Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 1958. Jerry Wald Productions. Screenplay by Irving Ravetch,Harriet Frank Jr., based on the stories Barn Burning and The Spotted Horses and the novel The Hamlet by William Faulkner. Cinematography by Joseph LaShelle. Produced by Jerry Wald. Music by Alex North. Production Design by Maurice Ransford, Lyle R. Wheeler. Costume Design by Adele Palmer. Film Editing by Louis R. Loeffler. Cannes Film Festival 1958.
Two short stories and one novel by William Faulkner are haphazardly strung together for a film short on plot but heavy on sexual tension. Paul Newman is thoroughly irresistible as a suspected barn burner who is run out of his small town and makes his way to a new one. He lands at the southern plantation of a bullish new-money magnate (Orson Welles looking like a giant Buddha) who gives him a job in his general store. Welles has two children, an ambitious, married son (Anthony Franciosa), and a defiant, schoolteacher daughter (Joanne Woodward) who has no interest in marriage. The old coot gets the idea to set her up with Newman, thus setting both on the straight and narrow and helping maintain his genetic heritage. Lee Remick has a terrific supporting role as Franciosa’s mint-julip belle wife in a film that never fully affects you with its writing but is such an enjoyable experience for the heat generated by its stars. The locations are all beautifully photographed in widescreen and bright colour, and Woodward and Newman set each frame ablaze with their wonderful chemistry (this was the film on which they met and fell in love).