|(Publication date: April 2, 2004)
It Happens Every Spring
I’m a sucker for April Love. We all have our dirty little secrets, of course, some dirtier than
others. But you couldn’t clean mine if you set it up in a booth at the Solano Stroll and paid people
to batter it with a sand blaster. I’m nuts about this movie.
To your eternal credit, maybe you’ve never seen April Love. Maybe your parents raised you right
and you’ve never even heard of it. In that case, permit me to start the contamination.
In this one, from 1957, Pat Boone plays a juvenile delinquent from Chicago. (“Stop right there,”
you’re saying, as you double over with laughter and topple onto the dining room floor. “You’re
killin’ me here!”) Anyway, we’ve got Pat Boone, boy hoodlum. The backstory, as they say in the
biz (the movie biz, not the crime biz, although my movie producer pal David sometimes claims
there’s not much difference), is that Pat’s character, named Nick Conover, goes before the judge
in the Windy City for boosting a car. The judge must figure that Pat (oops, sorry, I mean Nick) is
too intimidating for the inmates at Alcatraz and besides, Alcatraz already had Al Capone and one
Chicago tough guy is plenty, even for the Rock. So he sentences Nick to go live on his uncle’s
horse farm in Kentucky. And that’s where we meet Nick as the movie opens. In the April
sunshine, he’s strolling along the road toward his new home in horse country, warbling the movie’
s first song. He even whistles the intro, something I’m sure Al Capone hardly ever did at Alcatraz.
Nick has many adventures on his way to becoming a sulky driver (!) at the county fair harness
races in the movie’s final reel. He tries his best to corrupt rural Kentucky, and you can imagine the
challenge—it’d be like trying to turn the Albany YMCA into a bookie joint. He talks back to his
kindly Aunt Henrietta, something Paul Muni never did in Scarface. He soups up his stern Uncle Jed’
s tractor, something Edward G. Robinson never did in Little Caesar. And he gets car grease all
over the radiant Shirley Jones, something James Cagney never did in White Heat, at least not with
Shirley Jones. But his real crime is foisting the title song on the locals at a community dance in my
favorite scene in the movie. He even wins five bucks for his efforts, something that’s never
happened to me at the Albany Y.
I used to skip classes in college just to watch this movie. I know, you’ve subjected yourself to
worse tortures in the interest of skipping classes, but I used to skip even English classes for April
Love, and they were my favorites. I was truly sick.
Still am. As I do every spring, I watched the movie this week, in the middle of the day, when I
could have been paying bills or cleaning out the cat box. I know I shouldn’t berate myself over
this. I’ll bet I’m no worse than anyone else. I’ll bet I’ve seen you pouring yourself a Slurpee at the
7-Eleven on Solano. (I was in there buying a nutrition bar, myself.) But I can’t beat this rap. I can’
t deny that this April Love deal makes members of my family want to re-check the chlorine level in
their gene pool, or, in one specific instance, the fine print on her marriage license.
It’s a horrible situation. And, in a perfect world, we’d all be this head-over-heels about something,
not only in April, but every month of the year.