Blue Denim

Blue Denim is a 1958 Broadway play by writer James Leo Herlihy. 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.

Blue Denim
Blue Jeans (UK)
Movie poster for Blue Denim
Directed byPhilip Dunne
Produced byCharles Brackett
Written byPhilip Dunne
Edith Sommer
Based onBlue Denim
1958 play
by James Leo Herlihy
William Noble
StarringCarol Lynley
Brandon deWilde
Music byBernard Herrmann
CinematographyLeo Tover
Edited byWilliam H. Reynolds
Distributed by20th Century-Fox
Release date
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.5 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)[2]

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 had different endings, and the word abortion in the play was not used in the screenplay.[3]

Blue Denim was released on home media video for the first time in 2016.


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'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.


Original play

The play was first announced in 1955. In December 1955, its title was changed to The Children's Comedy.[4] In June 1957 the title was changed back to Blue Denim. Joshua Logan agreed to direct.[5]

Carol Lynley was cast in the lead.[6] Warren Berlinger joined the cast several months later.[7]

The play opened February 27, 1958. the New York Times called it "a moving play".[8] It closed after 166 performances.[9]

Filming production

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.[10] In September Lynley was signed to a long term contract at Fox and Dick Powell was to produce and direct.[11]

In October 1958, Fox assigned Phillip Dunne to write and direct the film. Dunne wrote the script in collaboration with Edith Sommers, who just had a play on Broadway about teenagers titled A Roomful of Roses, which producer Charles Brackett had admired.[12]

Eventually Stricklyn dropped out and the lead was played by Brandon de Wilde. Filming started May 23, 1959.[13]

Differences between stage and film versions

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, 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.

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 still was being decried as late as the 1980s by Fundamentalist preachers.

According to Dunne, the film was a financial, if not critical, success.[14]

Home media


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.[15] It plays occasionally on cable TV and video on demand.[16]


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".[17] The score was released on CD in November 2001.

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."
  • It 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". Retrieved Nov 22, 2019.
  4. MARCH BOW IS DUE FOR 'GLASS CLOCK': Hugh Mills' Comedy Will Be Staged by Producing Trio -- Eva Gabor Set for Role By SAM ZOLOTOW. New York Times (7 Dec 1955: 46.
  5. BILL BY RATTIGAN GETS NEW SETTING: 'Separate Tables' Going to Colorado in August--Due Back Here Sept. 2 Sillman Plans Musical New Ferrer Venture By SAM ZOLOTOW. New York Times 5 June 1957: 40.
  6. 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 By ARTHUR GELB. New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]16 July 1957: 21.
  7. STAGE GROUP ASKS CITY'S ASSISTANCE: Shakespeare Festival's Bid for $40,000 Unanswered -National Drive Planned By LOUIS CALTA. New York Times 11 Jan 1958: 14.
  8. Theatre: 'Blue Denim' By BROOKS ATKINSON. New York Times 28 Feb 1958: 17.
  9. 'BLUE DENIM' ENDS RUN AT PLAYHOUSE: Closes After 166 Showings -- Equity May Get Pension and Welfare Plans By SAM ZOLOTOW. New York Times 21 July 1958: 17.
  10. Carol Lynley Stars in 'Blue Denim' Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 14 Aug 1958: C8.
  11. 26 Costly Movies Scheduled for '59 By United Artists By OSCAR GODBOUTSpecial to The New York Times. 10 Sep 1958: 39.
  12. Burt and Kirk Still at It---but Abroad: 'Devil's Disciple' Set Visited; Dunne Gets 'Blue Denim' Play Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 8 Oct 1958: B13.
  13. M-G-M PLANS FILM OF 'BUTTERFIELD 8': Studio Buys Rights to Book by O'Hara -- Newcomer in 'Bramble Bush' Cast By THOMAS M. PRYORSpecial to The New York Times. New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]11 Mar 1959: 41.
  14. MOVIES: PHILIP DUNNE: A CHAPTER FROM A CINEMATIC LIFE Dunne, Philip. Los Angeles Times 21 Dec 1980: s58.
  15. "BLUE DENIM (1959) -- SCREEN ARCHIVES ENTERTAINMENT". Retrieved Nov 22, 2019.
  16. Blue Denim 50 Years Later/
  17. "Film Score Monthly CD: View From Pompey's Head/Blue Denim, The". Archived from the original on Jul 11, 2011. Retrieved Nov 22, 2019.
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