(movie was well-adapted from Steinbeck’s popular book)
John Steinbeck’s novel The Wayward Bus became a reasonably successful black-and-white film directed by Victor Vica, shot in widescreen, which has finally been released on Blu-Ray.
The topic is an old familiar one: of travellers revealing their life stories, conflicts, and dreams, this time on a run-down California bus on a rural run from Rebel Corners to San Juan.
Actors include Dan Dailey (a travelling salesman), Jayne Mansfield (a burlesque dancer), Rick Jason ( a rugged bus driver in a role intended for Marlon Brando), and Joan Collins (looking very young and speaking with an American accent, as the alcoholic bus-stop café-owner). Other bus characters include a grumpy old man, an unhappily married couple with a restless daughter, the driver’s young assistant (named after Kit Carson), his love-interest–the cafe’s fired waitress, and “Sweetheart”–the wayward bus herself.
As the bus heads to San Juan, the movie is mainly about the characters and their relationships, how they interact, and their future plans. Vica and the plot keep things interesting with a rainstorm, an avalanche, a flash-flooded bridge, the bus stuck in a pond, and the driver’s wild driving on backroads. Despite their various failings and flaws, the characters get to where they’re going, which, in each case, is different and more positive from where they were at the start of the film.
A film recommended for viewers interested in ’40s and ’50s rural America, people commonly found back then, quest narratives, and Grand Hotel/Canterbury Tales types of movies. Entertaining, strangely believable, and unpredictable. Unique then and after all these years.