Tammy and the Bachelor Review
Sixteen-year-old Tambrey Tyree (Debbie Reynolds), known as “Tammy” to all and sundry, lives in the Mississippi swamps with her grandfather (Walter Brennan), a lay preacher not above brewing moonshine liquor on the side. One day, a plane crashes nearby. The pilot, Pete (Leslie Nielsen) survives and is nursed back to health by Tammy and her grandfather. Then one day grandfather is arrested and Tammy goes to stay with Pete's family...
If any one thing first comes to mind about Tammy and the Bachelor (which was simply Tammy on its British cinema release) it's that song. Sung by the Ames Brothers over the opening credits and by Debbie Reynolds partway through the film (with a small but significant lyric change, “Tammy's my love” becoming “Tammy's in love”). It's such a period signifier that Terence Davies could quite happily use it (the Reynolds version) in The Long Day Closes. Both versions were hit singles, and it's no surprise to learn that the song, by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston, was Oscar-nominated. It is a surprise that it didn't win: it lost to “All the Way” from The Joker is Wild, and I don't know how that goes either.
The film's commercial success speaks for itself: it spawned three sequels and a TV series. Yet it's hardly a fashionable name to drop nowadays. We're much more likely to laud the subversive melodramas and women's pictures directed by Douglas Sirk (who has producer Ross Hunter in common with this film). Also, Joseph Pevney, who spent most of his career in television, has hardly any reputation except as a competent craftsman. It's a film about a teenager that isn't threatening to adults, who at the time were looking askance as their offspring were flocking to rather edgier teen movies like Rebel Without a Cause or The Blackboard Jungle or The Wild One, all of which troubled moralists and censors. But there clearly was, and is, a market for more overtly wholesome fare, and Tammy and the Bachelor was precision-tooled to hit it.
Debbie Reynolds was actually twenty-four when she made this film, though she plays sixteen. It does help that Pevney surrounds five-foot-two Reynolds with much taller actors, such as six-footer Leslie Nielsen. Reynolds will always have Singin' in the Rain, so is spared the professional-virgin reputation of her successor in two of the Tammy sequels, Sandra Dee. (All together now: “Look at me I'm Sandra Dee/Lousy with virginity.”) Her natural appeal and comic ability keep you watching. Leslie Nielsen, nearly a quarter-century before Airplane!, was a blandly handsome romantic lead and that's what he is here. (He's much the same in Forbidden Planet too.) On the other hand, they're backed up by a fine old-time supporting cast, including Walter Brennan, Mildred Natwick and Fay Wray.
Tammy and the Bachelor is the kind of film unlikely to be made today, at least not for adult audiences. There'd be too much of a temptation to be ironic, or to regard the film as camp when it isn't, being much more difficult to play this stuff straight. It may be a product of another age, but in its way it works.
Tammy and the Bachelor is released by Eureka on an all-regions, dual-layered DVD which is in NTSC format.
The film was shot in CinemaScope, a process which had in 1957 recently been reduced in width from 2.55:1 to 2.35:1 with the addition of an optical soundtrack on prints. This DVD transfer is in the correct ratio (the latter) and is anamorphically enhanced. In 1957, colour (and widescreen and large format) were weapons to combat the threat of television, so it's no surprise that colours are heightened – and skintones more reddish - in a way they wouldn't be in a film made nowadays. There's some definite grain – especially with opticals and process shots, a fact of life with a film of this era. Also, CinemaScope lenses had less definition than ordinary spherical ones, so this transfer isn't quite as sharp as that of a non-Scope film would be. There are some minor colour shifts at scene transitions, but this is pretty much what you should expect of a Scope and colour film of this vintage.
The soundtrack is the original mono. No real issues here, with dialogue, music and effects well balanced. English subtitles for the hard-of-hearing are available.
The only extra is the trailer (2:27), which is in non-anamorphic 2.35:1.
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