Friday, September 7, 2012

It's Time to Go for a "Walk"

Early-1960s Hollywood was a time of vast change indeed. The longstanding Production Code (which forbad so many “immoral” things to be present in movies) was beginning to loosen and the industry was starting to explore subjects that had previously been taboo. In 1961, The Children's Hour concerned two female teachers and friends (Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine) running a girls school who come under attack when one of the students accuses them of lesbianism. In the end, one of the ladies realizes that she may very well be what she's been accused of and the result is not pretty. Ironically, even though the movie was truer to its source material (a play by Lillian Hellman), the sanitized 1936 version called These Three (with Merle Oberon and Miriam Hopkins) was and is considered the better film. So the fact that movies were finally being permitted to grow up again and tackle some serious and unusual subjects didn't necessarily ensure that the end results were automatically going to be of a higher quality than the reined-in films made during the code's stringent hey day. Still, Tinseltown was ready to break free of its previous restrictions and take a walk on the wild side.

Take today's featured movie, the first Hollywood film of the new era to depict a full-on lesbian, though still cloaked in suggestion and mystery. Aptly titled Walk on the Wild Side, the (supposedly) sordid film was based on a 1956 novel called A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren. The novel (by the man who also wrote The Man with the Golden Arm in 1949) was chock full of eye-popping material from rape to prostitution to peep shows involving explicit sex acts. The novel's protagonist even worked for a time in a condom factory! Today, the novel is considered by many to be a neglected classic, filled with poetic passages and arresting imagery, though it remains lesser known to the general public.

There was no way in the world that the book's story was going to be brought to the screen intact, so practically all but the characters' names and a bit of their backgrounds was jettisoned; replaced by a more streamlined storyline that nevertheless featured some groundbreaking elements. For starters, much of the movie's plot took place in a brothel and the owner of the brothel was a lesbian.

Unfortunately for almost everyone, the film's producer, Charles Feldman, was also a top agent, one who worked strenuously to gain compensation for his clients, but also for himself; the result being that he stacked the picture with stars he represented, but who in most cases were utterly wrong for the story he was telling! (He's shown here surrounded by a gaggle of his contracted acting and directing talent)

For the role of the young Texas man about whom most of the story revolves, he cast his client, thirty-three year-old Laurence Harvey, a Lithuanian raised in South Africa and England! As the Texas boy's childhood sweetheart who he wishes to reunite with, he cast his client and object of affection, the decidedly French model/actress Capucine, who was the same age as Harvey. (She later alleged that, even though they were living together and seen in public as a couple, that their relationship was not a sexual one, just a mutually beneficial partnership.) Then, as the caring, Mexican diner owner who helps Harvey in his quest, he cast another one of his clients, the unmistakably Caucasian Anne Baxter. Thus, his desire to cash in on the commission of his actors cost him any chance he had of making a believable, sensibly-wrought motion picture. Not content with these decisions, he also handed the directorial duties to still another of his clients, Edward Dmytryk. Incidentally, it was soon after this that the Screen Actors Guild forbad agents to produce while still actively representing talent.

As noted above, the story of the film was heavily augmented from the that of the book and goes like this: Harvey, a drifter, but not one without at least some amount of money, is thumbing his way across Texas, trying to head through Louisiana into New Orleans. In trying to secure a place to spend the night amongst some old pipes, he stumbles upon fellow drifter (and teenager) Jane Fonda.
They spend the night nestled within the same pipe, purportedly for warmth and not sex. Miss Fonda is a scruffy, dirty little thing (check out the horrid grime makeup!), but she's got big plans. She's headed to New Orleans herself where she intends to make it on her own. She's not above a little larceny, however, and attempts to pick Harvey's wallet from him while he's still asleep. He thwarts her in that effort and the two make up, continuing on their journey by hopping a freight train.
Once they reach a gas station and are closer to town, she emerges from the ladies room in a curve-hugging, patterned dress, her hair all big and long. They head into a cafe run by Baxter, who has inky black hair and puts forth a “theek” Hispanic accent. The kindhearted entrepreneur is rather taken with Harvey, but understandably suspicious of the pouty and sarcastic Fonda.

