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Day of Debutantes
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Day of Debutantes - 3/18 (Daytime)

We're sure you'll have a ball with TCM's salute to the debutante--a traditionally well-to-do young woman who celebrates her debut into society, and her eligibility to become a bride, with a coming-out party.

Two films in our retrospective star Katharine Hepburn and were released in 1933. In the romantic drama Christopher Strong, Hepburn plays an adventurous aviatrix while Helen Chandler has the role of a debutante-turned-flapper; both are involved in relationships with married men. In Little Women, the first film version of the Louisa May Alcott novel, Hepburn plays one of the March sisters, the stalwart Jo. Frances Dee is Amy, the would-be debutante with a weakness for pretty clothes and parties.

In the Bette Davis vehicle Jezebel (1938), the Oscar-winning star plays an impetuous Southern belle of the antebellum period. In one of the film's most famous scenes, she wears a shocking red gown to the Olympus debutante ball, where all the young ladies are expected to be dressed in white. These Glamour Girls (1939) features an early star turn for Lana Turner, who plays a New York City taxi dancer invited by a rich college boy (Lew Ayres) to attend a party filled with snobbish debutantes.

Another pair of films feature Judy Garland and were released in 1940. Andy Hardy Meets Debutante casts Diana Lewis as the deb with whom Mickey Rooney as Andy is infatuated, but Garland as Betsy Booth gets to sing "Alone" and "Nobody's Baby." Little Nellie Kelly casts Garland in the double role of Irish immigrant Nellie (her first grown-up part) and her daughter Little Nellie, who blossoms as a belle of old New York. Judy's numbers include "It's a Great Day for the Irish."

You'll Find Out (1940) is a comedy blending elements of a "Dark Old House" movie and a musical, with Helen Parrish cast as a young heiress who is celebrating her birthday at a spooky mansion. Horror stars Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Peter Lorre provide the scares, while bandleader Kay Kyser and cohorts serve up the music. Another musical, Higher and Higher (1943), features Frank Sinatra in his movie debut, with Michèle Morgan as a maid who poses as the socialite daughter of a wealthy family and must learn to comport herself like a debutante. Sinatra's songs include "I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night."

by Roger Fristoe

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