The Wayward Bus
Starring Joan Collins, Jayne Mansfield, Dan Dailey, Rick Jason, Betty Lou Keim, Dolores
Michaels, Larry Keating, Robert Bray, Will Wright
Directed by Victor Vicas
Runtime: 87 min.
Print Quality: B
John Steineck's novel The Wayward Bus was retranslated into pop-entertainment terms for
the screen. Most of the story takes place on the charter bus owned by driver Rick Jason.
Travelling slowly through a treacherous California mountain region, the passengers —
including Jason's spiteful, alcoholic wife Joan Collins— undergo a variety of life-altering
experiences. The journey has its most profound effects upon an iconoclastic travelling
salesman (Dan Dailey) and lonely stripper (Jayne Mansfield). This is one instance in which
the oblong CinemaScope lens is inappropriate to the intimacy of the story.
The Wayward Bus is an interesting story of bus passengers who interact with each other on their way to San Juan, Mexico from California. The bus driver, Johnny quarrels with his wife, Alice about her drinking and greed for money. This happens just before the journey. He gets angry and leaves her at home. Soon, the passengers arrive at the bus stop cafe. The first one is Camille Oakes who is on her way to a job in San Juan, then Ernest, a traveling salesman, Van Brunt who is a fussy old man who is in a hurry to reach San Juan, Elliott and Bernice Pritchard with their wayward teenage daughter, Mildred. The quarreling Pritchards want to take their daughter on the trip so that they can severe the relations between Mildred and her boyfriend. Along with them are the bus stop employees Ed Carson, a young handyman and mechanic and Norma, a waitress who wishes to go to Hollywood. During the course of the journey, a message over the radio warns them of an approaching storm. Camille reads a magazine in which she has been slandered a lot. Soon, Mildred starts to flirt with Johnny and Ernest entertains Camille by showing the products that he sells. Soon, there is a huge landslide down the hillside where the bus is traveling, which ends up terrifying the passengers. A highway patrol helicopter lands and Johnny is informed that the main road to San Juan is closed.
Johnny phones Alice to apologize, but she abuses him and is drunk as well. He gets frustrated and decides to go to San Juan over the old road. He also makes up his mind to leave Alice as well. Later, Pritchard reads the article about Camille and is very ill-mannered towards her. Ernest is attracted to Camille and is kind to her as he is unaware of her profession. Johnny tells the passengers to walk across the bridge of the river as it is endangered by the advancing rapids. Once they cross the bridge, he tries to drive his bridge across but a tree falls across the bridge causing it to break into two. The wheels of the bus skid and Carson tries to free it and helps Johnny to dry land. However, at the bus stop cafe, the helicopter pilot makes romantic advances to Alice, but she rejects his advances. He is disappointed but offers to drive Alice to meet Johnny in San Juan. Soon, the bus brakes fail when driving and Johnny crashes into a mud hole. The passengers quarrel with Johnny and he decides to go look for a farmer with a tractor who can extract the bus from the mud hole. He learns that the farmer will not return until the afternoon. He decides to rest in the barn from the rains. Mildred follows him and seduces him. Mr. Pritchard realizes that he and his wife are responsible for their daughter’s behavior.
Ernest asks Camille to marry him and she accepts. Later, Pritchard shows Ernest the magazine where there is a featured article about Camille. Ernest is shocked and avoids Camille thereafter. After the farmer returns, Johnny requests his help and returns to the bus and realizes that he still loves his wife. Soon, Alice arrives and learns that Johnny had spent his time with Mildred. She is deeply hurt but decides to continue to San Juan and boards the bus. After she reaches San Juan, she tells Johnny that she wants to leave him and walks away. Camille is met at the station by the man who has hired her. Ernest follows her and asks her to return to Los Angles with him. She accepts and informs the man who has hired her that she is retiring permanently. Mildred wires her boyfriend that she is coming home to marry him. When Johnny learns that Alice has boarded the bus for Reno, he follows her and both of them reconcile. The movie, The Wayward Bus was released in 1957 by Twentieth Century Fox. The Wayward Bus is based on a novel by John Steinbeck.