[Last Film I Saw] The Long, Hot Summer (1958)

The Long, Hot Summer poster

Title: The Long, Hot Summer
Year: 1958
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Drama
Director: Martin Ritt
Writers:
William Faulkner
Irving Ravetch
Harriet Frank Jr.
Music: Alex North
Cinematography: Joseph LaShelle
Cast:
Paul Newman
Joanne Woodward
Orson Welles
Anthony Franciosa
Lee Remick
Angela Lansbury
Richard Anderson
Sarah Marshall
Bill Walker
Rating: 6.3/10

Three on a car, the red herring is talking

Three on a car, the red herring is talking

A Pride and Prejudice love story sited in Mississippi in the 1940s, can only cover half of this film’s hub, directed by the famous “Orson tamer” Martin Ritt (MURPHY’S ROMANCE 1985), the other half is about a rough-diamond father’s eagerness to marry off his maiden daughter and give an impetus to his incompetent son. The story impresses with a contingent proposition of provincial male chauvinism and women’s self-liberated modern viewing, but a gratifying finale dents its eloquence and leaves a sour taste of bathos.

Newman and Orson

Newman and Orson Welles, a good-matched pair

First of all, it is the first-collaboration of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward couple, crowned a BEST ACTOR trophy for Newman in Cannes and the follow-up to Woodward Oscar-winning role in THE THREE FACES OF EVE (1957), thus, a chief delightfulness hinges on their chemistry in their battle of wits as a charming but reckless suitor Ben Quick (Newman), an infamous barn-burner, and the demure but strong-mined rich lass Clara Varner (Woodard), and as we expected, the sparkle is tantalisingly ignited through their first scene together, Clara is driving with her sister-in-law Eula (the young and chirpy Lee Remick), who is talking to the hitchhiker Ben in quick fire ebullience, yet, Ben’s focus is solely on Clara, whose dismissive attitude intrigues him and for men in a motion picture, this is the one worth conquering.

Woodward and her bangs

Woodward and her bangs

Soon here comes the local big enchilada, Will Varner (Clara’s father, a port Orson Welles) is back from hospital, resolves to find a suitor for Clara, he shapes a proxy father-and-son relationship with Ben, which instigate the rancour from his own son Jody (Franciosa), Will is a leading role for certain (strangely Welles is fourth billed), at the age of 43, Welles has to act out an old man of 61, with a little help from a senior makeup, a fake nose and his authentic stoutness, anyhow, it is a convincing job, although one should be prepared not to be shocked during his first entrance.

Anthony Franciosa, a beaten son

Anthony Franciosa, a beaten son

Adapted from William Faulkner’s novel, The Hamlet amalgamating with his stories Barn Burning and The Spotted Horses, the film at its best when spinning out a poor-boy-rich-girl romance with perky momentum, and at its worst, when the patriarchal arrogance pervading with its stale stench of prejudices diminish women’s worth without any hint of redemption. It might be a rural leaning reflecting the reality then, but take the example of the excruciatingly designed role of Minnie Littlejojn (Lansbury), it is an agony of miscast and a smug snide on the gender-biased gold-diggers, not a sign for its future audience.

Angela Lansbury and Welles, a bad matched pair

Angela Lansbury and Welles, a bad matched pair

Moreover, a more mystifying evasion is the ambiguity belies the true colour of the mommy boy Alan Stewart (Anderson), for whom a wishful-thinking Clara falls for 6 years. Lastly, the set piece where Ben dupes Jody into digging ancient coins is a far-fetched plot device never rings plausible under any circumstances.

a suave Richard Anderson

a suave Richard Anderson

an irresistible Newman

an irresistible Newman

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3 thoughts on “[Last Film I Saw] The Long, Hot Summer (1958)

  1. Pingback: [Last Film I Saw] The Great White Hope (1970) [7/10] | Cinema Omnivore

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