A June Date in an Incredible But True Seventies TV Movie…
June Allyson stars as Marge Emery, a lady in one of four pairings matched up on a dating show. Then the matched couples are taken to Hawaii for 10 days. With one chaperone. There’s love, mishaps, revelations and a kidnapping in this delightful TV Movie comedy.
Three On A Date 1978 ABC Movie Promo, Sean Mc, http://www.youtube.com, photos © ABC Circle Films
I was introduced to Marge Emery – a delightful role from June Allyson – in Three on a Date (1978), a wonderfully cheesy Seventies TV movie. This TV Movie was discovered in her later acting credits got my curiosity immediately, as it appealed to me as I’m a bit of a sucker for films from this decade. This because I love their plots, quirky soundtracks, montages and cast lists. And possibly as I was brought up watching the better ones albeit about 10 years later.
Sadly, this movie didn’t have a soft focus montage or a title song sung by Barry Manilow (or another ballad crooner) as was the norm for those 70s films made for TV. But the film’s plot and randomness in the cast list reminded me of so many of those great ensemble TV series of around the time. The movie’s cast included an actress from both Grease (1978) and its 1982 sequel (Didi Conn), a famous son of an actor renowned for his Westerns (Patrick Wayne – John Wayne’s son) and the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) from The Wizard of Oz (1939). And with the icing on the cake, another surprising celebrated TV acting name – from this time – directed it (with more on that later). However this review – due to the amount of shenanigans all the characters experience – will concentrate on Allyson’s role in the movie, briefly mentioning the others as the plot requires.
The scene is set for the film, as we enter a 1970’s TV studio with a set with funky decor. After its groovy theme tune ends, a dating show begins. Backstage Angela (Loni Anderson) is feeling nervous, despite the fact she’s a centerfold model and dancer. Then she’s on air and is introduced by Emcee (Geoff Edwards) to her three possible dates. All the men wearing a range of 70s best (?) attire. Each
lovingly remembered with one man in a dorky suit, another in something John Travolta would have worn to disco in Saturday Night Fever (1977) and the third that now infamous lounge wear. After questioning and then picking her winning date, Angela will go on a date with him – and a chaperone – in an all expenses paid 10 day holiday. And this explaining the movie title.
The film continues with its cool 1970s fonted credits and with what could only be a 70s title musical track. Backstage, production assistant (and apparent dogsbody) Stephanie (Forbesy Russell) is coerced by her superiors to take four winning couples from this dating show to Hawaii. As their only chaperone. And with one of the dates not turning up, and her Stetson wearing date Bob (Ricky Nelson) not knowing anyone in town. Stephanie asks friend Eve (Conn) to step in.
So the eight dates and Stephanie meet up at the airport. Angela’s date is revealed to be Donald (John Byner), a comic writer. And I feel he could become really irritating after hearing just some of his quips. Val, a secretary (Meredith McCrae) is paired with a hunk, Roger (Wayne), an actor. Sweet and shy Eve is meanwhile being charmed by Bob. Then we see a young man and woman giving some last-minute instructions to an older man and woman. With the older woman making a fun quip about this to the silver-haired man. Its’ revealed it is the older couple Marge (Allyson) and Andrew (Bolger) met on the dating show and are the ones going to Hawaii. And I’m now hooked wondering how these odd couples will get on. If at all.
So the flight takes off, with these the four of the strangest of pairings and Stephanie as we head to Hawaii. So during this 70s flight, Val’s handsome date, has lots of lovely 70s chicks chatting him up throughout the flight. Which understandably annoys her. Him not so much. Eve and Bob have an obvious attraction and seem to be quite sweet and honest with each other from the start. And Angela and her date, Ray (John Byner) are getting on fine too despite his “comic” lines. Which she initially doesn’t find funny too, and this causing some awkward moments.
The in-flight entertainment includes some 1970s lovelies modelling what the ladies wear in Hawaii (as some people curse they were born in the wrong decade). Sadly, we aren’t treated to what men wear. Marge is making the most of the free alcohol, this to her date’s disapproval. She tells him she’s glad to escape her overprotective family. And with some delightful comic lines aimed towards her uptight date, she’s quite the comic. Centerfold Angela meanwhile has to fend off some unwanted attention from some men on the flight. The men in her group defend her from their lewd comments.
On arrival in Hawaii there’s only one car provided for the party, with the whole of this cast cramming themselves into it. And their tour guide, a Hawaiian national has no time for them, seeing them as mainlanders. So this annoys Stephanie. But we get some film shots of Hawaii of yesteryear. At the hotel there are more mishaps and these leading to some fun moments. However at the hotel, the group are being observed by a shady looking pair of men. In addition, a photographer in a dodgy trench coat is taking photographs of the young chaperone and her group..
However later that night, we see more of the couples as they spend more time with each other as the attend a local dance. Allyson’s Marge is seen as spritely fun-loving character with a sense of humour. Her date, Andrew (Ray Bolger) is the complete opposite a dour, uptight man. As she tries to thaw his icy personality by challenging him, he becomes exasperated with her. But all appears to improve between the couples, as the night progresses. Later Donald arranges to meet with Angela. But she has gone, apparently abducted by the two shady men…
So what can I tell you about this film. The story line was based on an autobiographical tale from Stephanie Buffington, the young chaperone to these couples. This I learnt after seeing the movie, which made it even more endearing, knowing these characters and events were based on real facts. With Seventies TV Star Bill Bixby directing. Bixby played Dr David Banner in The Incredible Hulk (1978-82) TV series. This film was released at the same time in this series and lead to me having, some daft thoughts round this fact. Such as when he lost his temper backstage – did he go green, clothes rip and suddenly turn into his TV alter ego role?
Each of the characters were played wonderfully and credibly. And it was lovely that equal time was spent with each other the couples as we saw their relationships develop for better and worse. The comedy was light and with many references to TV and Movies of the time. And although true, it was reminiscent of The Love Boat (1977-87) for romance, with a hint of Hotel (1983-88) as the story became more intriguing after Angela’s disappearance. Also a bit of Fantasy Island (1977-84) with the pairings.
However special mention has to go to Allyson in her role as Marge Emery. In this she was reunited with Bolger who she featured with in The All-Star Christmas Show (1958). And it was lovely to see these two Hollywood, memorable names working together 20 years later as dating partners. Marge was a delightfully fun, amusing and caring character. I loved Marge’s lack of rapport with her screen date in the first half of the movie. I won’t tell you how things pan out though. Allyson delivered her lines mischievously, but with honesty and without a hint of malice. Marge didn’t play games to win over her date, and her character proved a supportive one when younger characters asked for love advice. And for these reasons, Marge easily won my vote as my favourite of the characters.
So what happened with Marge and the others in their date with fate? The movie ends with a marriage made in heaven.. both on-screen and off set. As off set, the majority of this cast – who hadn’t previously – embarked on a certain guest star role. And this in a series their director had had an oar in as they had love, exciting and new… in The Love Boat.
This review was entered in the June Allyson Centenary Blogathon run by Champagne for Lunch. Didi Conn also stars in my Grease 2 (1982) review. Others starred in guest roles in Fantasy Island and The Love Boat.