Sandra Dee

The Reluctant Debutante(1958)


Plot Summary:

London, 1958. When Jane, a seventeen-year-old American, visits her British father and stepmother, Lord and Lady Broadbent, she soon learns about the London "season" of balls, on which young girls her age "come out" as debutantes. Goaded by her cousin Mabel Claremont, whose daughter Clarissa is such a debutante, Lady Broadbent makes Jane become a debutante, too, so that Jane and her father unwillingly must go to dozens of balls. The acommodating father finds himself dancing and drinking until dawn, while Jane is bored all nights by the perfect young gentlemen of the English upper crust, who dance with her just too properly.

To make Jane's debut a complete success, Lady Broadbent tries to find Jane a worthy young man. Lady Broadbent's choice is David Fenner, a peculiar young British officer, whom Clarissa adores. Fenner falls in love with Jane immediately, but Jane is more interested in David Parkson, an exciting American drummer.

However Parkson has earned a reputation as a bounder, thus Jane's father and stepmother try to stop Jane from seeing David Parkson again. For some time they need not worry, as Parkson has to go to Italy, where his great-uncle is dying. But when Parkson returns to London, it is Lady Broadbent herself who by mistake invites him for dinner. That dinner is the prelude to the inevitable ball and a most turbulent night.

At the ball David Fenner gets slapped when he tries to kiss Jane. Despite Lord and Lady Broadbent's nervous supervisision, Jane and David Parkson slip away to visit some night clubs. When Parkson brings Jane home and comes inside for a drink, Lord and Lady Broadbent incessantly sneak about until Parkson leaves. But he secretly comes back and confesses to Jane that he is the heir of the deceased Duke of Positano, which Jane does not mind at all. But when Lady Broadbent finds Jane and Parkson kissing in the dark, she sends Jane to bed and asks Parkson to leave at once, which he would not do, so that Lady Broadbent asks her husband to remove Parkson. Lord Broadbent pretends to do so, but in fact he and Parkson have a discussion about Parkson's bad reputation, which turns out to be due to a misunderstanding.

Early next morning David Fenner turns up and proposes to Jane but is turned down. Lady Broadbent and Jane both break out in tears - Lady Broadbent cries for her crushed hopes for Jane and Fenner, and Jane cries because she thinks her father threw Parkson out. But Jane's tears dry quickly when Lord Broadbent, who just learnt something from the newspaper, suggests to invite his 'business partner' the new Duke of Positano, and Lady Broadbent immediately jumps to it. At Jane's ball that night Lady Broadbent is plain discombobbled when she realizes who that Duke is.


Director Vincente Minnelli, who is famous for musicals like "An American in Paris" and "Gigi", excelled himself with this brilliant and sophisticated comedy. "The Reluctant Debutante" is an overwhelmingly charming caricature of the English upperclass and its strange old-fashioned customs. All actors gave a tremendous and delightful performance. And of course, Sandra Dee is beautiful and charming. Surely John Saxon was sad that he could not star again together with Sandra Dee in her next fabulous movie: "The Wild and the Innocent"!

Thanks(again) to

Arnold Stark

for his review!

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