On December 23rd, Korean War veteran George Haverstick and nurse Isabel Crane - who George lovingly refers to as "Little Bit" - get married in a civil ceremony. They met when George was ... See full summary »
On December 23rd, Korean War veteran George Haverstick and nurse Isabel Crane - who George lovingly refers to as "Little Bit" - get married in a civil ceremony. They met when George was admitted to Belvedere General Hospital in St. Louis for a nervous shake, with Isabel being his night nurse. They got married immediately following his release, which occurred despite the doctors never discovering the reason for his affliction. They plan on honeymooning in Miami, and stopping in suburban High Point, Tennessee along the way to visit with who George considers his best friend, fellow Korean War vet Ralph Bates, and Ralph's wife of six years, Dorothea Bates. By the time they arrive on the Bates' doorstep on Christmas Eve, George and Isabel are hardly speaking to each other when they aren't yelling at each other as each had a preconceived notion of their role in the marriage incompatible with the other, and a romanticized view of how the other should behave. Ralph's marriage is currently in ... Written by
The original Broadway production of "Period of Adjustment" by Tennessee Williams opened at the Helen Hayes Theater in New York on November 10, 1960 and ran for 132 performances. The Tennessee Williams play was adapted for this movie by Isobel Lennart. See more »
The human heart could never pass the drunk test. Take a human heart out of a human body, put legs on it and tell it to walk a straight line, and it couldn't. The heart could never pass a drunk test.
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Watching this undeservedly forgotten Tennessee Williams play turned into a movie, it occurs to the viewer how so many other writers, some of them quite good and talented, are still merely scratching the surface. Williams digs and digs until he hits the paydirt of his characters' true selves, the ones they keep hidden behind all their rusty but dependable defense mechanisms. Williams writes in such a way that something extraordinary seems to be revealed in each scene; characters are constantly surprising each other, and themselves, with the clarity of their insights.
Set at Christmas, the film delves into the crumbling relationships of two sets of couples, whose fortunes and outlooks quickly become intertwined. Jim Hutton and Jane Fonda are the mismatched newlyweds who begin to have trouble the moment he kisses her (somewhat harshly) on their wedding day. He's suddenly insensitive, even brutal, and she becomes hyper-sensitive and highly emotional and it appears that by the time they reach their honeymoon destination they will be at each other's throats. Anthony Franciosa plays an old war buddy of Hutton's whose unstable marriage to plain Lois Nettleton ruptures when he rashly decides to quit working for a man he has long held in contempt: her petty, penny-pinching father. Unimaginably ignoring his beautiful though high-maintenance young wife (and Fonda is at her most luscious and desirable) Hutton interrupts his already nightmarish honeymoon to see his supposedly more established friend with whom he is anxious to enter into a business partnership.
And this is where things get very interesting as Franciosa balances his own feelings of attraction towards Fonda with his sympathy for the young couple's necessary but often painful "period of adjustment". Franciosa does a nice job anchoring the film; proud and defiant with his quarreling family members, but wise and protective with the feuding newlyweds. Hutton does good work too in a tricky not always sympathetic part. And Fonda is wonderful as the fragile southern belle with the hilarious attachment to her "little blue zipper bag". Lois Nettleton could've gone the Shelly Winters route and played her housewife as dumpy and pitiful, but she bravely goes for vulnerably dignified instead. Though she knows she was married for her father's money, you believe Franciosa when he tells her that she has "improved in appearance" and that he has indeed grown to love her.
Described as "heartwarming" by Leonard Maltin, it's still not terribly surprising that this has not become a perennial Christmas favorite. It does represent Williams at his "lightest" but it's too emotionally punishing to be viewed by the whole family like say "A Christmas Story" or "White Christmas" as the kids are putting up the tree. There is a brilliant but agonizing scene towards the end, where both couples are driving along in a hearse, and the older couple up front believes that the other two in back can't hear the raw, uncomfortably honest conversation they're having due to a supposedly soundproof dividing window between them. But they do hear all too well, and it gives them a brand new perspective on their own marital difficulties.
It is, however, an off the beaten path Christmas gem refreshingly free of false sentiment and schmaltzy resolutions. And there is a terrific running gag involving a bunch of tipsy carolers who just can't refuse all those neighborly offers to come in and have a drink. I think, and I could be wrong, that Williams employs the holiday setting as a harness for some of his darker impulses.
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