Reviewed by: Brett Willis
Debbie Reynolds … Janice Courtney
Cliff Robertson … Reverend Jim Larkin
David Janssen … Marty Bliss
Eileen Heckart … Ethel
Hans Conried … Kinsley Kross
Mary McCarty … Doreen Smith
John McGiver … Judge Harris
Max Showalter … B.J. Smith
Alice Ghostley … Selena Johnson
Alice Pearce … Bus Driver
Pippa Scott … Dianne Soper
Claude Stroud … Dr. Miller
Darlene Tompkins … Ava Johnson
Leon Belasco … Mario
Billy E. Hughes (Billy Hughes) … Leo
Jim Backus … Sheriff
Maurice Kelly … Man with Mike
|Director||Gower Champion—“Show Boat” (1951), “Till the Clouds Roll By” (1946)|
This is a farfetched but engaging tale of a rising stage and screen star who must choose between her career and a newfound happiness in caring for others. At the time of this writing, this film is not available on video but is shown regularly on American Movie Classics.
On the heels of her first feature film, actress Janice Courtney (Debbie Reynolds) breaks down from exhaustion. The doctor prescribes six weeks of complete rest, so Courtney and her aide Ethel (Eileen Heckart) retreat to a country house in Connecticut that she owns but rarely uses. In an outbuilding on the backside of her property, she discovers a family of six neglected, homeless children: Leo (Billy Hughes), Brenda (Sally Smith), Amy (Colleen Peters), twins Sherman (Barry Livingston of TV’s “My Three Sons”) and Dulcie (Debbie Price), and the mute Sonny (Ted Eccles).
A local pastor, Rev. Jim Larkin (Cliff Robertson) encourages Courtney to keep the authorities and the courts out of the problem as much as possible. Once she learns that the children would be split up into separate foster homes, she agrees. The kids protect each other ferociously. All of them except the oldest, Leo, express faith in God. Leo, the substitute father, has seen too much during his young life to have room for faith. The closest available relatives are an aunt and uncle (well, actually they’re not married) who have kept the kids in the past just so they could get drunk on the extra welfare money, and who don’t even know their names or ages. it’s easy for Courtney and Larkin to get the aunt and uncle’s rights terminated, but what then? Will Courtney go back to her career and take a role in an immoral stage play, or will she choose an entirely different path?
Content: There are a few occurrences of d* and h*. Then there are the issues of child neglect and how “the system” intervenes or doesn’t intervene. For a comedy, there’s a lot of serious stuff going on here; but it’s handled as tastefully as possible. I was especially attracted to the story since I’m a foster and adoptive parent, but I believe this is worthwhile viewing for anyone old enough to follow the plot.