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The fashion industry and Paris provide the setting for a comedy surrounding the mistaken impression that Joanne Woodward is a high-priced call girl. Paul Newman is the journalist interviewing her for insights on her profession.
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Sixty-one year old widower Will Varner, in ill health, owns many businesses and property in Frenchman's Bend, Mississippi, including a plantation. To him, his children are a disappointment, they who he sees as not being able to carry on the Varner name in the style to which he has built around it. Son Jody Varner has no ambition and does not work, spending much of his time fooling around with his seductive wife, Eula. Twenty-three year old daughter Clara Varner he finds clever, but he feels she also wastes her time on more contemplative pursuits. While most of her contemporaries are married, Clara has been dating Alan Stewart, a genteel mama's boy, for six years. Will would not mind Alan so much if he too thought Alan had a bit of a forceful man in him, which he could demonstrate by actually asking Clara to marry him. Conversely, Jody laments that nothing he does is ever good enough for his father, while Clara plain does not like the way he treats them. Into their lives comes Ben ... Written by
The Long, Hot Summer is what movies are all about. Newman is so sexy it's no wonder that Agnes pleads with her friend Clara not to send this handsome stranger away too fast, even if he's a sewing machine salesman. Joanne Newman as Clara looks beautiful with her blonde hair pulled back tight and a little half twist to her hips when she walks.
Although some reviewers have said this film is more Tennesse Williams than Faulkner, Clara does not resemble Williams' tragic heroines who are mired in the past. She is mightily tempted by Newman's Ben Quick, the "modern man," who advises her than the world is ruled by the meat-eaters. It is Clara who makes their first tryst possible and though it ends with angry words, it is obvious these two are meant for each other.
Will Varner, played over-the-top by Orson Welles, is Clara's father. He owns everything in town and figures his holdings extend to his daughter. He wants sons to carry on his name and Ben Quick looks like the man for his Clara.
The movie creates a town that feels as though it will live on after the film is over and people who relate to each other as if there was no camera present. Granted it's not the real South but the mythic South. Sex goes hand in hand with the dust and the heat. Aristocratic blood is running thin. A handsome "bull" of a stranger appears to liven things up. Newman swings his battered old suitcase with the confidence of a man who knows he'll soon be sleeping on satin sheets.
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