Fonda feigns food poisoning and is rushed to Baxter's bedroom to rest until a doctor can be called, but it's only so that she can ransack the room to look for money or other valuables. Once Harvey discovers what she's done, he bids her adieu and goes back to Baxter where he soon agrees to help run her place while continuing to hunt for his long lost love Capucine. He places an ad in the local paper that runs daily, but it doesn't lead anywhere... at first.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Capucine who is living in a compound that consists of a series of small, drapey apartments, an outdoor courtyard, an office and, most importantly, a plush-looking nightclub called “The Doll House,” where a jazz combo plays about three different songs over and over, a gaggle of evening-gowned women prowl the tables and the bartender keeps a ball bat handy to ward off any male customers who misbehave beyond what their money has bought them.
The Doll House is owned and operated by the steel-willed Barbara Stanwyck, who employs a henchman (Richard Rust) on the premises to help keep her gals in line. We learn mighty quickly what happens when one of them strays a bit as resident southern-fried floozie Joanna Moore breaks the rules and hangs on to a tip that one of her johns slipped her. Rust menacingly dons a pair of gloves and goes into her room where he begins pounding on her back repeatedly.
This infuriates Capucine, who darts into the room and demands for him to cease. As Capucine is clearly a cherished favorite of Stanwyck's, he has little choice but to give in to her wishes. She embraces Moore and slips her a pocketbook with money in it to help her out (it is subtly implied that Moore is addicted to some sort of drug and, thus, requires money to continue her habit.)

Stanwyck demonstrates a fierce, controlling affection for Capucine, which Capucine accepts, but at the same time resents. An artist at heart, she had done a bust of Stanwyck which has a scarf tied tightly about the throat of it, which the very keen Stanwyck takes as a sign. As they continue to discuss how bored, restless and unhappy Capucine is, Stanwyck suggests (amusingly) that she should sculpt her hands, saying, “You've always wanted to do my hands...”

Someone from The Doll House tips off Harvey that Capucine lives at that address. You can see Baxter's face sink when Harvey asks her about the street number. He heads there in the daytime, when it resembles little more than a boarding house for scantily-clad ladies, and encounters his love Capucine. By now, she's working on a bust of Moore, who makes a hasty exit to allow them to catch up. He explains why they broke up to begin with... some gobbledegook about taking care of his ill father. (That's why she had to run off and become a woman of ill repute?!)

Stanwyck discovers the two of them talking and is less than pleased. Capucine makes plans to meet Harvey in public the next day and the two of them enjoy a stroll through town followed by a languid conversation along the side of a lake. He has no clue that she's been not only a prostitute in the years since they parted, but also the kept lover of an older woman! Her heart is tugging her towards him, but her head says that it will be doomed. Still, he's such a forgiving person that she wonders if it could still work.
Any illusions she had about making it happen are crushed when she returns home and a livid Stanwyck exclaims that she'd had the couple followed all day. She lays into Capucine with both barrels, threatening to inform Harvey of how she's spent her “days and nights.” Capucine knows it can't possibly work, but says that she will be the one to send him packing, not Stanwyck.

The day she decides to break things off with Harvey, he's gone and rented them their very own apartment! The landlady assumes that they are a married couple. (Certainly nothing in Capucine's dress or manner, here or at any other time in the movie, suggests that she's a bisexual hooker!) She can't make the break and opts to go to bed with him in their cozy little nook. Then, she leaves him a note to explain why it's all over.

Baxter is secretly thrilled that Harvey is free to stuff her taco, but he wants none of it. As she tearfully drives him home from a family gathering of hers, he announces that, no matter what, he must have Capucine back. He makes the fateful decision to return to The Dollhouse and reclaim his sweetheart.
Arriving on the scene, he runs into none other than Fonda, all scrubbed up, painted up and pouffed up in a jaw-dropping, clingy gown. She is now one of the glitzy, yet shady, establishment's sexy new additions and she has a bit of a tete-a-tete with him until he spots Capucine. For her part, she's all decked out in a fabulous Grecian-inspired gown with her hair curled, swirled and twirled into a goddess-like confection. She's entertaining a man at a table, but her heart's not really in it.
Stanwyck by now has simply had it and threatens to send Harvey to jail for a decade for allegedly corrupting the teenage Fonda and taking her across the state line from Texas into Louisiana. Fonda, now comfortable with her station in life, raises not a fingernail to defend him. When this plan fails, Stanwyck sics her bartender, her henchman Rust and Karl Swenson (whose legs are missing and who gets around on a small cart with hand-held accelerating prods) on Harvey, nearly killing him.
In a fit of sympathy, Fonda helps get him out of there and back to Baxter, whose love for him is still very much alive. At the risk of her own health and well-being, she decides to let Capucine know where Harvey is so that they can be reunited. Once back at The Doll House, Fonda has the misfortune to run into Rust, who isn't buying her story. Nevertheless, she engages in a catfight with one of the more advanced call girls in order to create a distraction for Capucine to slip away.

