Marty Milner – Ginger Kid Extraordinaire
My son is the classic movie aficionado in our household and it’s always a treat to see what he will come up with next. I had been complaining about the unusually severe winter we were having here in Upstate New York and he countered with a movie which featured some of my favorite actors from the 1950s and 1960s, probably so he didn’t have to listen to me gripe.
“Sweet Smell of Success” (1957) starring Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and Martin “Marty” Milner is a hard hitting story about a critic (Lancaster) who basically holds every notable and upcoming public figure hostage with his powerful newspaper column. I forgot all about my winter blues when Steve Dallas (Milner), a fresh faced ginger kid, appeared as an up and coming jazz guitarist.
He’s the protagonist in the story, managing to keep his morals intact and stand up for his dignity despite the columnist’s attempt to ruin him because he was in love with the guy’s kid sister and wanted to marry her. Milner shines and well, is just plain decent, the perfect foil for a lot of dirty business going on in New York City. And he’s hip, too, looking totally cool sitting on a stool in a night club playing those jazzy tunes.
Milner, one of my first crushes as a little girl, went on to star in the TV show “Route 66” (1960-64), what I consider to be a cleaner version of Jack Kerouac’s novel “On the Road” (1957). Unlike Kerouac’s benzedrine fueled main characters, Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, Tod Stiles (Milner) and Buz Murdock (George Maharis) aren’t just traveling the country for kicks. They are trying to find themselves after Tod loses his dad and Buz loses his job due to Tod’s dad’s death. The plot centers around a modern day quest for redemption in an ever changing environment.
Written and filmed on location all over North America, the show featured Tod’s super hot Chevy Corvette (his only inheritance from his father), the vehicle which propelled them from place to place and job to job. These two partners, who were from opposite sides of the track, found themselves helping others who were less fortunate. They were hip, restless and socially conscious, typifying much of American youth in the 1960s. By the end of each episode they had helped someone else out of a bad situation and were on the move again.
Milner appeared in several TV shows after “Route 66,” but his role as Tod has always been one of my all time favorites. When it came to good guy roles, Milner was a natural. And thanks to my son’s movie choice, I was once again reminded of one of the coolest ginger kids of the ’60s.