that it was being made in Palm Springs. And I was there to drink and get laid. A friend of mine and I started at opposite ends of town. Halfway through the movie, we crossed paths. I got everything he got going in his direction, and he got everything I got coming in mine. The picture was tame compared to the reality.”

The two resorts in the film are the Irwin Schuman-designed Riviera Hotel (now Margaritaville Resort) on North Indian Canyon Drive; and the Desert Palms Inn – seen onscreen as “Las Casa Yates” – on Jones Road in Cathedral City.

The car that Eric Dean drives is a silver 1963 Ford Thunderbird, while Doug Fortune’s car is shown as a red 1957 Mercury Montclair. When Fortune’s car is wrecked, however, he is pulled from a red 1954 Mercury Monterey.

Frank Perkins composed the score for the film. Larry Kusik and Paul Evans wrote one song that appears in the finished film, “Live Young.” It is sung over the opening credits by Troy Donahue, an instrumental version is heard during the party scene at Ruth Stewart’s house.

The Modern Folk Quartet appear as themselves in the sequence at Jack’s Casino and sing two songs, “The Ox Driver’s Song” and one unidentified song.

Ty Hardin sings cappella version of the traditional “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” and he sings with Jerry Van Dyke on Ray Henderson and Mort Dixon’s standard, “Bye Bye Blackbird.”

Released to decent reviews, the movie was not a major success at the box office but made profit for the studio.

The movie had longer life on television and video.

Robert Conrad’s performance impressed Warners enough to keep him under contract.

The 2009 DVD is part of the Warner Romance Classics Collection, which contains 3 other films starring Troy Donahue: Parrish (1961), Rome Adventure (1962) and Susan Slade (1961).

Troy Donahue as Jim Munroe
Connie Stevens as Gail Lewis/Jane Hoover
Ty Hardin as Doug ‘Stretch’ Fortune
Stefanie Powers as Bunny Dixon
Robert Conrad as Eric Dean
Andrew Duggan as Police Chief Dixon
Jack Weston as Coach Fred Campbell
Carole Cook as Naomi Yates
Jerry Van Dyke as Biff Roberts
Zeme North as Amanda North
Bill Mumy as ‘Boom Boom’ Yates
Dorothy Green as Cora Dixon
Robert Gothie as Gabby
Greg Benedict as Hap
Gary Kinkaid as Fred
Mark Dempsey as Mike
Jim Shane as Dave
Rafael Guzman-Sanchez as Waiter