Blue Denim

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Blue Denim
Blue Jeans (UK)
Movie poster for Blue Denim
Directed by Philip Dunne
Produced by Charles Brackett
Written by Philip Dunne
Edith R. Sommer
Based on Blue Denim
1958 play 
by James Leo Herlihy
William Noble
Starring Carol Lynley
Brandon deWilde
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography Leo Tover
Edited by William H. Reynolds
Distributed by 20th Century-Fox
Release dates
Running time
89 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $980,000[1]
Box office $2.5 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)[2]

Blue Denim was a successful Broadway play by writer James Leo Herlihy, the author of the novels All Fall Down (1960) and Midnight Cowboy (1965). It starred Carol Lynley, Warren Berlinger and newcomer Burt Brinckerhoff in the lead male role. Opening on February 27, 1958, the play ran for 166 performances at the Playhouse Theatre.

The following year, on July 30, 1959, the film version was released by 20th Century Fox with Lynley and Berlinger reprising their stage roles, but with a 17-year-old Brandon deWilde 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 play and the film each had different endings, and the word abortion was excised from the play's script when it was adapted into the film's screenplay.[3]

Blue Denim has never been released on home video media.


The story is set in Dearborn, Michigan, during the 1950s, and revolves around sixteen-year-old Arthur Bartley (Brandon deWilde) and his schoolmates, fifteen-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's always been interested in Arthur, and as Arthur's parents try to shelter him from negative things in life (like the euthanasia of the family dog, done while he's 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'd 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.


Actor Role
Carol Lynley Janet Willard
Brandon deWilde Arthur Bartley
Macdonald Carey Maj. Malcolm Bartley, Ret.
Marsha Hunt Jessie Bartley
Warren Berlinger Ernie
Buck Class Axel Sorenson
Nina Shipman Lillian Bartley
Vaughn Taylor Professor Willard
Roberta Shore Cherie
Mary Young Aunt Bidda
Malcolm Atterbury Marriage License Clerk (uncredited)
William Schallert George - Bank Vice President (uncredited)

Differences between stage and film versions

In the original stage version, Janet does have her pregnancy 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, so the storyline was changed. Arthur and Janet instead go off together, to get married and stay with Janet's aunt in another city until the baby is born.

Critical and public reception

While the play and then the movie came and went, at first causing a minor controversy, then becoming part of the 'canon' of Broadway adaptations, and studied for its sociological impact, Blue Denim was still being decried as late as the 1980s by Fundamentalist preachers.

Home media

CD soundtrack cover for Blue Denim.


20th Century Fox has never released Blue Denim on VHS or DVD media. It plays occasionally on cable TV and video on demand.[4]


The score for Blue Denim had music composed and conducted by Bernard Herrmann. Among Herrmann's scores were Citizen Kane (1941) for Orson Welles and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959) and Psycho (1960) for Alfred Hitchcock.

Herrmann's Blue Denim score was released on CD on November 15, 2001. It is on the Film Score Monthly (FSM) label, as FSM0415, along with Elmer Bernstein's score for The View from Pompey's Head (1955). It has been described by FSM as a "Baby Vertigo" type of score, reminiscent of Herrmann's anguished romantic writing for Hitchcock.[5]

In other media

  • 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."
  • Is seen briefly in Less Than Zero (when Clay and Blair are in bed in the loft).

See also


  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. "1959: Probable Domestic Take", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  3. Variety
  4. Blue Denim 50 Years Later/
  5. Film Score Monthly

External links