A Movie A Week: THE LONG, HOT SUMMER (1958)
Will you shut up? I’m talking to your sissy son!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the next installment of A Movie A Week.
[For those who new to the column, A Movie A Week is just that, a dedicated way for me explore vintage cinema every week. I’ll review a movie every Monday and each one will be connected to the one before it via a common thread, either an actor, director, writer, producer or some other crew member. Each film, pulled from my DVD shelf or recorded on the home DVR (I heart TCM) will be one I haven’t seen.]
Today we follow the legendary Paul Newman over from last week’s ‘70s thriller THE MACKINTOSH MAN and dive back a good 15 years to an early work by Newman called THE LONG HOT SUMMER.
We cover a lot of different genres with this column and the A Movie A Day column before that, but it’s been a while since we’ve hit a straight up drama. The list tends to lean towards thrillers, noir, comedy, musicals, westerns and war flicks, mostly because that’s how my own personal tastes run.
But that’s what I particularly love about doing this column with the stringent rules in place… it forces me to watch movies I might have kept putting off, like today’s flick, a sweaty, steamy tour de force for Paul Newman.
Based on original stories by William Faulkner this flick follows Paul Newman’s Ben Quick as he casually meanders into a small Southern town. Seems he was kicked out of the last town following accusations of barn burning, which is apparently on the same level of raping the local sheriff’s grandmother in the 1930s deep south.
Newman plays Quick with a lazy charm and pulls of a Southern accent without sounding ignorant or forced, which seems to be the only way modern actors put on a southern accent (see any random episode of TRUE BLOOD). Not Paul Newman, especially not 1958 Paul Newman.
It’s fascinating exploring Newman’s career and seeing just how he must have hit Hollywood like a ton of bricks. Everything that Marlon Brando brought to film is encompassed in Newman’s early, hungry performances, but with a down home flavor. Newman is just as natural as Brando was, always giving a calm, assured performance and with the same ability to show us glimpses of TNT behind the eyes. But he seems more accessible if that makes any sense. Brando is a guy who’s scary-good and Newman is a dude you want to be friends with.
You watch a movie like THE LONG, HOT SUMMER or THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS and Newman just comes across as one of those rare beings that was born to live on the silver screen. Everything about the man’s voice, eyes, body language, line delivery and presence just screams big screen to me… even on the small screen.
And what’s particularly awesome about this movie in particular is that it pits the young, hungry Paul Newman against the older, chubbier, but still formidable Orson Welles. Watching these two chew scenery in IB Technicolor Cinemascope is worth watching the flick just by itself, but on top of the great casting of the two male leads Martin Ritt’s direction and Irving Ravetch & Harriet Frank Jr.’s screenplay are all top notch.
But let’s not forget about the actresses in the picture. Basically Ben Quick works his way into the lives of a rich family, originally brought on as a hired hand, but through charm and guts he works his way deeper into the family.
Orson Welles is the boisterous head of the household and owner of goddamn near everything in this small town. His son is a fuck-up, flustered every time he is put in charge of any of the family affairs because he’s trying too hard to impress his father. Welles’ daughter is played by the soon to be future Mrs. Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward. In fact, by the time the film was release they were married.
There’s a love triangle at the center of this story… or maybe a love pentagon is more accurate. Woodward’s character has been courting a local (Richard Anderson) for years, but the guy is a mama’s boy and mama has no intention of giving up her son. The dude is nice, kind, but has no backbone… perhaps no real romantic interest in Woodward period. So you already have that triangle before Newman enters the picture.
Then comes Ben Quick with his confident, sweaty charm. He’s got a thing for Woodward, but she resists. Ultimately, her father demands that she shit or get off the pot (in a much more Southern gentlemanly way, of course) with the mama’s boy or he’s going to force an arranged marriage between her and Quick, who has earned his affection far more than his own son has.
So, you have the mama’s boy, the mother, Woodward, Newman and Welles… that’s the pentagon I was referring to.
But this flick isn’t really a romance film. That’s a big part of it, but I think it’d be a disservice to the flick to label it as such. It’s really a movie about exploring characters and character relationships over one sweaty southern summer. Thankfully it is never dull thanks to the sheer caliber of acting talent constantly on display.
I can’t forget Welles’ daughter in law, the absolutely stunning Lee Remick. The image in my mind of Remick will probably always be Damien’s mother in THE OMEN, so it was almost a shock to see her in this. I didn’t recognize her, even though I’ve seen her younger self in film before. Absolutely adorable.
Oh, crapper! I almost forget Angela Lansbury! I love Angela Lansbury and while she doesn’t have a lot to do in this flick, she brings a lot of heart to Welles’ girlfriend who just wants to finally be married to the man. This character could have gone in an entirely different (and more typical) direction. She could have been a conniving gold-digger, but Lansbury brings so much innocence to the role that I never questioned her motives.
