Valentine "Snakeskin" Xavier, a trouble-prone drifter trying to go straight, wanders into a small Mississippi town looking for a simple and honest life but finds himself embroiled with problem-filled women.
The professional mercenary Sir William Walker instigates a slave revolt on the Caribbean island of Queimada in order to help improve the British sugar trade. Years later he is sent again to... See full summary »
Having fled New Orleans to avoid arrest, the undeniably alluring Valentine "Snakeskin" Xavier (Val), a trouble-prone guitar-playing drifter, wanders into a small Mississippi town aiming to go straight and lead a quiet, simple life. He gets a job in the dry goods store owned by a sexually-frustrated middle-aged woman named Lady Torrence, whose sadistic elderly husband, Jabe, is dying. With an obscure past and passions of her own, Lady finds herself attracted to Val, pulsating with passion anew, as he presents an arousing antidote to her bitter marriage and small-town hum-drum life, but also vying for Val's attention are the alcoholic, sex-crazed Carol Cutrere and the unhappily-married Vee Talbot. Each bring their share of problems into Val's plans, himself equally tempted by these women though he succumbs to the charms of Lady. But the jealous Jabe is friends with Sheriff Talbot, who's also Vee's wife - things can't possibly end well for Val and Lady. The screenplay by Meade Roberts ...Written by
Marlon Brando described Anna Magnani as being equally fiery and passionate off screen. He claimed she made a pass at him before filming began in a hotel. See more »
[Xavier and Carol are driving at night in her sports car. She tells him to pull over at what appears to be the entrance to the local cemetery, "Wisteria Hills"]
Pull over here.
Valentine 'Snakeskin' Xavier:
[Unaware of where they are]
You live around here?
Nobody lives around here! This is the local bone orchard!
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Southern Gothic tragedy with Brando, Magnani and Woodward
Released in 1960 and directed by Sidney Lumet from Tennessee Williams' screenplay, "The Fugitive Kind" is a B&W southern Gothic drama starring Marlon Brando as loner minstrel Val "Snakeskin" from New Orleans in pursuit of a new life and the people with whom to live it. He stumbles upon a Mississippi town and gets a job at a mercantile store, which is run by a lonely passed-her-prime woman, Lady (Anna Magnani). While Snakeskin works the store downstairs, Lady's terminally ill husband is bedridden upstairs (Victor Jory). Joanne Woodward plays a histrionic beatnik while Maureen Stapleton is on hand as a housewife enamored by Snakeskin. R.G. Armstrong appears as the redneck sheriff.
The first time I watched this movie (in 2008) I didn't much like it, probably because I wasn't familiar with Williams' stagey, melodramatic style of writing. However, after just viewing Williams' "The Night of the Iguana" (1964) and really appreciating it, I had a taste for more and so gave "The Fugitive Kind" a second chance. I'm glad I did because, this time, I was able to discern its highlights and got a lot more out of it.
Marlon was in the midst of my favorite period of his career while filming this movie. Arguably his greatest films, "The Young Lions" (1958), "One-Eyed Jacks" (1961) and "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1962), were all shot during this time. While "The Fugitive Kind" is easily the least of these it's worth checking out for a number of reasons, as long as you're in the mood for a talky adult melodrama. Like "The Night of the Iguana," this is a brooding rumination on the nature of existence. As such, there are numerous treasures to glean from the seemingly interminable dialogues. The movie's overlong and could've been tightened up, but the interspersed riches hidden within make it worth staying with, but you have to be a seasoned adult to appreciate it or, at least, mature for your years.
Woodward's beatnik character is interesting as she's basically a hippie before hippies existed. Although her character is histrionic and somewhat annoying, some of her reflections are poignant, like in the interesting cemetery scene with Snakeskin. Emory Richardson is almost fascinating as Carol's silent black friend in a racist community. Some of their platonic imagery together is unexpected and intriguing for a film shot in 1959.
Brando was 35 during filming and became the first actor to make $1 million for a single film (although Elizabeth Taylor earlier signed a $1 million contract for "Cleopatra," that movie wasn't released until 1963). Magnani was 51 and hot to sleep with the star, but Marlon didn't find her attractive which, needless to say, negatively affected the shoot. This is surprising because some of their scenes together are quite good. I incidentally had an Italian neighbor who passed away six weeks ago who was strikingly reminiscent of Magnani's character, both looks-wise and temperament-wise. So I know firsthand that people like her exist.
The film runs 119 minutes and was shot in Milton, New York.
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