Bil’s rating (out of 5): B. USA, 1965. Filmways Pictures, Venice Productions. Story by Martin Ransohoff, adaptation by Irene Kemp, Louis Kamp, screenplay by Dalton Trumbo, Michael Wilson. Cinematography by Milton R. Krasner. Produced by Martin Ransohoff. Music by Johnny Mandel. Production Design by George W. Davis, Urie McCleary. Costume Design by Irene Sharaff. Film Editing by David Bretherton. Academy Awards 1965. Golden Globe Awards 1965.
Bohemian artist Elizabeth Taylor (who despite the trappings is wonderful) has her idyllic life by the sea interrupted when her son, who she is trying to raise as a free-thinking nature boy, gets into serious trouble and is forced to attend a religious boarding school. The pastor who runs the place (Richard Burton, who cannot conceal how bored he is to be in this turkey) takes one look at her and is immediately smitten, trying to quell her fears of the narrow conformity her son will be indoctrinated into but, eventually, getting embroiled in an affair with her that betrays his marriage to his sensible and kind wife (Eva Marie Saint, once again playing second banana to Liz after Raintree County). The beauty of these stars and the gorgeous scenery of Big Sur should make for an indulgent romance, with its poiltical subversiveness providing an extra treat: Taylor sees marriage as an excuse to enslave women, and is so unashamed of her liberal sexuality that when Robert Webber tries to force himself upon her (if she’s willing to have a child out of wedlock than she must be loose), she comes at him with an axe. Such delights turn out to be empty intellectualizing, she’s basically a free spirit because she throws late night picnics in caftans and doesn’t wear shoes, giving way quickly to gooey melodrama without reason or sense. The whole thing is an empty experience that insultingly tries to pass itself off as brainy, the ripe symbolism of the titular bird just one of its laughable attempts at thoughtfulness.