Fatal First Love – Rediscovering ‘Claudelle Inglish’ (US 1961 – 99 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - August 23, 2014
Fatal First Love – Rediscovering ‘Claudelle Inglish’ (US 1961 – 99 mins)

Based on the 1958 novel by ‘Tobacco Road’ author Erskine Caldwell, the gripping soaper ‘Claudelle Inglish’, is a sadly forgotten and rather sensationalistic drama. Also known as ‘Young and Eager’, it tells the sometimes sordid tale of an innocent teenager who rapidly goes off the rails after being unceremoniously dumped by her first love.

After being jilted in a letter by her boyfriend, 17 year old Claudelle Inglish (Diane McBain) wastes little time in hooking up with any man who shows any interest in her. Meanwhile, rich widower; S.T. Crawford (Claude Atkins), a slobbish landowner and boss to Claudelle’s hardworking father, has set his sights on Claudelle, and is determined to marry her, something her father (Arthur Kennedy) is against, but whose mother (Constance Ford) encourages.

Sometimes trashy but always engaging, the first 20 minutes are pretty standard boy meets girl stuff, but it’s not long before things take a darker, more unexpected turn as Claudelle’s life soon spirals out of control. The ending did come as a bit of a shock, as I was expecting a lighter conclusion, but I think this only adds to the films appeal.

Beautiful Diane McBain, looking like a cross between Carol Lynley and Tiffany Bolling, does a great job as Claudelle, going from naïve schoolgirl to rebellious adult very convincingly. McBain’s since had quite a successful television career, appearing in such popular shows as ‘77 Sunset Strip’ (’63), ‘Batman’ (’66) and ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E’ (’67). Diane would never again get a movie role as juicy as this though, ending up in various camp classics such as the enjoyable drug drama ‘Maryjane’, and the biker flick ‘The Mini-Skirt Mob’ (both ’68). As Claudelle’s loving father Clyde, Arthur Kennedy does his usual sterling work, and Constance Ford is very good as Kennedy’s sexually frustrated wife Jesse. Prolific stage and screen actor; Claude Atkins, is excellent as the powerful but rather pathetic landowner S.T. Crawford. Frank Overton (most memorable as Sheriff Tate in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’) and Ford Rainey play significant adult roles, while Will Hutchins and Chad Everett are just two of the infatuated boys who come calling on Claudelle.

Having already been making movies since the Thirties, genre-crossing director Gordon Douglas went on to make the Frank Sinatra trilogy ‘Tony Rome’ (’67), ‘Lady in Cement’, and ‘The Detective’ (both ’68), and the wonderful James Garner comedy-western ‘Skin Game’ (’71). The realistic rural setting adds an air of authenticity to the movie, while the costume designs by Howard Shoup were nominated for an Academy Award.

A couple of unintentionally amusing moments in the film were the ones when Claudelle is about to have sex with a boyfriend. The camera would pan to the skies and we’d get a shot of trees ferociously blowing in the wind. Typical Sixties symbolism, but cleverly done nevertheless.

Fairly shocking in places and with a suitably tragic ending, ‘Claudelle Inglish’ is an excellent tale of love and revenge. I put it a cut above the many other Sixties teenage dramas just for being so unpredictable, as you never quite know how the story will play out. It’s just a shame that the movie is not more well known, as out of all the forgotten Sixties soapers, this one is definitely worth rediscovering.

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