Blue Denim

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Blue Denim
Blue Jeans (UK)
Film poster
Directed byPhilip Dunne
Written byPhilip Dunne
Edith Sommer
Based onBlue Denim
1958 play
by James Leo Herlihy
William Noble
Produced byCharles Brackett
StarringCarol Lynley
Brandon deWilde
CinematographyLeo Tover
Edited byWilliam H. Reynolds
Music byBernard Herrmann
Distributed by20th Century-Fox
Release date
  • July 30, 1959 (1959-07-30) (New York City)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States

Blue Denim is a 1959 film based on a Broadway play by writer James Leo Herlihy. It starred Carol Lynley and Warren Berlinger who reprised their stage roles. 17-year-old Brandon deWilde appeared in his first "adult" role as the male lead Arthur Bartley. Macdonald Carey, Marsha Hunt and Roberta Shore appear as supporting characters.

Dealing with the issues of teenage pregnancy and (then-illegal) abortion, both versions were not without controversy.


The story is set in Dearborn, Michigan during the 1950s, and revolves around 14-year-old Arthur Bartley (Brandon deWilde) and his schoolmates, 15-year-old Janet Willard (Carol Lynley) and Ernie (Warren Berlinger). While widower's-daughter Janet laughs at Arthur and Ernie's forays into smoking, drinking, and playing cards, she has always been interested in Arthur. As Arthur's parents try to shelter him from negative things in life (like the euthanasia of the family dog, done while he is at school), he turns to Janet for comfort.

The relationship between Janet and Arthur results in her becoming pregnant. Unable to ask their parents (who misinterpret their pleas as "ordinary" teenage curiosity about sex and adulthood) for help, they turn to Ernie, who had boasted earlier about "helping a sailor who got his girl in trouble" by directing him to an abortionist – only to discover Ernie made it all up, based on secondhand stories. The three seek together to arrange an abortion and raise the funds, only to be discovered by their parents at the last moment. In the meantime, Arthur and Janet find out how much they do not yet know about life – and how much they truly care about each other.


Original play[edit]

The play was first announced in 1955. In December 1955, its title was changed to The Children's Comedy.[2] In June 1957 the title was changed back to Blue Denim. Joshua Logan agreed to direct.[3]

Carol Lynley was cast in the lead.[4] Warren Berlinger joined the cast several months later.[5] Newcomer Burt Brinckerhoff was the lead male role.

The play opened February 27, 1958 at the Playhouse Theatre. The New York Times called it "a moving play".[6] It closed after 166 performances.[7]

Filming production[edit]

Film rights were bought by 20th Century Fox. In August 1958, Fox announced that the leads would be played by Carol Lynley and Ray Stricklyn.[8] In September Lynley was signed to a long-term contract at Fox and Dick Powell was to produce and direct.[9]

In October 1958, Fox assigned Phillip Dunne to write and direct the film. Dunne wrote the script in collaboration with Edith Sommer, who just had a play on Broadway about teenagers titled A Roomful of Roses, which producer Charles Brackett had admired.[10]

Eventually Stricklyn dropped out and the lead was played by Brandon de Wilde. Filming started May 23, 1959.[11]

Differences between stage and film versions[edit]

The play and the film had different endings, and the word abortion in the play was not used in the screenplay.[12]

In the original stage version, Janet does have her fetus aborted, and she and Arthur talk it over later as they settle their feelings for each other. When the play was adapted for Hollywood, however, strict production codes forbade anything but the condemnation of abortion,[citation needed] so the storyline was changed. Arthur and Janet instead get married and stay with Janet's aunt in another city until the baby is born.


The film was released on July 30, 1959 by 20th Century Fox at the Victoria Theatre in New York City.[13]

Home media[edit]

20th Century Fox released Blue Denim on DVD on March 16, 2016. Twilight Time released the film on Blu-ray disc on April 10, 2018.[14] It plays occasionally on cable TV and video on demand.

