Aug 25, 2016

Spin and Marty: Summer Camp Boys in Love

In the spring of 1955, William Beaudine began casting an adaptation of the novel Marty Markham, about a wealthy mollycoddle who learns to be a regular fella at summer camp.   When buzz-cut jock Tim Considine auditioned, he was deemed too macho to play Marty, but far too charismatic to pass on, so a minor character in the novel, Spin Evans, was expanded for him.

 Marty was cast with David Stollery, a fey redhead who starred with Tim in Her Twelve Men (1954).

The Adventures of Spin and Marty premiered in November 1955 as a serial segment of Disney’s late-afternoon kiddie show The Mickey Mouse Club.

Though the original novel contains no homoromance, the tough-sissy contrast seems tailor-made for a revival of Tom Brown’s School Days or Cadets on Parade, and the series wastes no time in meeting the beefcake quota, displaying both stars' muscles and the respectable physique of an older boy (Sammy Ogg).  (Kevin Corcoran starred as tagalong annoyance Moochie.)

However, there is no instant camaraderie, no moment of falling in love.  In the first twenty episodes, Spin and Marty despise each other.  They often stare at each other, but they come face-to-face only for pranks, insults, and fights.  Late in the season, as counselors break up their latest fight by holding them upside down, Spin and Marty seem to really see each other for the first time.  Their shield of rage vanishes; they grin, and then laugh, and suddenly, inevitably, they are “together.”

In the remaining episodes, their fellow campers and the adults behave as if they have always been inseparable companions.  Intimacy appears, and passion when each tries to sacrifice himself for the other.  They even achieve homoromantic permanence: in the last scene, as the other campers prepare to go home, they are invited to stay on as ranch hands.

Viewers – grade schoolers and no doubt not a few high schoolers – were mesmerized by this hostility melting into love, and they responded with an urgency unknown in the days of Tom Brown’s School Days.  Books, comics, sheet music, and 45-rpm records flew off the shelves, continuing to evoke the homoromantic Arcadia for two years after the series ended.  Today, when the other live-action segments of The Mickey Mouse Club have faded into obscurity, many Boomers recall Spin and Marty fondly, as icons of their childhood.  Many recall them, clearly and unequivocally, as a gay couple.

In November 1956, Tim Considine and David Stollery returned for The Further Adventures of Spin and Marty.  Now Spin has an impressively tight, hard-lined chest and stomach, while Marty is lean and lanky (and decidedly feminine).  They are on display often and earnestly, as are all of the boys, presented in swimsuit and underwear shots as often as in Toy Soldiers decades later. But their homoromantic idyll is threatened: a girl’s camp has just opened up across the lake, and after some initial hesitation, they spend the series posturing, competing, and arguing over who gets to date Annette Funicello.  Then, when Marty is drowning, Spin rushes to the rescue.  The crisis makes them realize how much they care for each other and they renew their commitment, swearing off trivial distractions like girls.  Homoromance has triumphed.

But not for long.  In The New Adventures of Spin and Marty (November 1958), seventeen-year old Spin is dating Annette, and Marty is dating her fellow Mousketeer Darlene Gillespie.  Whatever passion they once felt for each other has been forgotten; they are not now, nor ever have been, more than buddies.

A fourth season of Spin and Marty was scripted, but never filmed.  Instead Tim Considine went on to star as in a Hardy Boys adaption with Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcorran. and as the eldest of My Three Sons on television before retiring, and David Stollery left Disneyland to become an automobile designer, and marry once. They still run into each other from time to time, at fan conventions, but they have not stayed in touch.