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I just viewed this movie and have to agree fully with jslack-2 from Granstburg, Illinois. I've played Tennessee Williams myself (Laura in THE GLASS MENAGERIE and later in my career Blanche in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE) and I think Newman really got to the "core" of Williams with this production. The acting is superb and touching...it draws you into the story as Williams intended. This isn't for the "faint of heart" who only seeks "light entertainment"...this is raw and very real. I lived in the South at a time when the old conventions were struggling against giving way to the new. I met many "Amanda Wingfields" and know just how "true" this really is. Kudos to Newman and his cast...and yes, where WERE the Oscar nominations that year for this production?!
Director Paul Newman's 1987 filming of Tennessee Williams'delicate "memory play" is rather like Newman's acting--straight-forward and unfussy but with a cumulative power that surprises you with its punch. As a director, Newman has no discernible visual style and his film could use some pruning here and there, but what skill with actors! I have seen several versions of this play (including two previously filmed versions) and these actors are the best I have ever had the privilege of watching in these roles. John Malkovich, as Tom, takes the greatest risks and largely succeeds--using his sly, slightly creepy vocal patterns to great effect. He projects a somewhat fey, vaguely gay quality as Tom (which, if one agrees that Tom represents Tennessee Williams himself, certainly makes sense). In the probably foolproof role of the fragile Laura, Karen Allen is heartbreaking (if perhaps a tad too pretty). James Naughton's gentleman-caller Jim hones most closely to previous interpretations of the role; perhaps there is only one way to play it. He is fine, though he seemed a tad too old for the role to me. As the maddening Amanda, Joanne Woodward was simply superb--far outdistancing even Katharine Hepburn in the playing of one of the greatest women's roles ever written. Herself a Southerner, Woodward seems to completely understand this woman and where she came from--which makes the situation she has found herself in all the more moving. Visually, the movie is little more than a photographed stage-play, though mention must be made of Henry Mancini's excellent score.
I'll say upfront that I haven't read Tennessee Williams' play, so I can't comment on the film as an adaptation. I have seen various film and stage productions of it over the years, and this is the best presentation that I've seen yet. The acting is superb, particularly John Malkovich and Karen Allen. Malkovich gives a definitive portrayal of the budding writer, a performance that would please Tennessee Williams himself, in my opinion. Director Paul Newman contributes the same sensitive approach that he brought to his earlier, vaguely similar film THE EFFECT OF GAMMA RAYS ON MAN-IN-THE-MOON MARIGOLDS. This is a superb effort, one that should be on DVD with commentary from the cast.
Under-rated beautifully realized version of a famous play - everything is just right and Karen Allen's work as the tragic Laura is deeply moving - one of the best screen performances never to have been nominated for an Academy Award.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I first noticed James Naughton when he starred in the cheesy 1970s TV
version of the Planet of the Apes, and later learned that he has had an
amazing stage career over the years. It's a shame he may be more widely
remembered for his work in that series than for his theater endeavors,
which by nature aren't usually recorded. Fortunately, his
heart-breaking performance as Jim O'Connor was saved for posterity.
He's perfectly cast here as the charming former high school golden boy
who comes to the Wingfield home for dinner, offering a ray of hope for
a happy future for painfully shy Laura (Karen Allen in a well-acted
stretch from her most famous role as the spitfire lover of Indiana
Jones in Raidres of the Lost Ark).
Joanne Woodward shines in a multi-layered, brilliant turn as one of the most interesting characters in modern literature, Amanda Wingfieid. She gives just the right touch to small moments that give the viewer an enlightening peek at the desperate condition of the fading southern belle -- such as a moment on the telephone, coaxing someone to renew their newspaper subscription so she can scrape off her small commission.
John Malkovich also turns in a terrific performance, making the aftermath of the dinner party compelling, though painful, to watch. Malkovich has evolved into an actor whose quirkiness can sometimes overpower his character. In this relatively early work, his brooding sexiness gives an endearing depth to the story's narrator, a character who, in the wrong hands, can be utterly dislikable.
My only real quibble with this film is has to do with the technical direction. Paul Newman drew out such great work from his cast that it's unfortunate that distracting camera work takes attention away from them at times when it shouldn't. One can see that he was trying to make the stagy story more "movie like" and intimate with close-ups and quick cuts from camera angle to camera angle. For example, when Jim accidentally breaks one of Amanda's favorite glass animals, we don't really need to see a quick, tight close-up of the unicorn and his broken horn; that momentarily breaks the momentum of the scene. It's more than enough to hear the sad young woman's touching twist of the situation-- comforting Jim for causing the break by saying she'll imagine that her treasured unicorn has had an operation to make him look like a regular horse, and will be happy now that he's not a freak. The camera work certainly does not render the film unwatchable, and I think it shouldn't be missed.
