Great Performances

Eccentricities of a Nightingale (16 Jun. 1976)

TV Episode  -   -  Biography | Drama | Music
8.3
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Reviews: 6 user | 1 critic

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Title: Eccentricities of a Nightingale (16 Jun 1976)

Eccentricities of a Nightingale (16 Jun 1976) on IMDb 8.3/10

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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. See more awards »

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Episode credited cast:
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...
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Louise Latham ...
Neva Patterson ...
Mrs. Buchanan
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Tobias Anderson ...
(as Tobias Andersen)
Lois Foraker
Lew Horn
Priscilla Morrill
Marianne Stone
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filmed play | based on play


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16 June 1976 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Based on Tennessee Williams' play, "Summer and Smoke". See more »

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Version of Summer and Smoke (1961) See more »

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based on Summer and Smoke
23 October 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Tennessee Williams liked this version of his story better than Summer and Smoke, but found when he arrived with his new play, rehearsals for Summer and Smoke had already begun. This version leaves out the young, vibrant fiancé of John Buchanan, the resulting tragedy of Alma's machinations, and interplay between John Buchanan and his father.

Alma (Blythe Danner) is a spinster during the Victorian era in Mississippi. She teaches voice and sings a little. She lives with her insane mother (Louise Latham) and her minister father (Tim O'Connor). Alma has been in love with John Buchanan (Frank Langella) since childhood. John has just returned from medical school and is staying in town for a while. He's much more world-savvy than Alma, whose life is music, poetry, soft words, and who has accepted her role as an "eccentric." John and his friendly flirtation awaken repressed feelings in her.

I'd say Summer and Smoke and Eccentricities of a Nightingale are both, for me, a little problematic. As someone pointed out, it's second rate Williams but second rate Williams is better than just about anybody, and that is true. His words indeed are poetry, and he evokes that incredible Southern atmosphere.

Summer and Smoke is a story of spiritual love versus physical love; Eccentricities is less clear. Alma wants John to make love to her, to take her to one of those little hotels where you rent a room by the hour - to experience what she has been missing in her own life. For her, it's love, and she knows for John, it's just sex, and she doesn't care.

In Summer and Smoke, John is supposedly a wild man who likes a good time; in Eccentricities, he's polite, kind, and friendly, and while he's been around, it hasn't been all that much, he claims. Langella plays him with a little smile of tolerance and as a complete gentleman. He's not the snob his mother (Neva Patterson) is, at least overtly; he likes Alma though he knows she's not a suitable partner for him.

Blythe Danner is a perfect Williams heroine - fragile, blond, with a fluttery voice and nervous, breathless mannerisms; Alma is probably Blanche Dubois before moving in on Stanley and Stella. I found her performance just a bit frantic, and I think it is because this is basically a filmed play. Sitting in an audience, without those closeups, I doubt I would have found her performance anything but fantastic. The important thing is, we care what happens to her, we want the best for her, but in our hearts, we know she is indeed an "eccentric," and is not going to get it.

I always thought Louise Latham as a young woman would be a great Blanche; she was a stage actress until the 1960s, so it's entirely possible she played it regionally. She's excellent here as Alma's demented mother.

It's a shame we don't have a lot of these plays shown on television any longer.


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