From what I understand this flick was famous for being a more dangerous movie of the time and while it seems tame these days I can see where the reputation comes from. There is a lot of subtle lust in the film, but there’s also a lot of frank talk. It’s not all subtext. Woodward has a scene where she’s talking about a woman’s sexual appetite (and make no mistake that it’s any different from a man’s) which still comes off as edgy for some reason even today and I’m sure would have been down right shocking at the time.
If IMDB is to be believed, director Ritt got the reputation of being the man who tamed the famously bigger than life Orson Welles by driving him into the middle of a swamp after one of Welles’ outbursts and let him find his own way back. How cool is that? I hope it’s true and if it isn’t, I hope I never find that out.
Final Thoughts: While it’s not high up on the rewatchability list for me, I can’t deny that this film is one of the hands down best showcases of acting talent to be caught on film, the kind of lightning in the bottle that you can’t plan for as a filmmaker, but comes along every once in a while. Joseph LaShelle (The Apartment, Irma la Douce)’s cinematography is gorgeous, Ritt’s direction is assured and the whole isn’t lacking any single thing. Any Paul Newman fan who hasn’t seen this should pick it up straight away and give it a watch to remind themselves just why they love Paul Newman so much.
Upcoming A Movie A Week Titles:
Monday, July 13th: JOURNEY INTO FEAR (1943)
Monday, July 20th: HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962)
Monday, July 27th: CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (1948)
Monday, August 3rd: ROPE (1948)
Next week we follow Orson Welles over to JOURNEY INTO FEAR, something recorded off of TCM. Not sure if it’s out on DVD or not, but a mystery/suspense flick written by and starring Joseph Cotton? Fuck yeah, I’m in.
Oh, and if you have any desire to hear me ramble on with Film School Rejects’ Cole Abaius, you can click here to listen to their latest podcast, featuring yours truly rambling on and being incoherent as usual.
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April 27th: How To Marry a Millionaire
May 4th: Phone Call From A Stranger
May 11th: Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte
May 18th: Too Late The Hero
May 25th: The Best Man
June 1st: The Catered Affair
June 8th: The Quiet Man
June 15th: Rio Grande
June 22nd: The Getaway
June 29th: The Mackintosh Man
Click here for the full 215 movie run of A Movie A Day!
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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July 7, 2009, 4 a.m. CST
July 7, 2009, 4:28 a.m. CST
I guess we could always ask Peter Bogdanavich. I am sure he could go into a 30 minute story, pulling out his imitation of Orson Welles and mentioning himself about 100 times.
July 7, 2009, 5:56 a.m. CST
July 7, 2009, 6:03 a.m. CST
just 30 minutes long and only 100 self mentions?<P>this is a great movie and Quint I'm surprised you've never seen Rope it's probably my favorite of Hitch's movies, great acting, and some great tech details, saw it about 10 years ago for the first time on...TCM! fell in love--but I'm a theatre guy and Rope was originally a stage play and plays out like one so take that into account
July 7, 2009, 6:31 a.m. CST
July 7, 2009, 7 a.m. CST
Can't remember, does the camera ever cut? Even once? I don;t think so, I do remember that it is Hitch's badassedness out on display for all the world to see. <br> <br> The first twenty minutes or so of Rope are just a warm-up and then Jimmy Stewart walks on-screen and...that guy was a movie star!
July 7, 2009, 7:34 a.m. CST
it does...but it doesn't<P>Hitch wanted it to be seamless no cuts but he couldn't because the technicolor cameras or film would only allow for about 10 minutes or so, so they'd do a 10 min long take, and the crew would move pieces or the camera into the same spot, etc...it was also shot so that when the cuts were made it was in a spot like in the shadows or around a wall or something so that the cut wouldn't be noticed
July 7, 2009, 7:35 a.m. CST
the only noticeable cut is from the opening credits at the street to the apartment
July 7, 2009, 8:44 a.m. CST
by Royston Lodge
The world of Faulkner! The language of Faulkner! The shoes of Faulkner! The bathroom tissue of Faulkner! The lettuce of Faulkner! And so on, and so forth...
July 7, 2009, 8:56 a.m. CST
ROFL, Continentalop! I remember watching this one on TV a long time ago. Really good film and the word "sweaty" is a propos. This was made into a TV film with Don Johnson and Cybill Shepherd back in the '80s. Not as good as this but Johnson made us college girls swoon.
July 7, 2009, 8:58 a.m. CST
by Sailor Rip
There are about eight cuts in rope. At the time the camera could only hold so much film so the film had to be changed about every ten minutes. Most of the cuts occur when Hitchcock zooms in on someone's back into black and then zooms out again.
July 7, 2009, 9:13 a.m. CST
I have a VHS copy of Rope with a regular, non-hidden cut.
