Susan Slade (1961): Romantic-Family Melodrama, Starring Troy Donahue and Connie Stevens

This Warner Technicolor melodrama was directed by Delmer Daves and stars heartthrob Troy Donahue at his prime and rising star Connie Stevens.

Director Daves recast Troy Donahue and Dorothy McGuire, who had just appeared in his 1959 melodrama, A Summer Place, a similar but far superior picture.

In the same year, Donahue and Stevens had also appeared in the melodrama Parrish.

The tale, about a rich teenager who secretly has a baby out of wedlock, is based on Doris Hume’s 1961 novel The Sin of Susan Slade.

After working for ten years in isolated desert in Chile, mine manager Roger Slade (Lloyd Nolan) returns to the US with his wife Leah (Dorothy McGuire) and their beautiful daughter, Susan (Connie Stevens).

During the journey, Susan has a romance with Conn White (Grant Williams), a wealthy mountain climber. They make love and plan to marry, but Conn wants to hold off announcement to their families until his return from Alaska to climb Mount McKinley. He travels on to Anchorage, while Susan and her parents go to Monterey to live in a home provided by Roger’s employer and friend, Stanton Corbett (Brian Aherne).

Roger has a serious heart condition which he has kept from his family; he has confided only in Stanton, who gave him a house, laboratory and income so that Roger could recover while giving his wife and daughter opportunities.

Susan waits for letters from Conn, but he does not write. He calls once but she is out. When she discovers she is pregnant with Conn’s child, she keeps it as a secret. Her parents encourage her to date Corbetts’ son Wells (Bert Convy in his debut) and buy her a horse, which is kept at stables managed by Hoyt Brecker (Troy Donahue).

Hoyt is shunned by the community because his father, an executive with Corbett’s company, was convicted for stealing; he later committed suicide in prison. Hoyt is relatively poor and lives on what he can earn from his stables (which have lost business due to the scandal) and as struggling writer. Hoyt and Susan gradually become friends and he confides his determination to become a renowned writer and redeem his family name.

Susan finally receives a call from Conn’s father, informing her that Conn died climbing. Susan has a breakdown and tries to drown herself in the bay, but is rescued by Hoyt. In her delirium, she lets slip to her mother that she is pregnant. Roger and Leah avoid disgrace by moving to Guatemala, where Roger has been offered a job. Susan plans to have her baby in secret, which Leah and Roger will pass off as their own. After the baby (“Rogey” after Susan’s father) is born, Susan has difficulty setting aside her maternal feelings.

Roger’s heart condition worsens due to stress, and he suddenly dies. Leah, Susan and Rogey return to their Monterey home, which has been fixed up by the unsuspecting Corbetts to give her an apartment separated from the baby’s room.

Hoyt and Susan, who have been corresponding, renew their friendship and Hoyt professes love, but Wells Corbett also courts Susan and soon proposes. Susan decides to marry Wells, just as Hoyt sells his first book.

Baby Rogey accidentally sets himself on fire while playing, but survives, seriously hurt. Susan reveals she is Rogey’s true mother, which causes Wells to rescind his proposal, though his father is impressed with her honesty. In the end, Susan professes her true love for Hoyt.

Cast

Troy Donahue as Hoyt Brecker

Connie Stevens as Susan Slade

Dorothy McGuire as Leah Slade

Lloyd Nolan as Roger Slade

Brian Aherne as Stanton Corbett

Grant Williams as Conn White

Natalie Schafer as Marion Corbett

Kent Smith as Dr. Fane

Bert Convy as Wells Corbett

 

Credits:

Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography: Lucien Ballard
Edited by William H. Ziegler
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date: November 8, 1961
Running time: 116 min.