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|Index||48 reviews in total|
This film has a dynamite opening. A real life black cat prowls around a
maze of pipes and fences, as Elmer Bernstein's jazzy musical score
blares out the film's title song, a haunting invocation to low life
Throughout, both the music and the B&W cinematography evoke a noirish, downbeat mood totally in sync with the film's theme of embittered sleaze. Although set in the 1930's, the film looks and sounds more like something from the hip, "beat" generation of the 1950's. And I'm comfortable with that.
What I'm not comfortable with is the casting and the screenplay. Lithuanian born Laurence Harvey is totally not convincing as a Texas tramp. French born Capucine, looking like she just walked in from the set of "La Dolce Vita", seems lost in the role of a Southern belle. A somewhat inexperienced Jane Fonda overacts the role of Kitty Twist. And American Anne Baxter, looking more like Suzanne Pleshette than Anne Baxter, plays a Mexican senorita, with the help of a big wig. Among the major roles, the only credible cast member is Barbara Stanwyck, as the bossy owner of the Doll House, your typical red light house of prostitution.
The film's red light title is a big tease. It advertises brothel life, but the screenplay delivers only boredom and preachy morality. But in 1962 the moralistic Hays Code still exerted influence on what Hollywood could say and show. The result here is a yellow light plot that merely hints at sleaze.
Forty years after its release, "Walk On The Wild Side" does have entertainment value, both as a curious period piece, and as a sudsy soap opera with some campy dialogue, helped along by the always engaging Barbara Stanwyck.
This sleazy bit of melodrama, loosely based on a racy Nelson Algren book, is now dated kitsch; but can be enjoyed for what it is, thanks to the Hollywood team that put it all together. It's trashy intentions and heavyhanded delivery work in it's favor nowadays, so the brilliant Columbia DVD transfer is well worth checking out. The highlight of the movie is the Elmer Bernstein score; a masterwork with a life all it's own. The cast is a hoot: Barbara Stanwyck standing out as a lesbian brothel owner, a stiff dyke, hardly correct as a New Orleans Madame; Jane Fonda is a pouty, sultry slut, overdoing her overaged, nubile nymphette act; Laurence Harvey stretches all credibility as the good-boy Texas heartthrob searching for his lost love; an utterly miscast Capucine, playing an artsy, elegant whore-with-a-heart-of-gold; and Anne Baxter is quite humorous as a Mexican cafe owner. It's hard not to enjoy a movie with lead characters whose names are Dove and Kitty Twist, and a title song performed by Brook Benton with lyrics like: "Chances of goin' to Heaven, 6 to 1!".
In 1930s New Orleand Texan Laurence Harvey (!!) finds one time lover
Capucine (!!!) working in a bordello. He wants to take her away, but
the bordello's lesbian madam, Barbara Stanwyck wants Capucine for
herself. Then there's Jane Fonda as a real wild girl...
Film starts off with a great title sequence that perfectly sets the tone of the film--loud, brassy and dirty. This was probably considered pretty controversial it its time (in fact it's never made totally clear than Stanwyck is a lesbian, but there are hints all over the place), but it's a camp classic now. It's sleazy but lots on fun with tons of campy dialogue to spare. Apparantely this film had a very whimsical casting director--Harvey (an English actor) and Capucine (a French actress) play Texans and Anne Baxter (in a black fright wig) is a Mexican!
The acting varies--Harvey is just OK with a credible Texas accent; Fonda is really great projecting raw sexuality; Capucine is beautiful but wooden; Stanwyck chews the scenery in a very amusing way and Baxter turns in a very moving and great performance.
Lots of fun with the right crowd--I saw it years ago with a gay and lesbian crowd and we laughed all the way through it!
This film is strangely reminiscent of Pre-Code Barbara Stanwyck
pictures like 'Baby Face' or 'Women They Talk About.' But, what makes
the film so much fun is its marvelously fractured casting. It's rumored
that the film owes its existence to Capucine. Charles Feldman, the
talent agent, mounted the production to showcase his protégée and (some
say) girlfriend. She's quite a beauty, but what makes her performance
so remarkable is that she's totally oblivious to the fact that she
doesn't belong in this film.
Laurence Harvey has the Southern accent down. And, as for Jane Fonda, this was the one break in her endless string of coy sex kitten roles from the sixties where she proves she can act. Some say she overdoes it, but I think she provides the real spice in this film.
