Memory's a funny thing. When I get together with people who were my friends in high school and we talk about old times, I often find that they don't remember some things I'm sure must have happened. Sometimes when we both remember the same events, they don't recall them at all the way I do. But here's what I remember about this movie. In the spring of 1959, John Marion Black and I were going to the Baty Studio to have our pictures made for a page in the school yearbook. John drove us in his old Chevy coupe. I wore a white sport coat, and Mrs. Baty said that just wouldn't do. John let me wear his jacket for the picture. It was black, and while we both had on the same jacket on that page, nobody ever knew. I suspect that John has no memory of this.
After the pictures were taken, we went to see Rally Round the Flag, Boys. I'd read the book, and I'd promised him that the movie would be funny. I don't know if he found it funny or not. I don't know if I did. I do, however, remember quite clearly two scenes from the movie. Or so I thought. More on that later. When I saw that the movie was being released on DVD, I thought I'd re-read the book (my comments are here) and watch the movie again for the first time in nearly 50 years. As it turned out, the book's a lot better. The movie ditches almost all of Shulman's satire, and almost the entire plot, to concentrate on the episode of Harry Bannerman's infidelity. Since the movie came out in the '50s, however, there's no infidelity. It's all appearances. Too bad, since Joan Collins must have been pretty hard to resist. The cast tries hard. Collins isn't bad at all in a comedy role, but Newman tries too hard, and Woodward has little to do, really. Jack Carson is fine in a couple of scenes, and so is Gale Gordon, but there's not enough of them. The movie really comes alive when Tuesday Weld is on-screen, though, and a couple of her scenes are lifted almost verbatim from the book. They're the only part of the book that's recognizable. Tuesday's great. Dwayne Hickman's fun as a Marlon Brando wannabe (that's Marlon from The Wild One). Tom Gilson's good as Opie, but he apparently died only a few years later, victim of a homicide.
It's Gilson who sings "You Are My Boojim" to Tuesday Weld. All these years, I'd thought it was Dwayne Hickman. See what I mean about memory? As a relic of an almost forgotten era, the movie holds up. Look at the way people dress for the town meeting, the women in their dresses, the men in their suits. I've been to city council meetings in recent years, and the men wear Hawaiian shirts, thongs, and shorts. The women, too. The Technicolor is great, and all in all, this was a fine exercise in nostalgia for me. But if you have a choice between reading the book and seeing the movie, read the book.