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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
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward channelled their off-screen chemistry into their characters and worked beautifully together. "They seemed to have such a total understanding of each other," said co-star Angela Lansbury in a 2001 interview, "that they were able to work in scenes where they were at each other's throats or falling under each other's spell." See more »
Can't teach an old dog new tricks, but you sure can teach a young willing puppy just about anything.
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Considering the cast and the fine Faulkner story, I was expecting wonderful things from this movie, maybe another Splendor in the Grass, but I felt badly let down.
The script was, in a word, wretched. There were unmotivated strong emotions, stilted dialog, not helped by poorly faked Southern accents from players who are not not native Southerners, loaded with plot holes and murky relationships that seemed to go up and down like the stock market.
The cast that looked so good on paper didn't cut it. Anthony Franciosa looked like high school senior play. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, who went on to Academy Award performances later, were just over the top and struggling with bad dialog in this one. I thought Orson Welles and Angela Lansbury were was excellent playing off each other, but their relationship in a subplot was undefined and didn't advance the story at all.
My family, with different generations, watched the movie at home on DVD with me and their reaction was similar to mine: a sympathetic disappointment in the work of some of our favorite players.
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