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
This is a wonderful film, and one of the more underrated, and unseen movies of Tennessee Williams works. The acting is topnotch. Karl Malden as Archie Lee, the sexually frustrated husband of Baby Doll, has never been better, and Carroll Baker is simply charming and luminous as the headstrong and chiding child bride, Baby Doll. Eli Wallach succeeds marvelously, (and surprisingly), in conveying to the hilt the sexual magnetism and intensity of Silva Vacarro, Archie Lee's "Italian Stallion" rival in business, and ultimately for Baby Doll herself. Mildred Dunnock's brilliant portrayal of Aunt Rose Comfort is also quite memorable.
The marriage of Baby Doll to the low-class and ineffectual Archie Lee was an obvious last resort plan made years ago by Baby Doll's dying father. Promises made by Archie Lee of restoring the estate to it's former glory and also that he would not attempt marital relations with Baby Doll until her twentieth birthday were apparently enough to cinch the deal in this dead end world. Baby Doll is clearly repulsed by her husband and has taken to sleeping in a baby's crib in "the nursery" to keep her distance from him. She treats him with annoyed disdain when she isn't making fun of him and embarrassing him in front of anyone who happens to be around. Her twentieth birthday is just days away and she is clearly feeling desperate about her situation.
This is the epitome of the Southern Gothic genre, although it is far from being dark or depressing. If anything, its a black comedy. The setting is the dilapidated Southern cotton plantation home, the remains of the once great estate of Baby Doll's deceased father and forefathers. The cinematography by Boris Kaufman, which was Oscar nominated, is executed in stark, bleached out black and white. Other Oscar nominations for the film included Carroll Baker, Tennessee Williams, and Mildred Dunnock. Eli Wallach and Karl Malden also certainly deserved an Oscar nod for their great performances. This film is a must see for Tennessee Williams fans!
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