Everything comes to a head at Baxter's hacienda with a banged-up Harvey, a desperate Capucine and a jealous, furious Stanwyck (with gun-toting reinforcements in tow, naturally) smashing up against one another as police sirens wail in the distance. But how will it all turn out? The final details of the finale are revealed, rather ridiculously, by a piece of newspaper stuck to the ground and featuring a photograph (two, really) that no one could have or would have taken at any point beforehand!

It's fashionable to take pot shots at Walk on the Wild Side for being too tame in relation to what its ads and storyline promised and, surely, it's not nearly the salacious movie it may sound like on paper. However, we must remember it was 1962... baby steps! Keen viewers can absorb what is happening in the story without having all the T and A sprawled out before them. It might seem sanitary now, but in its day it was described as “lurid, tawdry and sleazy” by The New York Times, that city not being one of Amish barns on every corner.

Dmytyk's direction was adversely affected by Feldman's interference as well as issues amongst his cast and crew, but he does add some interesting touches, not the least of which is making the beds of the film (of which there are plenty!) come off as virtual cages, symbolically denoting the way the characters are trapped by their circumstances.

Of course, the film is most famous now for two things. One is the title song, which has become a standard (even in gospel circles, despite its origin in such a seedy story!) In fact, my first exposure to Wild Side came because I'd seen a figure skater perform to the music and it led me to seek out the movie. Oddly, though the title song (and one other) is sung in the movie by Brook Benton, not only is he not present on-screen, but there isn't even a stand-in singer lip-synching to it! There's just a small band tucked away in a corner with no singer visible, but with a disembodied voice wafting through the room.

The title song constituted Walk on the Wild Side's sole Oscar nomination, but it lost to the theme from The Days of Wine and Roses.  Bernstein's excellent score wasn't nominated, but as it turned out he had also composed the music for To Kill a Mockingbird that year and received a nomination for that (with the award going to Maurice Jarre's music for Lawrence of Arabia.) A decade after the movie, Lou Reed had a hit song called "Walk on the Wild Side" that, while not concerning Algren's characters directly (instead being about members of Andy Warhol's entourage), had originated from an attempt at musicalizing Algren's novel.

The other claim to fame is the set of almost legendary opening credits by that master of the field, Saul Bass. In them, a gorgeous black cat saunters through alleys and along sidewalks as the wondrous Elmer Bernstein score keeps time with it. The storyline is vaguely foreshadowed as the cat is at first a loner, then tangles with another cat, a white one (and, apart from the fighting between Harvey and his enemies, there is a brief girl on girl catfight as well!) One may read into it whatever one wishes that Stanwyck's prominent credit is spread out against the image of a large, furry pussy.

As is so often the case, foreign posters for the film feature far more dramatic and colorful artwork than that of the U.S. promotional material.
Producer Feldman died in 1968 at the age of sixty-four, but not before producing several more films (of wildly varying quality: 1965's What's New Pussycat, 1966's The Group and 1967's Casino Royale!) On the other hand, director Dmytryk (shown at left) lived until 1999 and was ninety when he passed away of heart and kidney failure. After Wild Side, he brought the world The Carpetbaggers (1964), Where Love Has Gone (1964) and Shalako (1968), making him something of a hero in The Underworld! Once jailed and blacklisted as one of the “Hollywood Ten,” he later testified and gave the names of those he knew to be Communist, creating an environment of disdain and animosity for himself among several Hollywood circles.

Harvey is an actor I have never warmed up to. It might be that I have a bit of an aversion to extremely skinny men or the fact there's often something unpleasant in his face. I don't know. I just find it hard to be sympathetic to him in roles. His personal shining moment came this same year when he effectively played a brainwashed assassin in The Manchurian Candidate. In real life, he certainly had his share of enemies and didn't get on well with either Capucine or Fonda during this picture. Fonda was quoted as saying, “Acting opposite Harvey is like acting by yourself -- only worse!”