July 7, 2009, 9:32 a.m. CST
She was also in that Lady Vanishes remake. Not to mention the fact that Moonlighting, "a love story with detective interruptions," had Hitchcock written all over it.
July 7, 2009, 11:33 a.m. CST
A Joseph Cotten film next week? Quint better turn on his spell check.
July 7, 2009, 11:42 a.m. CST
July 7, 2009, 11:44 a.m. CST
If you thought Lee Remick was hot in this movie, wait until you see her in that!
July 7, 2009, 1:07 p.m. CST
by axel fff
is one of my favorite writers, but his work doesn't seem to translate to film very well. <p> I'm interested in what you think of Northside 777, Quint. I tried watching it a couple of weeks ago, and didn't get through it. It just didn't hook me, but maybe I was paying much attention. Then again, I watched it right after North by Northwest and Rear Window. Tough acts to follow. <p> Rope's a good one, too.
July 7, 2009, 3:25 p.m. CST
I haven't seen this for the same reason Quint has mentioned above. There is always some other cooler sounding movie. I did see Hud from the same director and star though and from what Quint said about this one it sounds pretty similar. By that I mean that while I found Hud to be a drama with the highest caliber of acting I don't really find myself wanting to watch the movie again. Also Rope is pretty good though I think the acting goes too over the top towards the end. For the most part it's pretty great though.
July 7, 2009, 4:15 p.m. CST
Yeah, i know that it never appears to cut. When a scene goes into another room or another side of the room, obviously, the crew and/or camera would have to be moved or repositioned. Is that why we get those long unnerving shots down the hallway and things like that? <br> <br> Either way, whether the camera actually cuts every ten minutes or not, the fact that we're talking about the technique all these years later is such a great testament t the genius of Hitchcock. Man, they REALLY don;t make em like that anymore. Hell, they don't even remake em like that anymore. coughVanSantPsychocough
July 7, 2009, 4:33 p.m. CST
oh yeah there is noone else like Hitchcock and it's amazing what he pulled off , like I said it's my favorite Hitch movie
July 7, 2009, 5:17 p.m. CST
Love this film...just perfect. Looking forward to Rope - one of the great little seen Hitchcock's. The tension in that movie is incredible!
July 7, 2009, 5:28 p.m. CST
They sound almost identical.
July 7, 2009, 5:30 p.m. CST
Imagine your life without air conditioning in the summer. That's a ton of suck right there.
July 7, 2009, 5:31 p.m. CST
put that on your "Too Watch List". It's so damn good, and very violent for its day.
July 7, 2009, 7:18 p.m. CST
by axel fff
Saw that one a couple of months ago. I'd forgotten how good it is. Glenn Ford, Lee Marvin, and the woman whose name I'm too lazy to look up on imdb, the woman from In a Lonely Place (and once married to Nicholas Ray, I think). The coffee scene. Great crime movie, indeed.
July 7, 2009, 7:19 p.m. CST
After seeing this for the first time, some friends and I came up with a song, aptly titled, "Sucks to be Jody." Talk about Camus' modern man - it sucks to be Jody. Still, one of my least favourite Martin Ritt films. Don't know why it didn't strike a chord with me - Faulkner and Ritt, it had to be no contest, right? Nope. I think it came from the way Ritt had read Faulkner's tone. But it's cool, "Sounder," is for my money one of the greatest films ever made. I think it is perfect, and would like to hear a good negative criticism of it - cause I don't think there is one. One of America's crowning achievements in filmmaking, and one of the most natural films ever made. What could be a very forced film is instead a revelatory walk along side a boy during life's most uncertain times. And, for me, one of the most enlightening films about racial boundaries in the American South. While "Mississippi Burning" portrays racism in stunning clarity (like looking in a mirror), and "Nothing But A Man" is the best film ever made about being African American in the 1960s South, "Sounder" showed how the races interacted, how they existed in what was clearly an unbalanced society, how they accepted it. If you watch it with that in mind, I think it is an artful embodiment of a time most young people have difficulty imagining. The stratification is so clear, and yet you see the ambiguity, too (watch the wheels turn for Ms. Boatwright when she feels she has done a favor for David Lee and he accuses her of her complicity with the way of the system, or the simple fact that David Lee is accepted into an all-white school but prefers the school of all black children that he finds on his journey). A stunning piece of art. Can't sing that film's praises enough. And as for the rest of Ritt's distinguished body of work, "The Front" has what has to be one of the all-time greatest last 5 minutes of any film ever made. And I know it is a comedy, and one that is topical for mainly a generation, but damn, it nails the tone of that film so perfectly that I can't imagine another one. Any other ending, next to him just giving up and us being left to pick up the pieces, would have felt purely wrong - even without the benefit of knowing what could have been (like watching the current version of "Gangs of New York" and having the aching sensation that a lot of its true depth has been lost to us due to the absence of certain frames). "the Front" takes Allen's self-effacement to a level only his own best films can truthfully depict, and that comes without the benefit of it being a Woody Allen picture with all his blisteringly hilarious (and sometimes frightening) self-knowledge. "She's just a girl I slept with," and, damn, that's what lying feels like. And I haven't even tackled "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold," nor "Hud." Great filmmaker. "Stanley and Iris" has a lot of truth in it, too. I agree that Faulkner adaptation rarely pay off - though, I suggest the short film "Two Soldiers" if you can ever find it, for it truly understands Faulkner's sense of moral ambiguity filtered through a lense of understanding the tenuous nature of all great and beautiful things in life, their fragile connection to our hard realization of life, the sometimes hatred of the imagination of it - how what is dreamed is compusively destroyed. And Ron Pearlman is in "Two Soldiers," too. The Southern author who was blessed with great adaptations still remains Tennesse Williams. In fact, Newman's swagger in "the Long Hot Summer" reminds me a lot of Brando's brilliant first 5 minutes in Lumet's "The Fugitive Kind." I really like that movie. Just wish somebody could realize Faulkner onscreen as well as Williams was (even if the results were far cries from the original plays, they are still luminescent things).