In the midst of this batch of newcomers hobbled together from around the world (although they're all playing indigenous Southerners) are two pros trained in the old Hollywood studios. This is hardly a high point for Barbara Stanwyck. But, she proves that you can put her down anywhere - in a screwball comedy, a tearjerker, a hard-boiled film noir, or a TV western - and she can hold her own.
Anne Baxter acquits herself well in the thankless task of playing a humble Mexican. Probably less well known for her accomplishments than Stanwyck, she won an Oscar for playing one of the greatest dramatic arcs given to an actress in the forties in "The Razor's Edge." These two pros give some dignity to a film that easily could have degenerated in to laughable kitsch.
This film is notorious for its overt portrayal of a lesbian character. But, it actually has a more interesting gay connection. Fonda, against the prohibition of director Edward Dymyrik, was secretly being coached in her dressing room by her 'secretary' and live-in boyfriend Andreas Voutsinas. Six years later, he would set a new benchmark for outrageous mincing queens as Carmen Ghia in Mel Brooks' "The Producers."
Laurence Harvey is terrific as a penniless Texas cowboy who hitches his way to New Orleans in the 1930s in search of a lost summer love, a French artist who--unbeknownst to him--is now working at a bordello; Barbara Stanwyck is the madame at the Doll House, married to a crippled tough but with heavy lesbian leanings towards Capucine, the girl who broke Harvey's heart; Jane Fonda is pretty good as a teen tramp who also ends up working for Stanwyck, and Anne Baxter is a proprietress of a diner who takes Harvey in. Though based on a novel by Nelson Algren, this screenplay sometimes plays like sub-Tennessee Williams, with the rather laughable story-conceit that New Orleans was just another small town in the '30s (walk up the street and you've seen it all!). Capucine, haughty and breathless, matches up well with Harvey, and her run-ins with benefactor Stanwyck are heated, but those hoping for some crackling gay subtext will be disappointed (Barbara's inclinations aren't hypothetical, but she's hardly out of the closet). There are some good, fruity lines of tough-talking dialogue and also some sentimental moments with surprising resonance (as when Baxter says, "Why can't two people care about each other...without the world making it dirty?"). Of course it's Hollywood-ized, with a camp score by Elmer Bernstein and Joanna Moore in the clichéd role of the good-hearted tootsie who gets taken for granted. But Fonda has a great scene near the end when she helps Capucine out of a jam, and Harvey makes a big impression on the audience without overstating his sleek handsomeness. *** from ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Much has been said about the bad casting, but I find it all fitting
indeed. The plot is one of the endless variations on La Traviata - the
whore with a heart of gold - but it has some twists in it that are
original. Stanwyck is great in this first 'out' gay role of any
character in films.
Capucine is one the great beauties of film. Her acting is icy - which is perfect. Did you note how she changes her mind depending on whom she's talking to? It's clear the character has no mind of her own - until it's too late. Perfect.
The Fonda-Harvey prelude is terrific. And of course the plotting brings her significantly back in the denouement. There's not a wasted motif in the plot. Stanwyck's husband at the beginning and end. It's easy to cry 'pot-boiler' but that's a vacuous charge against this better than average movie, certainly a milestone of sorts.
I haven't seen this movie in 40 years. Being 8 years old the first time I watched this curious flick I did not know the meaning of camp. Watching this movie last night I realized this is classic camp. Stanwyck plays what is considered to be the first out lesbian in a major film and Fonda (never more beautiful) plays an underage bad girl headed for the "doll house." This was Fonda's second movie and she was actually 25. Most reviews mention her overacting. I thought she actually gave the movie energy. Capucine underacts as much as Fonda overacts and she is quite boring and wooden. The best one could say about her performance is she has great cheekbones. Anne Baxter (in a part that should have been played by Rita Moreno) isn't as bad as other reviewers have stated, although her wig is a little distracting. Laurence Harvey has a lot of sex appeal and presence while doing very little. Look also for Joanna Moore(Tatum's mom) as one of the "dolls". The French Quater sets are right out of Streetcar. As a matter of fact, the whole movie plays like Tennesee Williams. I believe the song was nominated for an Oscar, rightfully so, since the score was beautiful. Hollywood should do a remake. Maybe Fonda in the Stanwyck role?
