Too Young to Know…Too Reckless to Care.
Poor little rich kid Danny Winslow runs away from his pampered existence after learning that his parents are getting a divorce. He takes to the freight trains, riding the rails like an itinerant hobo, but quickly learns that he’s ill equipped for the transient lifestyle. He makes the acquaintance of Bix Dugan, who is experienced in the ways of the rails and agrees to take Danny under his wing. Together, they wander into the small town of Sherman, but quickly find the local men are not very welcoming to strangers. The women, however, are a little more receptive.
This is a very unusual film, and I don’t know what it wants to be or what I’m supposed to think of it. Part rebellion picture, part romance, part crime drama–there should be some exciting scenes here, but there’s actually very little action. It’s really quite talky, which would be fine if the dialogue was more memorable, but unfortunately, it’s all easily forgotten. The pacing is very bizarre, it’s stop-and-go like rush hour traffic, and some scenes leading up to the action feel pointlessly drawn out. I suppose it was meant to build suspense, but it rarely, if ever, actually worked. If not for the occasional laughable moment, and the stunning homosexual undertones bubbling beneath the surface, there’d be very little of interest here.
As I said, I don’t know what this film wants to be, but I know what it appears to be. The boys on the Satellite of Love aren’t the only ones to pick up on the strong homosexual undertones that permeate the movie, whether they were intended or not. It’s difficult to imagine that it wasn’t intentional, so I will treat it as such. Almost right off the bat, when Danny convinces Bix that they should stick together, this feels less like a buddy movie and more like a romance.
When they’re riding the rails together, they’re in a big, nearly-empty boxcar, and yet their sleeping arrangements are so close that they’re practically spooning. When Danny wakes Bix up because he wants to talk, it’s a scene right out of a married-life sitcom. Later, Bix stands at the sliding door and looks out at the moving countryside and Danny stands right behind him, grasping his shoulders in a lover’s embrace.
Danny is supposedly looking to Bix to teach him the ways of the hobo lifestyle, but it’s a different lifestyle that he seems to really want to adopt. He subconsciously starts to mirror Bix’s movements, everything from putting on his jacket at the same time that Bix does to ordering the same meal for breakfast. I’ve seen showbiz comedies—for some reason, 1991’s THE HARD WAY sticks out—that has made use of this theme. In that film, Michael J. Fox plays a movie star who adapts the behavior and mannerisms of police detective James Woods for an upcoming role. In much the same way that Fox wanted to become Woods, Danny wants to become Bix, or at the very least become like him—unencumbered by societal expectations. On the surface, this may mean the expectation that a man should settle down, get a good job, and raise a family; but subtextually, it easily reads as the expectation that a man should bed down with a woman.
Both Danny and Bix are running from the same thing: their parents. Danny took to the road after learning that his parents are getting divorced, and Bix after he struck out as his abusive father, who immediately dropped dead of a heart attack. In the era in which this movie was released, parents would have likely been much less accepting of a son coming out as homosexual, so perhaps this is the real reason they’ve left home. But really, they’re running from themselves just as much as they’re running from anyone else.
Bix is initially hesitant to take Danny in and show him the way—which, if he’s running away from his sexuality, it makes sense that he would not want to travel with another male that he’s attracted to. Eventually he comes around, though, and genuinely seems to care for the younger man. He protects Danny when he’s able to, and nurses him when he’s not.
The budding relationships that Bix and Danny have with a pair of local girls feels mostly like a disguise, fake beards that they wear for the benefit of others. Bix even lapses into a jealous rage when he learns that prostitute Sadie has gotten Danny drunk and taken him back to the cathouse for some carnal actions. He busts in like an action hero and literally carries Danny to safety before the transaction could be consummated.
At the end of the third act, Danny calls his father and they make amends. His time on the run is over, and he’s heading home. But he’s bringing his special friend Bix with him.
The script for THE GIRL IN LOVERS LANE was written by Jo Heims, who also wrote the horror film THE DEVIL’S HAND (1961), the Elvis vehicle DOUBLE TROUBLE (1967, with Marc Brandel), the Clint Eastwood creeper PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971, with Dean Riesner), and the Patty Duke thriller YOU’LL LIKE MY MOTHER (1972). Jo was a former model and fashion illustrator who had befriended Eastwood while working as a secretary at Universal (some sources state that she was Clint’s personal secretary). She died from cancer in 1978.
Directorial duties went to Charles R. Rondeau, who also directed the family friendly adventure THE LITTLEST HOBO (1958) and the horror film DEVIL’S PARTNER (1961), but was mostly relegated to television productions, such as episodes of crime dramas SURFSIDE 6, HAWAIIAN EYE, 77 SUNSET STRIP, KOJAK and BARETTA. Rondeau and Heims had previously collaborated in the same capacities for the obscure 1960 crime drama THE THREAT.