July 7, 2009, 7:20 p.m. CST
July 7, 2009, 7:25 p.m. CST
Fritz Lang's nihilism was wrote all over his pictures. I personally have a lot of difficulty with them - I find them interesting, food for thought, but brutal as hell, and exhausting. How Lang just waded into moral ambivalence at the end of "the Big Heat" blows me away. An audacious film. But, as a testament to the film's power and maybe ultimate message, you do walk away with Graham being the real deal in the film and Ford's cop comes off as manipulative, weak even - a small man. And that registers on his face I think. A good film, but a troubling one.
July 7, 2009, 7:30 p.m. CST
I think that they focus on Faulkner as a story teller, a spinner of tales and good yarns. They forget how humane he really was, how deeply affecting his stories were and are. Why those films don't match the work? I think they lack courage to.
July 7, 2009, 8:04 p.m. CST
Both of his German films and his American Noirs. I guess I have different taste than you ChaunceyGardiner (but not to different considering you're named after an awesome film character) I love the bleak and unsettling noirs of Lang. To me he is the one of the Ultimate Noir directors who was able to truly grasp the essence of noir (to quote James Elroy "You're fucked!"). <p> Scarlet Street was a great movie to me, which I enjoyed even more than Renior's La Chienne. Same with The Big Heat, with GG's tragic femme fatale. I would also add Woman in the Window and House by the River as the best of Lang's noirs. Lang couldn't really capture the dark side of the human heart and soul, things we don't like to admit about ourselves.
July 7, 2009, 8:13 p.m. CST
is also in A FACE IN THE CROWD, which Quint should add to his list if he hasn't seen it already.
July 7, 2009, 8:14 p.m. CST
by axel fff
Agree with your take on Faulkner adaptations. Can you imagine a movie of Light in August dealing humanely with Joe Christmas and villifying Percy Grimm?
July 8, 2009, 4:28 p.m. CST
Sorry, Continentialop. It was no nuance in my use of the word, and I definately didn't mean to connote a negative assessment of Lang's thematic explorations. He pursued dark material with extraordinary single-mindedness. To use the term "nihilism" seemed to mean that I felt Lang was espousing that philosophy, when I intended to draw attention to the dedication he showed to examining what we'd commonly say were the dregs of society - when in fact he was chronicling that long hard road down to hell that so many people seem to favour in life with their obsessive and consistently self-destructive choices, choices that (with Lang) irrevocably lead them to their doom. It is almost a Puritanical devotion that he had to the subject of damnation - course, in the end, we are left with Lorre's plea at the end of "M." Wrenching experiences in Lang's work - and I've only seen the most obvious examples, along with a few of his lesser-known pictures. That said, I've never seen "House by the River" and aim to search it out now. Thank you for the thoughtful response to the indolence in my response. It gave the wrong impression. Lang is strong medicine, and I am thinking of returning to some of his films from my past that I've wrestled with over the years, see what they reveal on return viewing - I expect that that will be quite a lot. And I hope that I don't merely see his characters as pitiable, but instead of those who chose what they desired, and reaped the results (brutal, but honest). We just hope that others (and ourselves) would make wiser choices, less yearning, more balanced. But I guess that is the noir world, off-kilter reflection of our's. The Alley of Shadows.
July 8, 2009, 4:31 p.m. CST
Such a film would be an experience to remember. We can hope for the likes of such. One of those rare miracles of filmmaking. *Interesting that this thread showed me some slight comparisons between Fritz Lang and William Faulkner.
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