He and Capucine had unkind sparks between them as well. She complained that kissing scenes were hampered by his not being “manly enough,” to which he countered, “Perhaps if you were more of a woman, I would be more of a man. Honey, kissing you is like kissing the side of a beer bottle.” A conflicted bisexual who was married three times, Harvey died of stomach cancer in 1973 at only age forty-five. Though he'd always been careful about what he ate, he was a heavy drinker and smoker always.

Harvey had been nominated for an Oscar for 1959's Room at the Top, but the award went to Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur. For 1962's The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, he gleaned a Golden Globe nomination, but, oddly, in the dramatic category rather than musical/comedy. The winner was Gregory Peck for To Kill a Mockingbird. In 1968, when his career was seriously on the skids, he somehow won a Golden Globe as World Film Favorite, perhaps due to the foreign films he was now making.

French-born Capucine also led a somewhat troubled life. As a striking fashion model, she caught the eye of producer Feldman who put her on the fast track to a Hollywood movie career, having her taught to speak English and trained for the camera. Practically out of the gate, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for 1960's Song Without End, but lost to Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment. A bisexual herself, she had trouble finding meaningful relationships and endured a heartbreaking one with the married William Holden for a couple of years. Dmytryk was clearly fond of her as he cast her later in both What's New Pussycat (1965) and The Honey Pot (1967), but significant screen stardom was not to be hers. Though she continued to work, she relocated to Switzerland and appeared on German TV. In 1990, weary, depressed and alone, she jumped from an eighth-floor window to her death at age sixty-two.

Incidentally, her look in this film (shown here) is one of my favorites of all time. The upswept hair, the goddessy flow of the gown and its matching wrap and her exposed neck and back all remind me of what is, for me, the ultimate dose of movie elegance. I'm speaking, of course, of the sleek Miss Faye Dunaway in The Towering Inferno (1974.) Of course, this look has nothing to do with the 1930s setting of the film (hardly anything in the movie suggests that era!), but I nevertheless love it and several other anachronistic gowns that appear in the movie.
Fonda was at the very start of her film career, having done only Tall Story in 1960 prior to this. She took the role in an effort to distance herself from the ditzy ingenue part she had played in that one. There were issues during Wild Side because she'd brought a Greek boyfriend and acting coach with her to confer between takes and this didn't sit well with Dmytryk at all. She also had difficulty delivering disrespectful lines to Stanwyck (her father Henry's old costar from The Lady Eve in 1941), which called for some restaging. The day in question, she delayed shooting in order to have her hair and makeup retouched over and over while she fretted, which was about the worst thing a person could do to Stanwyck, but they got through it okay.
Back in action now after a fifteen year hiatus from acting, she is seventy-four. I've gone over her awards and nominations before at the Underworld, so will not do so again here. Sadly, at this point in her career, Fonda was a bulemic, which caused quite a bit of stress and physical trauma for her, though the desired results with her figure are hard to deny. Her body is quite amazing in the film. Between 1962 and 1967, she filmed what is a trifecta of southern-style melodramas, each of which is a hoot to watch now and all of which have been profiled here now. The second is Hurry Sundown in 1966 and the third was The Chase in 1967.

Baxter has been given an Underworld tribute as well, so I won't dwell too much on her here. She was under a certain amount of duress during this movie because, aside from being fatally miscast, she was pregnant, and getting moreseo every day, but hadn't informed any of the executives! As the filming wore on (and there were frequent rewrites and even reshoots by an uncredited Blake Edwards), she grew to be seven months along and took to hiding behind her diner's counter top or counting on aprons to mask her condition. Note how her lips are painted here to give them a fuller quality than they were in real life! Miss Baxter died of an aneurysm in 1985 when she was sixty-two.
Stanwyck was a significant screen star of the '30s, '40s and early '50s who was noted for her extreme, no-nonsense level of professionalism and her reliability as a talented actress. Her last film before this had been 1957's Forty Guns after which she segued into TV with some success. In 1965, she would headline The Big Valley, winning over an entirely new generation of fans as the caring, but exceedingly durable and forceful matriarch of the Barkley family. After that ended in 1969, she withdrew again for the most part until staging a comeback in 1983's The Thorn Birds and in one season of Dynasty II: The Colbys from 1985 – 1986.

I missed The Big Valley in its original run, but was reared on reruns in the early-'70s and was completely taken with Stanwyck as Victoria Barkley. Though only a few years separate Wild Side and Valley, her general looks underwent quite a change as she went from salt and pepper hair and understated eyes to snow white hair and dramatic false eyelashes. Stanwyck's lesbian role in Wild Side was initially offered to the equally commanding Jane Wyman whose reply was allegedly “not this gal...” Gossip columnists were stunned when Stanwyck, always rumored to be at least bisexual, took on the part, but she offhandedly replied to them that she was an actress who wanted to be in films again and, besides, what were the producers supposed to do, “hire a real madam or a real lesbian?”