Despite the awkward pacing that it suffers from, and the less-than-stellar script, THE GIRL IN LOVERS LANE does contain some pretty decent acting. Brett Halsey, who played Bix here, has been active in film and TV for nearly 65 years. Some of the more interesting titles on his filmography: REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (1955), HOT ROD RUMBLE (1957), HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS (1958), THE CRYBABY KILLER (1958), RETURN OF THE FLY (1959), THE ATOMIC SUBMARINE (1959), TWICE-TOLD TALES (1963), RATBOY (1986), TOUCH OF DEATH (1988), and DEMONIA (1990). Halsey has been married four times, each of his wives with ties to show business: Renate Hoy (ABBOT AND COSTELLO GO TO MARS, 1953; MISSLE TO THE MOON, 1958); Luciana Paluzi (THUNDERBALL, 1965); singer-actress Heidi Brühl (CAPTAIN SINBAD, 1963); and his current wife Victoria Korda, granddaughter of producer-director Alexander Korda.
Brett Halsey’s son with his first wife, Charles Oliver Hand, Jr. (the senior in the equation being Halsey’s birth name) also went by Rock Halsey or Rock Bottom, frontman for Los Angeles punk band Rock Bottom and the Spys. They released one EP in 1981 that went largely ignored before Rock was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the manufacture and distribution of meth. After serving thirteen years, he was murdered by two fellow inmates in 2005. Tragedy of equal measure befell most of the other members of the band, as well. (For more information, read this article from Break My Face).
Lowell Brown, who played Danny, has had considerably fewer roles than his partner-in-crime, but he can be found in THE PARTY CRASHERS (1958), HIGH SCHOOL CAESAR (1960), and THE DAY MARS INVADED EARTH (1963).
Joyce Meadows played diner waitress Carrie Anders, and can also be seen in THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS (1957), William Castle’s I SAW WHAT YOU DID (1965), and THE CHRISTINE JORGENSEN STORY (1970), though my favorite credit of hers is on BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961), where she’s listed on the IMDb as “Party Guest Shaking Derrière in White Dress”. She was born in the farmlands of Alberta, Canada and never even saw a movie until moving to America at age 11, but got involved in stage acting and was discovered through her stage roles. She had nothing but kind things to say about her co-stars, and remembered that during the scene in which she was attacked, she ruined three takes by being overcome with the giggles. She was so fond of her attacker that she simply had a difficult time taking him seriously as a threat.
The role of twisted dimwit Jesse was filled by Jack Elam, who has appeared in over 200 projects—many of them westerns—including: KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL (1952), ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968), CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE (1976), THE NORSEMEN (1978), THE CANNONBALL RUN (1981) and its sequel (1984), and SUBURBAN COMMANDO (1991). He was often cast as a villain if not an outright psychopath, but by all accounts, he was a very relaxed and friendly person in real life. He started off as an accountant, believe it or not, and got his start in show business by trading in his CPA skills for a role in the short film TRAILIN’ WEST. His most distinguishing feature was his “crazy eye”, the result of it being punctured by a pencil in a freak Boy Scout accident as a child (seriously). He passed away in 2003 at the age of 84.
But let’s not forget the very important role of Girl in Bathtub, as played by Asa Maynor. She didn’t have a name, nor did she have a lot to do other than temporarily distract Bix during his daring daylight whorehouse rescue, but boy, did she look good doing it. She had a much larger role in the abominable snowman horror flick MAN BEAST (1956), played a stewardess in the fan-favorite TWILIGHT ZONE episode “Terror at 20,000 Feet” (1963) opposite William Shatner, and can also be found in CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972). She had a “hot romance” with singer Bobby Darin in 1960, and was married to actor Edd “Kookie” Byrnes from 1962-1971, with whom she had one child, Logan Byrnes—currently a news anchor in Connecticut. Maynor was one of Natalie Woods’s closest friends, and she became an executive at NBC during the 1990s, but I was unable to ascertain any further information.
THE GIRL IN LOVERS LANE was produced independently but picked up for distribution by Roger Corman’s Filmgroup. It was double-billed with the Beatsploitation film THE WILD RIDE, which starred a young Jack Nicholson.
On a closing note, I’d like to take issue with a few things. First of all, the poster image: I actually quite like the look of the poster itself, and don’t mind that it makes the movie appear much more salacious than it actually is, but it basically gives away the “shocking finale” of the film. And secondly, the title is grammatically baffling. Although the title on the poster includes an apostrophe in the proper spot (Lovers’ Lane), the onscreen title does not; and shouldn’t it be the girl on Lovers’ Lane, not the girl in Lovers’ Lane?
Unless of course they buried her where they found her. Maybe that’s how they do things in Sherman.