Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA, 1966. Paramount Pictures, Seven Arts Productions. Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola, Fred Coe, Edith R. Sommer, based on the play by Tennessee Williams. Cinematography by James Wong Howe. Produced by John Houseman, Ray Stark. Music by Kenyon Hopkins. Production Design by Stephen B. Grimes. Costume Design by Edith Head. Film Editing by Adrienne Fazan. Golden Globe Awards 1966.
Handsome young Robert Redford blows into a tiny southern town and sets up at a local boarding house. He is unimpressed by the fast-talking woman who runs the place (Kate Reid) and charmed by her sweet young teenaged daughter (Mary Badham), but what really catches his eye is the young woman of the house, a trashy sexpot named Alva (Natalie Wood) who has the attention of every young man in town (and reputation says that they’ve all had her too). The chemistry between them is palpable (and why wouldn’t it be, they’re the two most gorgeous people in the world), but when it turns out that Redford works for the railroad company and has come to lay men off in order to deal with the financial setbacks of the Depression, things starts to get ugly. Like The Long, Hot Summer, this one isn’t so much a story as an excuse for movie stars to be incredibly sexy in the southern heat, but as formless character studies go you could do so much worse. Redford, in his young, blonde glory, is still emotionally unavailable and surprisingly human, while Wood could not possibly be more captivating. It’s the sort of falling apart she had already done so well in Splendor In The Grass, but there’s no denying the power she had to really light a screen on fire, plus she looks damned irresistible in the anachronistic but stunning Edith Head dresses. Reid is also marvelous in a role that Shelley Winters was probably just too busy to play. Based loosely on a play by Tennessee Williams (he hated the adaptation and threatened to have his name removed from the credits), the screenplay is co-written by a young Francis Ford Coppola.