Stanwyck was nominated four times for an Oscar: Stella Dallas (1937), Ball of Fire (1941), Double Indemnity (1944) and Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), losing respectively to Luise Rainer in The Good Earth, Joan Fontaine in Suspicion, Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight and Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda. She did win three Emmys for The Barbara Stanwyck Show (1961), The Big Valley (1966, with two additional nominations in '67 and '68 which were both lost to Barbara Bain in Mission: Impossible) and The Thorn Birds (1983.)

Her Golden Globe scorecard consists of three Big Valley noms (lost to Anne Francis of Honey West, Marlo Thomas of That Girl and Carol Burnett of The Carol Burnett Show – the Globes not yet differentiating between comedy and drama with regards to TV) and a win for The Thorn Birds. In 1981, she was given an Honorary Oscar and in 1986, she was given The Cecil B. DeMille Award by the Hollywood Foreign Press. She died in 1990 of heart and lung disease at the age of eighty-two.

Pretty Georgia peach Moore had appeared in a couple of minor films and plenty of television prior to this. Though she would continue to act in plenty of episodic television, she ultimately gained the most fame, perhaps, from marrying Ryan O'Neal in 1963 and bearing him two children, Tatum and Griffin. Their bitter divorce in 1967 helped to fuel a serious drug and alcohol problem, which rather derailed her career even further. She died in 1997 at age sixty-three of lung cancer.

Also appearing in Walk on the Wild Side is John Anderson, as a fire and brimstone street preacher. A wildly busy TV and film actor, he appeared on two different 1965 episodes of The Big Valley (something Anne Baxter did as well in 1969.) Mr. Anderson died of a heart attack in 1992 at age sixty-nine.

Then there is Swenson, later known to millions as the kindly mill owner Lars Hanson on Little House on the Prairie, but here a desperately unhappy, beleagured and, ultimately, vicious person. Filming could not have been comfortable for Swenson as he was outfitted with fake stumps on his legs, with his own limbs tucked beneath him on his cart. He later appeared on three episodes of Big Valley himself. Swenson passed away at age seventy in 1978 of a heart attack.

The Doll House's bartender is played by Don 'Red' Barry, a college football star who went on to a long, busy career in acting, most often in countless westerns. His nickname came from his popular portrayal of the western serial hero Red Ryder. Though he continued to work in small roles up through the '70s, he was disenchanted with his life and career and committed suicide by gunshot in 1980. He was sixty-eight.

Making his film debut here (shown above and here with Fonda and Barry) was Todd Anderson, who would henceforth revert to his real last name of Armstrong. After being spotted by Gloria Henry (of Dennis the Menace fame) while doing landscaping for her, he costarred on the TV cop show Manhunt the year before this and would star in Jason and the Argonauts in 1963 (with, sadly, his voice dubbed.) He was unable to sustain any sort of reliable career after the late-'60s and in 1992, like others in this grim post, committed suicide at age fifty-five (by gunshot.) It was not due to poverty, however, as he'd been left a trust fund by his parents. It is speculated that he had contracted AIDS and chose to end his life this way.

Imitation of Life (1959) fans will have no trouble spotting Juanita Moore, though it's depressing to report that just three years after costarring in that mega-success and earning an Oscar nomination (which was lost to Shelley Winters in The Diary of Anne Frank), she has but two tiny scenes as a maid in residence at The Doll House. Somehow, despite the dearth of parts available to her, she continued working, often quite steadily, until her retirement in 2001. She is still with us today at age eighty-nine. She had also been nominated for a Golden Globe for her work in Imitation, but in that instance lost to her own costar Susan Kohner.

Diehard fans of The Poseidon Adventure (which, as you can guess, include me!) also may spot Frieda Rentie popping up briefly as a cocktail waitress within The Doll House. Rentie is the younger sister of Marla Gibbs, who she resembles, and is one of the New Years Eve celebrants on board the S.S. Poseidon when disaster strikes. Due to the sari-like gown her character wears, she is often referred to as “Indian Lady” by fans. Currently seventy-seven, she has since segued into real estate since the late-'70s, but did make a few brief appearances on Gibbs' show 227 from 1987 to 1989.

