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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
I saw this film again last night at an old-time movie palace, in an audience of about 2,000 people. The film, which I had seen before, was even more enjoyable then the previous times I had seen it on TV. For one thing, it has some very lovely and well executed uses of the CinemaScope frame. It shows both the dry openness of the landscape, as well as the lush extravagance of the plantation estate which belongs to Orson Welles' character. I'm not too familiar with Faulkner's stories, but the plot elements of this film flow together rather nicely, and there isn't really a dull moment in the whole picture. The only part which is still difficult for me to take, is the resolution of the conflict between Welles' and Franciosa's characters. That scene builds up to something in a matter of minutes, and then suddenly it's over. I could hear disappointment in some audience members in the theater as well, including one person who shouted "What the heck was that about?". This aside, it's still a worthwhile film to see, and the acting of Newman, Woodward, and Welles are standouts. There are also plenty of (probably unintentional) laughs to be had as well. One of the better soap opera-type films to come out of the late 1950s.
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