I read this play in my high school English class, and I love it. I think John Malkovich did an amazing job as Tom. His monologues at the beginning of every scene were especially well done. He gave the movie a really dream-like quality. For once, a movie does the written material justice.
The depth of feeling manifested in the acting on display here easily
trumps both the (wildly miscast)Gertrude Lawrence and the (vastly
overrated) Katherine Hepburn versions of this celebrated play.
Though everyone involved (on both sides of the camera) does a first rate job, special accolades are due to Joanne Woodward, who is perhaps the first actress to really understand Amanda, since the role's originator--Laurette Taylor.
The pathos in Miss Woodward's delineation of the character is almost unbearable on some occasions, as in the famous jonquil soliloquy, in which she conveys, with hushed voice and beatific eyes, a sentimental recollection for lost time (and lost love) that is not only wholly personally convincing, but also manages to imprint her sentiment onto the audience with all the deja vu of Proust's madeleine.
Her Amanda is never less than fully persuasive.
And Mr. Malkovitch, in his final address to the camera, ("blow out your candles Laura") achieves effects of the same high order, with emotions so confiding, intimate, and genuine that he leaves viewers of any sensitivity as heartbroken as he is.
All told a devastating achievement not to be missed by admirers of Mr. Williams.
the play. the cast. the atmosphere. short, a splendid adaptation , exploring, with grace and precision, the nuances of text. the entire tension, the fragility of Laura, the heavy-gray emotions of Tom, the Joanne Woodward's Amanda are pieces of a great science to remind the beauty of play, the South flavor, the failure and the impossibility of hope. the right sound of image and acting - that is the great virtue of the film. a film who has all the ingredients to be more than inspired adaptation but perfect support for reflection about a small universe and its borders. John Malkovich does an admirable role and that is important for the link between viewer and the close universe. the fragility of the scenes. and the voice of Malkovich as its frame.
When it comes to Tennesse Williams, I am more familiar myself with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire, but when studying The Glass Menagerie for A Levels three years ago I was struck by how moving the story and the character of Laura was. And apart from a few close-ups that distracted from the momentum of some scenes, I loved this version and consider one of the better, perhaps even the best, version(s) of The Glass Menagerie. The production values look striking, and even with the close ups the photography is not half bad. I will be honest in saying that Paul Newman is a better actor than he is as director. That is not to say that he didn't do a good job, he did(in fact it is for me one of his better directorial efforts), but this is the same Paul Newman who has been responsible for some of the finest performances I've seen like in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke, The Hustler and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof(where he played Brick) and for me his directing while impressive is not quite up to the same standard. What is impressive here though is that, from his work as Brick no doubt, he does capture the basic core of The Glass Menagerie instead of missing the point of it. Back to the rest of the film's assets, the story is still moving and the script is just as beautifully written and thoughtful as Williams' own writing. And there are great performances too, James Naughton is excellent as Jim and John Malkovich's Tom is wonderfully fey and gives his monologues a suitably dream-like quality. The best two performances though come from Karen Allen as a heartbreaking Laura and especially the superb Amanda(one of Williams' juiciest characters) of Joanne Woodward. In conclusion, a great, well-acted version of The Glass Menagerie. 9/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have taught the play many times to my high school English classes. I
have also shown various movie versions to my students as well.
I enjoyed this version, but it's not the one I would show my classes.
I thought that Woodward's Amanda was softer and sweeter than Gertrude Lawrence and Katharine Hepburn. Some parts I would have liked to have seen her a bit more emotional, but I feel that Joanne Woodward turned in a touching performance. The character of Amanda can be quite funny; Judith Ivey did a wonderful job as Amanda on Broadway in the spring of 2010. I feel that Woodward brought out some of that humor in the role.
I also liked the other three too. All good performances, but the pacing of the movie slowed it down. Also the film looked quite dark. I know it's a memory play set in a dingy apartment, but it was a bit too dark, especially when the lights have been turned off.
What's up with Tom visiting the now vacant and abandoned apartment building?
Overall, I prefer the 1950 black and white version. Unlike many others, I really liked Gertrude Lawrence's Amanda. I also liked Arthur Kennedy and Jane Wyman. Kirk Douglas was a little bit too energetic but still good.
When I showed Katharine Hepburn's Amanda, my students begged to return to the black and white version. This - coming from kids who hate black and white movies.
I am glad I finally sat down to watch this version, but for me I will stick with the first film version, even if it has that insipid happy ending.
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