The customer shown above and here was played by John Bryant.  The lesser known actor was famous as The Marlboro Man in a series of '50s and '60s ads, but also played the husband of Kim Novak in 1960's Strangers When We Meet.  His character in that, which could easily be read as homosexual, has no interest in her sexually at all, leading her to have an affair with Kirk Douglas.  Bryant, whose acting career had all but ended by the end of the '60s, died of cancer in 1989 at the age of seventy-two.

Somewhere in Walk on the Wild Side is supposed to be Lee Marvin as “Slob,” though I have yet to see him. He was already an established actor by then, so maybe he took part as a fluke. A few years later, he would costar with Fonda in Cat Ballou (1965) and take home an Oscar.

Lest you think I've gone and skipped Richard Rust, so memorable as the steely henchman, think again. I just saved him for last because he's one of my favorite parts of the movie and an actor I like to see in things. Rust got started at age twenty in the mid-'50s, playing a soldier in The Phenix City Story (1955), but really got a boost when he joined the existing cast of Broadway's Long Day's Journey Into Night, which was starring Fredric March from 1956 to 1958. He then began to work steadily in 1959 when he guest-starred on many television series of that time.

He landed a role in the low-budget Michael Landon western The Legend of Tom Dooley (1959), further establishing himself as a character who ought not be toyed with. In 1960, he had supporting roles in the tawdry racial flick This Rebel Breed and in the well-regarded Randolph Scott western Commanche Station.

Things continued to pick up for him as he guested on many TV shows and won parts in Underworld U.S.A. with Cliff Robertson and the cult classic horror rip-off Homicidal, both in 1961. The same year as Wild Side, he worked with Tony Curtis and Yul Brynner in Taras Bulba (as seen here) before winning a costarring role in his own series.

The series, Sam Benedict, starred Edmond O'Brien as a flamboyant and very successful attorney while Rust played his helpful right-hand man. The good guy role was uncharacteristic for him, though he did it well. Along with O'Brien, Rust (who won out over sixty other competitors for the role) was depicted on the cover of TV Guide during the run of the show, but unfortunately it only lasted one season and was cancelled in 1963. Rust continued to eke out a career in Hollywood with 1966's Alvarez Kelly (with William Holden) his last important project. (That's him on the left, looking scruffily handsome, in both lobby cards below.)
In 1969, he took a major turn and played a biker gang leader in the cult flick Naked Angels, which was followed the next year by the softcore sex romp The Student Nurses. This led to more low-budget, at times exploitive films. His talent was, in practically every case, more than the projects called for. After an absence from the screen of about a decade, he made something of a return in 1988 with supporting parts in three films (including Robert Duvall's Colors), but then receded from the scene again.

Sadly, he died in 1994 of a heart attack at only age fifty-nine. Blessed with charisma and an intense screen presence that demanded attention, he was simultaneously cursed by having a face that, while handsome, was at odds with the pretty ones that were then being featured on TV and in the movies (think Troy Donahue, Tab Hunter, Robert Conrad, Gardner McKay, Van Williams, Michael Landon, Ty Hardin and the like.) Looking back, one of the actors he seems to resemble at times is Kevin Bacon, but Bacon (whose features are even less conventional than Rust's) came along far later in the game, when the '70s has ushered in a new type of screen male.
I hope you had fun crossing over to the wild side for this (sizeable!) post. (And I apologize if some of the formatting is wonky.  I try to keep the pictures big when I can, so sometimes I allow a little odd space rather than reduce them down as some of them wind up being.) I'll be back soon with more fun!


Michael O'Sullivan said...

Thanks for getting around to one of my favourites - I shall have to give it a re-view. I love Fonda's name here: Kitty Twist ! and its a shame seeing Baxter so under-used. I liked Capucine from the word go - she was also great pals with the gay Dirk Bogarde, they were even briefly "engaged" for a while, which was good publicity for them both, after the delirious SONG WITHOUT END. I love her 2 with Sellers as well: the original PINK PANTHER and my madcap mid-60s favourite WHATS NEW PUSSYCAT, she had a great flair for haughty comedy and knew how to wear high fashion. She is also terrific in another favourite NORTH TO ALASKA where she stands up with Wayne nicely (when he is not man-handling Fabian in his tight jeans, in fact Fabia and Cap have some nice scenes together).