Laurence Harvey is on a quest to find his true love. He couldn't leave
his ailing father, so of course Capucine as Hallie wound up in a house
of sin in New Orleans, headed by Barbara Stanwyck. Laurence befriends
Jane Fonda along the way to find Hallie, and Jane takes an instant
liking to him and does what she can to get his attention. One pit stop
was at Anne Baxter's little diner and gas station.
All this sounds quite simple, but its treatment and style is such that you feel its down-in-the-dirt quality and you get the feeling it's a guilty pleasure in watching it. It also features Juanita Moore, from "Imitation of Life" with Lana Turner, and Joanna Moore (who was the mother of Tatum O'Neal) has a very memorable if somewhat brief role.
For all the great stars and talent in the making of this movie, the one person you really empathize the most for is Anne Baxter, who comes to feel something for Laurence Harvey. Everyone else, including Laurence and Jane, are portrayed as somewhat selfish and hard in their own way; in other words, these are not very likable people. Even Capucine, who the viewer is supposed to feel sorry for in her predicament, doesn't really emote enough feelings for the viewer to really care about her.
I know I seem to be giving it a hard time, but I give it an '8' for its entertainment value and presentation with some of the best actors of the time. Like always, Stanwyck is great, and Anne Baxter's accent is so natural, you see the character and not Anne, which is a testimony to her acting chops. So, walk on the wild side with Stanwyck & company.
An itinerant Texas dirt farmer searches for his lost love discovered now working in a New Orleans brothel where she is the "favorite" of the madam of the house. Much has been written about the superb opening and closing credits and the jazzy music and stunning b/w photography but this film also expertly captures a time (Depression)and place and mood and has a totally engaging story (pared down from Nelson Algren's large novel)and a wonderful cast with Laurence Harvey, Barbara Stanwyck, Anne Baxter, a young Jane Fonda and the goddess-like Capucine as the center of attention. Various biogs of these stars say it was not a happy production but the finished product is highly polished.
Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Fonda, Capucine, and Laurence Harvey take a
"Walk on the Wild Side" in this 1962 film directed by Edward Dmytryk,
based on the book by Nelson Algren. One reason the film is memorable is
the title song by Elmer Bernstein.
The 1930s story begins with Dove Linkhorn (Harvey) meeting Kitty Twist (Jane Fonda) as they're both traveling out of Texas by the cheapest route possible. Though Kitty has the hots for Dove, he's headed for The Big Easy to find his girl Hallie (Capucine). It turns out that Hallie is working at the Doll House, a brothel run by lesbian Jo Courtney (Barbara Stanwyck) who is in love with Hallie and giving her the good life. Before Dove finds her, he winds up working at a café run by Teresina Vidaverri (Anne Baxter), who falls for him. When he finally connects with Hallie, he finds out that Kitty is now working at the Doll House too.
For some reason this film seemed like it was cut to ribbons. It's very disjointed. Fonda appears in the beginning and then drops out for what seems like an hour. Though she's certainly a beautiful woman today, seeing this film is a reminder of just how dazzling she was. Her acting is effective if a bit over the top, though she doesn't get a lot of help from the script. Stanwyck is excellent as a tough woman made vulnerable because of her love for Hallie.
In fact, Stanwyck and Fonda are the only two who are well cast in this movie. The rest of them seem as if someone pulled their names out of a hat. I mean, Laurence Harvey as a Texan? And because this film is produced by Charles Feldman, that means Capucine gets to come along and give one of her cold as ice, monotone-voiced, frozen-faced performances. We have no idea why Dove fell for her and why Jo loves her. But then, we didn't understand Franz Liszt falling for her in Song without End either. And, though the film is set in the '30s, again thanks to Mr. Feldman, Capucine wears the latest Pierre Cardin fashions.
I'm sure that in real life, Capucine (known as "Cap" to her friends) was a lovely and warm woman - Dirk Bogarde was crazy about her as a person, William Holden I believe was in love with her, and she was a good friend of Audrey Hepburn's - but she just never projected much on screen. Her casting here is woeful.
Anne Baxter does the best she can with her role.
The film is a real old-fashioned melodrama. In the end it doesn't really draw you in and it seems like a lot is missing. It's a miss, but a high budget one.
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