Wednesday, May 11, 2016

My Favorite Bobby Darin Movies

Today, I'm doing mini-reviews for my five favorite Bobby Darin movies.  I'll be doing a full review of Captain Newman, M.D. later this week, too, but for now, this will give you an idea of what each of these are like.

1.  Gunfight in Abilene (1967) opens on the Civil War.  Captain Cal Wayne (Bobby Darin) and the remaining men under his command are cut off from the rest of the Confederate Army.  While trying to find an escape route during the night, Wayne accidentally shoots and kills his best friend, Dave Evers, and is then captured by Union troops.

Some time later, Cal Wayne returns to Abilene, Kansas, where he and Dave grew up.  There he finds that he had erroneously been reported dead, and his childhood sweetheart Amy (Emily Banks) has become engaged to his friend Dave's older brother, Grant Evers (Leslie Nielson).  Grant is trying to enlarge his ranch while keeping peace with the small farmers and ranchers around Abilene even as he pushes more and more of them off their land.  He asks Cal Wayne to take on his old job as sheriff because Wayne gets along well with the farmers, and to everyone's surprise, Wayne agrees.  Nobody knows that he's doing so out of guilt over Dave's death.  For the same reason, he didn't protest when he learned about Amy and Grant's plans to marry.  His deputy, Ward Kent (Don Galloway), learns the truth eventually, and uses it to convince Wayne to confront Grant over the death of a young farmer at the hands of some of Grant's ranch hands.

I cowrote a sequel to it, called "Aftermath in Abilene," which you can read online here.

2.  Captain Newman, M.D. (1963) focuses on a mental ward at a military hospital during WWII.  Captain Josiah Newman (Gregory Peck) cares for a variety of mentally disturbed soldiers, including Colonel Bliss (Eddie Albert), Captain Winston (Robert Duvall), and Cpl. Tompkins (Bobby Darin).  Some, he can help, even "cure."  Some, he can't.  Assisting him are the lovely Lt. Corum (Angie Dickinson), the wily Cpl. Leibowitz (Tony Curtis), and a variety of other interesting characters.  It's something of a dramedy, and bounces from very serious subjects to very funny ones and back, sometimes in the same scene.  Bobby Darin was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for this role.

I'll be posting a much more detailed review of this in a couple of days, so for now I'll say that if you want to pick just one of these films to try out, pick this one.

3.  Hell is for Heroes (1962) was written by Robert Pirosh, who also created my favorite TV show ever, Combat! (1962-67).  It centers on a squad of infantrymen, led by Sgt. Pike (Fess Parker).  You've got a lot of archetypes in that squad:  the handyman (James Coburn), the troublemaker (Steve McQueen), then opportunist (Bobby Darin), and the new kid (Bob Newhart).  Together, they try to survive a Nazi onslaught and take out an enemy bunker, against overwhelming odds.  Not everyone makes it out alive, but not everyone dies, either.

4.  State Fair (1962) is an updated version of the 1940s classic that starred Dana Andrews.  Set in Texas instead of Iowa, it concerns a father (Tom Ewell) and mother (Alice Faye) who take their mostly grown-up daughter and son (Pamela Tiffin and Pat Boone) to the state fair for a week.  The daughter gets swept off her feet by a fast-talking TV reporter (Bobby Darin), and the son plunges into forbidden romance with a sultry singer (Ann-Margret).  It's not as winsome and charming as the 1945 version, and I really just watch it for Bobby Darin.

5.  That Funny Feeling (1965) pairs Bobby with his wife at the time, Sandra Dee.  Young maid-for-hire Joan (Dee) pretends that she lives in one of the upscale apartments she cleans, rather than the tiny place she shares with a friend.  She begins dating a successful businessman named Tom (Darin), but to his great surprise, she takes him back to the apartment she pretends is hers, which is actually his!  He doesn't let on that it's his apartment, but instead tries to figure out why she claims it's hers, and various bits of comedic nonsense result.

I've seen quite a few more of his movies, as well as his appearances on various TV shows, but these are the ones I like best and watch most often.

Have you seen any of these?  If so, what did you think of it?  If not, which one interests you the most?


  1. I think I'd be most interested in the "Gunfight in Abilene" one--it sounds like quite the convoluted plot! Plus, I'm rather curious to see what Bobby Darin looks like dressed as a cowboy, since he's not the type that I usually associate with Westerns. (I hope that didn't sound terribly "stereotypical" of me.)

    1. It's actually pretty straight-forward, but has lots of emotional depth. Bobby looks delicious as a cowboy, IMHO -- go here for a sample. I have an 8x10 of this framed and hung in my living room.


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