Living in Tiger Tail County, Mississippi, middle aged Archie Lee Meighan and nineteen year old "Baby Doll" Meighan née McCargo have been married for close to two years. Their marriage is not based on love, but each getting what they want from the other. Their marriage agreement has them consummating their marriage on her twentieth birthday, which is in three days, the act to which Baby Doll is not really looking forward. But she does taunt him and other men with her overt "baby doll" sexuality, the baby doll aspect which she fosters by sleeping in their house's nursery in a crib. Baby Doll's now deceased father allowed the marriage on the stipulation that Archie Lee provide Baby Doll financial security as displayed by the most resplendent house in the south. They currently live in a dilapidated mansion with her Aunt Rose Comfort, and although Archie Lee is making some renovations on it, he no longer has the financial means to make it what Baby Doll wants as his cotton ginning ...Written by
Elia Kazan hired identical twin brothers Richard Sylbert and Paul Sylbert (born April 16, 1928) as his scenic designers and art directors. They shared the film's art director credit. The Sylbert twins had primarily been working in NYC live television as IATSE #829 scenic designers and set decorators. They had Kazan hire their fellow New York City CBS television studio set decorator Gene Callahan, who joined Kazan and the Sylbert twins in Benoit, MS, to scout locations and prep the film's primary plantation house location. Consulting and working with Kazan, Gene and the Sylbert twins shared their film designing duties. Originally from Louisiana, Callahan seemed the perfect choice to decorate the squalid, run-down plantation house interiors and plantation site exteriors. He found the "baby doll" iron bed in a local antique shop, which became a featured prop in the film's set and playbill advertisements. The Sylbert twins and Callahan were always on the set with Kazan and his cinematographer, during cast/camera rehearsal blocking shot, subsequent filming, on every set up. This was a natural condition to a television art department team, being a part of the cast and crew rehearsal and filming schedule, day and night. When not with the film crew, they would be preparing the next scene/film shot for the company move. Upon completion of the Mississippi filming, Callahan took the "iron baby doll bed" back with him to New York City, placing it in his spacious and large West Side apartment's living room, a conversation piece! Kazan relied on Callahan's Southern upbringing and scene interpretation in his rehearsals and scene motivation. This professional film relationship and experience secured the Sylberts' and Callahan's future alliance with Kazan's creative film assignments. Kazan took Callahan to Istanbul (Turkey) and Athens (Greece) as his production designer for America America (1963). Callahan won the 1963 Academy Award for Best Art Direction Black-and-White for his painstakingly accurate scenic set designs. See more »
When Aunt Rose Comfort serves greens, some jump out, and then back into, the tureen. See more »
Uproariously funny black comedy about sexual frustration.
Wonderfully original, even after all this time, due to the matchless dialog of Tennessee Williams and the superb performances of the three principals, Karl Malden, Carroll Baker and Eli Wallach. Wickedly funny, sly and loopy all at the same time. A view of Southern white trash which only Tennessee Williams could have penned. Carroll Baker in a first class performance as the still-virginal but sexually precocious Baby Doll, married for two years but refusing to consummate her marriage until her twentieth birthday, looming large. Karl Malden as the frustrated husband, panting to get his hands on her, and Eli Wallach as the neighbor, determined to seduce Baby Doll before Malden, in revenge for Malden's burning down his cotton gin. Totally off the wall characterization with rich, witty dialog that constantly takes one by surprise. Watching Malden and Baker's characters with their dumber than dumber take on things (that totally cracks one up at their sheer stupidity!) one wonders just how much in-breeding Williams had in mind when he invented these people. Even Mildred Dunnock, as the minor fourth character of the ensemble, a batty aunt, has a full share of crazy antics that almost has one falling on the floor. Eli Wallach turns in a sly, smoother than smooth performance as the potential seducer that is wonderfully nuanced. When the movie first appeared is was condemned by the Catholic Church. Apparently there are critics who still uphold those initial views and would prefer to return to the time of total censorship than adopt a more realistic view of life. Baby Doll is not an indecent movie and never was. What it is is a glorious black comedy that has a place amongst the best works that Williams ever produced. Last, but not least, kudos to director Elia Kazan, who passed away on the very evening that this viewer was privileged to finally get to see this movie. This is definitely one for the collection!
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