Critical and public reception[edit]

According to Dunne, the film was a financial, if not critical, success.[15] In its first week of release in New York it grossed $39,500.[13]


The film score for Blue Denim was composed and conducted by Bernard Herrmann. It has been described by Film Score Monthly as a "Baby Vertigo type of score, reminiscent of Herrmann's anguished romantic writing for Hitchcock".[16] The score was released on CD in November 2001.

In other media[edit]

  • In Truman Capote's book In Cold Blood (1966), Bobby Rupp, Nancy Clutter's beau, says "We talked for a while, and made a date to go to the movies Sunday night – a picture all the girls were looking forward to, Blue Denim."
  • It is seen briefly in Less than Zero (when Clay and Blair are in bed in the loft).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p252
  2. ^ SAM ZOLOTOW (Dec 7, 1955). "MARCH BOW IS DUE FOR 'GLASS CLOCK': Hugh Mills' Comedy Will Be Staged by Producing Trio -- Eva Gabor Set for Role". New York Times. p. 46.
  3. ^ SAM ZOLOTOW (5 June 1957). "BILL BY RATTIGAN GETS NEW SETTING: 'Separate Tables' Going to Colorado in August--Due Back Here Sept. 2 Sillman Plans Musical New Ferrer Venture". New York Times. p. 40.
  4. ^ ARTHUR GELB (16 July 1957). "THREE NEW PLAYS SEEK TWO ACTORS: Bette Davis Weighs Bid-From 'Winesburg'--2 Roles Offered to Husband, Gary Merrill 'Jig, Lisp and Amble' Sponsors Disaffiliate". New York Times. p. 21.
  5. ^ LOUIS CALTA (Jan 11, 1958). "STAGE GROUP ASKS CITY'S ASSISTANCE: Shakespeare Festival's Bid for $40,000 Unanswered -National Drive Planned". New York Times. p. 14.
  6. ^ BROOKS ATKINSON (Feb 28, 1958). "Theatre: 'Blue Denim'". New York Times. p. 17.
  7. ^ SAM ZOLOTOW (21 July 1958). "'BLUE DENIM' ENDS RUN AT PLAYHOUSE: Closes After 166 Showings -- Equity May Get Pension and Welfare Plans". New York Times. p. 17.
  8. ^ Hopper, Hedda (Aug 14, 1958). "Carol Lynley Stars in 'Blue Denim'". Los Angeles Times. p. C8.
  9. ^ OSCAR GODBOUT (Sep 10, 1958). "26 Costly Movies Scheduled for '59 By United Artists". The New York Times. p. 39.
  10. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (Oct 8, 1958). "Burt and Kirk Still at It---but Abroad: 'Devil's Disciple' Set Visited; Dunne Gets 'Blue Denim' Play". Los Angeles Times. p. B13.
  11. ^ THOMAS M. PRYOR (Mar 11, 1959). "M-G-M PLANS FILM OF 'BUTTERFIELD 8': Studio Buys Rights to Book by O'Hara -- Newcomer in 'Bramble Bush' Cast". New York Times. p. 41.
  12. ^ Hollinger, Hy (July 29, 1959). "Film Reviews: Blue Denim". Variety. p. 6.
  13. ^ a b "New Pix Bolster B'way; 'Denim' Sock 39½G, 'Train' Ok 37G, 'Hole Great 51G, 3d, 'Murder' Wham $52,400, 5th". Variety. August 5, 1959. p. 9. Retrieved January 14, 2021 – via
  14. ^ "BLUE DENIM (1959) -- SCREEN ARCHIVES ENTERTAINMENT". Retrieved Nov 22, 2019.
  15. ^ Dunne, Philip (Dec 21, 1980). "MOVIES: PHILIP DUNNE: A CHAPTER FROM A CINEMATIC LIFE". Los Angeles Times. p. s58.
  16. ^ "Film Score Monthly CD: View From Pompey's Head/Blue Denim, The". Archived from the original on July 11, 2011. Retrieved Nov 22, 2019.

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