|Index||5 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It may have looked good on paper, but mounting a remake of the Tennessee Williams play (and previous feature film with Geraldine Page and Paul Newman) starring Taylor turned out to be a fairly poor idea. She plays a famous movie star who runs screaming from the premiere of her first film in seven years when she catches a glimpse of her aging face in close-up. Retreating to Florida, she picks up the ambitious, but rather slimy Harmon who seduces her and winds up as her chauffeur as she aimlessly rides wherever he takes her, trying to forget her film. He goes back to his home town in order to pick up his ex-girlfriend Paris so that he can persuade Taylor to make the two of them movie stars. Unfortunately, Paris's father Torn is infuriated with Harmon over the way he left town and the condition in which he left his daughter. Harmon ignores Torn's threats to leave town while Taylor languishes in self-pity until everything comes to a head one fateful night. Taylor is heavy and blowzy, yet still very beautiful here. Her performance varies from acceptable to lazy to hammy, depending on the scene. Even when she's bad, she's watchable. (Taylor had much to draw upon here. In fact, she once abruptly left a screening of "Cleopatra" after seeing herself act, barley making it to the ladies room before vomiting!) Harmon tries hard, but is a little too old for his role and cannot master his distractingly bad accent. Interestingly, he sometimes resembles Taylor's great pal Montgomery Clift when lit a certain way or when facing a certain angle. Torn is adequate in a role that he could play in his sleep. His part has been trimmed down from the source material. So has Edwards, who plays Paris's sympathetic aunt. A major character in the play and first film, she's reduced to barely an extra here. Paris isn't dynamic enough or appealing enough to warrant all the interest from Harmon. Perrine does an excellent job as one of Torn's floozies. Her performance, brief as it is, is one of the highlights of the movie. Lee appears as a Hedda Hopper-esquire crony of Taylor's, while Cassel has a small role as the hotel manager. The story has been stripped down to its bare bones, sometimes causing some confusion about what's occurring. Beyond that, it's a shallow, uninspired rendition of the work with precious little period flavor. It's a gauzy, chintzy-looking production, epitomizing that which makes something a TV movie, a condition that ought to have been remedied a bit better by a director of Roeg's caliber. Nolan Miller (his work cut out for him in shielding the star's girth) did all of Taylor's clothes including a fur hat that she only wears for a few seconds and not up close. Scenes must have been added/changed for video or overseas airing because Paris appears topless and Harmon shows his rear end and pubic hair, not something that would typically have been aired on network TV in 1989!
The success of a film is based on one thing and one thing only - chemistry - and Elizabeth Taylor and Mark Harmon positively sizzle in this film. You cannot take your eyes off them. The casting is right out of heaven. The story, of course, is pure Tennessee Williams, sordid and nasty and southern, but who cares when you're looking at two utterly gorgeous creatures like Elizabeth Taylor and Mark Harmon. The story really takes a back seat to this production which is quite lavish and hardly has the look of a television movie which is what it was. With a top flight director like Nicholas Roeg, how can you miss? You can't! Valerie Perrine in a supporting role really stands out. She is absolutely luminous and holds her own with Taylor in their scenes together. The supporting cast generally is excellent but Taylor and Harmon just cannot be beat when they are together they are so extraordinary.
Tennessee Williams when he wanted to get into his favorite subject of
sex was never coy or shy about it. But the most brutal work he ever did
was Sweet Bird Of Youth. So brutal that when Paul Newman and Geraldine
Page repeated their roles for the screen it was toned down a lot by the
omnipresent Code which would be gone in a few years.
Mark Harmon is not as charismatic as Paul Newman very few are. But he brings his own brand of sexy swagger to the role of Chance Wayne who is now the kept boy of fading film star Alexandra Del Lago played here by screen legend Elizabeth Taylor.
