Since childhood, spinster Alma Winemiller has loved handsome young Dr. John Buchanan, Jr.. But John has fallen hard for Rosa Zacharias, the town's sultry vamp, and descends into a seamy nightlife while ignoring Alma's dreams of romance and possible marriage. Written by
When this was released I quickly made my way to the Fox West Coast Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills, California during its first-run engagement. Advance reviews were quite positive but I was unprepared for the power and yet the delicacy of Geraldine Page's performance as Alma Winemiller. Although I was never a fan of Laurence Harvey, who was cast in so many top films of that era, he joined his fellow players in affording Miss Page some very solid support. Una Merkel and John McIntire were especially worthy of praise, Earl Holliman acquits himself manfully in a brief role in the chilling final sequence, and Pamela Tiffin was touchingly beautiful as a heedless young thing. However, Rita Moreno, who has since complained about all those "spitfire" roles with which she was saddled during her earlier Hollywood days, probably counts this appearance as one of those she'd prefer we forget. (But, parenthetically, she has more than reason to be grateful for a list of credits that had already included the lovely Tuptim in the mega-box office hit, "The King and I," an Academy Award for her supporting role in "West Side Story," resulting in a career that continues to this day, outlasting many of the top stars who had led the casts of her earliest film assignments.)
Peter Glenville's direction (whose filmography is notably sparse) marshalls his actors and the top-notch production values with aplomb, aided by one of Elmer Bernstein's best scores. The VHS version does not appear to be letterboxed, thus losing cinematographer Charles Lang, Jr.'s elegant Panavision framing, which was one of this film's handsomer attributes.
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