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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.
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
Angela Lansbury relished her role and thoroughly enjoyed working with director Martin Ritt - "He had a wonderful enthusiasm and earthy sexy quality himself. He loved the idea of the dirtiness of the carryings on, and he certainly brought every bit of kind of naughty sexuality out of me in that role." See more »
This is one of those films which is now even better, as it nears a half-century since its original release.
The characters and performances are just as enjoyable to view today - the young Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, vintage Orson Welles - and Tony Franciosa and Lee Remick (along with Orson, both now gone).
The other actors' performances were also excellent, and the characters remain as interesting today as in times past.
Newman's "Ben Quick" fuses the characteristics of both "hero" and "anti-hero" into one role as profoundly as virtually any other film or stage character you're apt to see.
The nostalgia of a work such as this, now seen anew after so many years since production, is something added which only the requisite passage of time enables one to view and enjoy.
In the company of other authors in this genre, such as Caldwell, Steinbeck, Williams, et al, Faulkner's works were among the best, and this is clearly revealed in this fine film.
If I were required to find an area to criticize, it would be the same as I noticed in one of the comments on this site: namely, the somewhat overly-quick and brief "resolution" of the estrangement between Welles and Franciosa, the impatient patriarch and his older child/son. I realize this brevity may have been due to neither Newman nor Woodward being involved - but the writers and director could still have made it a bit more detailed and intricate, with only, say, another two minutes of film. But this aside, this is a superb motion picture - both then and now.
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