If you think Harvey is a snooze here as the Texan, you should see him in the same year's A GIRL NAMED TAMIKO, which is a movie Poseidon should love - a campfest with Martha Hyer, France Nuyen, Michael Wilding and Gary Merrill set in Japan, directed by John Sturges of all people. Larry plays a half-Russian, half-Chinese but is still the same Larry we love to hate as he goes through the film with his perpetual sneer.

Michael O'Sullivan said...

Me again. Capucine also did 2 with William Holden, which are rarely seen now but worth seeking out: THE LION set in Africa with Trevor Howard and young Pamela Franklin, directed by Jack Cardiff - its a good African saga and tug-of-love drama; and 1964 THE 7TH DAWN, set in Malaysia and she is very effective as a Malaysian, Holden is good too and the young Susannah York.

Michael O'Sullivan said...

One more, on the soundtrack. Jazzman Jimmy Smith also did a great single of the theme, which I bought when I was 16!

joel65913 said...

Love this mongrel of a movie! While the movie is a terrible mess it is so full actresses I love that I can watch whenever I run across it and find it enjoyable.

You can almost feel the bitter dislike Capucine and Harvey felt for each other even during their most ardent love scenes. She is so incredibly chic, you could have cut glass with those cheekbones, but does not for one second impart living or having lived during the depression but since everyone else is dressed and styled in the height of 60's fashion she can't really be held accountable.

Jane is great fun as that spunky little tramp, it's disturbing that she was starving herself at the time but wow is she beautiful here.

Barbara Stanwyck also looks smashing with her salt and pepper hair and crisp suits and while I love her in everything, sweet or sour, she really could play a ballbuster with a special flair all her own. Whereas Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, both of whom I admire and take great pleasure in watching, became more gorgon like as they aged Missy Stanwyck became tough but retained a very feminine vibe even in that leather slack suit in The Big Valley. In this she consumes the scenery whole cloth whenever she's on screen but always with a ladylike finesse. I can see why it would be hard for Jane to face off with her at this point in her career not having the years of experience to separate on and off screen life. Henry Fonda had always referred to her as his favorite leading lady and they were close personal friends for years with Jane thinking of her like family while she was growing up. I always thought it was a shame that Jane chose Katharine Hepburn for On Golden Pond instead of Barbara, it was a part she wanted very much, Hepburn was fine if hampered by her illness but in all their films together Fonda and Stnawyck were a great team and for them to be matched in this in their twilight years would have been perfection.

Back to Wild Side the truly outlandish portrayal has to be Anne Baxter. A great lady who could have given elocution lessons on the side she is so wildly miscast that it seems incredible that it wasn't done as some kind of inside joke. Her accent is comical, that wig ridiculous and her performance so hysterically broad as to be almost unwatchable, but only almost. Instead it is another component that makes this a tasty trash wallow.

The opening credits are great and seem to promise so much, a dark brooding psychological drama with complex emotions. What's delivered however is an overheated hootenanny with a deliciously overheated tone. Right up their with Where Love Has Gone and Midnight Lace for tawdry but completely worthwhile viewing pleasure.

Michael O'Sullivan said...

Very astute comments there, yes indeed Fonda and Stanwyck would have been perfect in On Golden Pond, a film I can't watch now. Don't forget that other delirious 1960 sudser from Ross Hunter: Lana's Portrait in Black ! That and Midnight Lace would be a dream doublebill.

Poseidon3 said...

Considering the hours (and hours!) it took me to put this one together, it's great to see that you guys enjoy the movie and enjoyed the post. Thanks for your informative and insightful remarks. I recently came upon a photo or two of Capucine in bed with the man who played the local chief of police (or whatever he was in the movie), which tells me that there were deleted scenes! I wish someone would put together a great DVD with interviews, pictures, lost footage, etc... though Fonda tends to avoid discussing the movie and most of the cast is now dead (many by their own hand!) I just love these pictures that are flirting with the sordid, but still unable to really go there... Thanks again!

Elliot James said...

"Somewhere in Walk on the Wild Side is supposed to be Lee Marvin as “Slob,” though I have yet to see him."

Marvin played Slob in a low-budget goofball-thriller called Shackout On 101 with Terry Moore.

A poster on IMDB insists there's a cut psycho-erotic scene of Stanwyck spanking Capucine with a hair brush. I've never seen this in any screening.

MotownBabe said...

Thanks for your comments about the actor Richard Rust. He's one of my favorites, and it was good to read such a positive review of his work!