Quick Hit: They sure don’t make movies like they used to, do they?
I love older films. You can tell so much about different things by watching them. You can feel studio influence at a time when the owners of the studios literally “loaned” stars to others, as was the case here with Paul Newman. You can watch people become stars (again, as is the case here with Paul Newman). But my favorite thing about older movies is that they transport you back to a time where a slice of apple pie was 15 cents, and a man could make a difference in his own life.
Today’s post is about the wonderfully glorious movie, The Long Hot Summer. There’s a reason certain movies stick around for a long time and are considered “classics” – it’s because they are often really, really good (though some bad ones stick around by nature of being bad, or at least being groundbreaking). I enjoyed this movie from start to finish, even the overlong credits in the beginning. We rarely get a chance to appreciate credits anymore, because the opening credit scene is so often wrapped up in the effects of the movie it's in (for a good example of this, watch Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street).
Let’s start with the story. A young man, Ben Quick (Newman) rides into town with two young ladies. He’s looking for a job where he can work. He quickly finds that the man to talk to in town is Will Varner (Orson Welles). Soon, it becomes apparent to Varner (and everyone else) that Ben Quick is a man to be reckoned with. Varner likes him so much he wants to marry him off to his daughter, Clara (Joanne Woodward). After a bit of drama, everyone lives happily ever after.
First off, this was a story that was still fairly new at the time. The whole story is based off of several William Faulkner tales (namely “The Hamlet”), and it feels organic. Nothing is rushed, no characters are being moved around simply for plot reasons. Everything is just happening because it should. That’s something that a lot of movies these days should really take into mind.
Another thing that I noticed was the sexuality present in this film. By our standards today, it’s pretty tame, but back then… YOWZA! Fifteen minutes in and we see a girl in a slip. Later in the movie we have a woman talking about her sexual desires, and Ben never misses an opportunity to talk about how good he and Clara could be between the sheets. We also get Varner’s mistress, Mittie LittleJohn (what a great name) (played by Angela Lansbury, Mrs. Potts herself) standing up and planning a wedding because she will no longer be strung along by Varner. This is extremely progressive for this time period (even if Mittie is mainly played for laughs).
The acting is great. Orson Welles is has a super thick country accent that some may say is too over-the-top. But with an over-the-top character like Varner, it suits him. I really enjoyed his character, as he played him as larger than life, but at the same time greatly relate-able. His scene with Clara where he shares a nightcap is extremely emotional, and resonated with the father in me (I’m so glad I don’t have daughters).
end of the film what first seemed icy now seems hotter than a barn fire. I guess that this chemistry was real, because the couple married a month after production wrapped, and begin a collaboration of lots of good movies.
I think I could write all day about this movie – it’s that good (I promise I’ll try to wrap it up here in a moment). The dialogue is witty and snappy, and seems very much like a Tennessee Williams play. Indeed, Newman starred shortly after in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, so someone else must have thought so.
Bottom line here folks: watch this movie when you can. You won’t be disappointed. I give it an “A+”.
For more on this movie, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"