Taylor and Harmon are driving up the gulf coast of Florida and come to his home town where he was run out years ago after disgracing the daughter of Rip Torn the town boss played by Cheryl Paris. As the town gossip goes Paris was left with a social disease and under his express orders Torn had a hysterectomy performed on Paris. Mind you though the talk in such places as barbershops and hair salons leave some doubt as to how Paris got disgraced. Still and all the poor kid in town is a most convenient whipping boy.
So after years of drifting and getting by on looks and charm Harmon is in town with Taylor and he's looking for her to be his meal ticket to fame and fortune. Only this meal ticket proves to be bogus and Harmon gets some rough and ugly justice and his good looks and charm will now be for naught.
Rip Torn who was Junior Finley on both Broadway and on film now plays Boss Finley, the part Ed Begley got a Best Supporting Actor for. Torn is a big more subtle than Begley, but he's just as malevolent, maybe more. This version brings more of the politics of the late Fifties into the drama as Finley who has state wide ambitions is a rabid segregationist in the style of George Wallace and Lester Maddox.
This version of Sweet Bird Of Youth is a fine introduction to the work of Tennessee Williams and I'm glad it's now on DVD so that current audiences can enjoy.
For some reason Elizabeth Taylor and a number of others at the time
Mark Harmon was an up and coming "hot" actor- here he is without charisma
and luke warm - totally miscast as Chance Wayne, a man who must be loaded
with charm, beauty and ambition. As Alexandra del Lago, Miss Taylor lacks
both acting ability, insight into the character, and star power. She
have NOT seen Geraldine Page's classic performance in the role - Page WAS
actress, never really a star, but makes us believe Alexandra was and is
BOTH. Miss Taylor is woefully miscast here and quite lackluster. Where
was Marsha Mason when they needed a potentially great Alexandra del
The teleplay stripped the great speeches and the symbolism of the original play and left us a "drek" vehicle. This is one production that deserves to have all of its prints and negative burned.
First off, I have never seen the original, so there won't be any
to Geraldine Page. I wouldn't know her if I fell over her, actually.
I said unbiased, I meant I would not be comparing this to the original
I will say that this movie is awful.
Tennessee Williams is a bit over my head, I think, so parts of this film were lost on me. It seems that Alexandra De Lago (Elizabeth Taylor) had been a star, but she's faded considerably. Apparently, she was away from the screen for some time, so her appearance surprised people. I shouldn't doubt it, as the poster for her attempted comeback shows Elizabeth Taylor in her early 20s. No wonder they're startled. She's 30-odd years older than they thought. Senility has set in early, and she simply can't keep her train of thought going for more than a few minutes before it derails, leaving her hopelessly confused. I found myself giggling every time she yelled "Where I am? Who are you?" I don't think it's supposed to be funny, but I laughed. Hard.
While staying at what looks like a hotel on the beach, Alexandra (a.k.a. the Princess Kosmonopolis, of all things) meets a hunky "masssage therapist." I put that in quotation marks, because while people seem to think he's a massage therapist, he's really a gigolo that preys on weak-minded older women. Who's more weak-minded than our laid-off legend, Alexandra. Oh, he's all over her, rubbing her back, which I didn't want to see, and unzipping her muumuu. (That's what it is, you know. Didn't want to see it, either.) Next scene, they're driving down the road. What road? What happened? At this point, I was in the same fix as Alexandra--completely confused. I realized that they'd been involved intimately, but why in the heck would she hook up with that goofball? (Goofball is played by the dreadfully horrible Mark Harmon, I guess.) As the "plot" develops, Goofball reveals himself to be a pathetic would-be blackmailer, and Alexandra reveals herself to be an equally pathetic, blackmailing, sex-starved "monster." That's her word for them--they're monsters. She's right about something, for once.
Along the way, we're forced to watch Goofball try to find his dream girl, aptly named Heavenly; we also have to sit through Elizabeth Taylor's slightly confused portrayal. Did anyone help her with this? Did the director ever tell her what to do? Is she supposed to be hilarious? What is going on?!?
I give this two out of five stars, as I enjoy a good bad movie.
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