A plain, repressed spinster falls for a dashing young medical student who prefers the wilder life, until it's too late.A plain, repressed spinster falls for a dashing young medical student who prefers the wilder life, until it's too late.A plain, repressed spinster falls for a dashing young medical student who prefers the wilder life, until it's too late.
Since childhood, spinster Alma Winemiller has loved handsome young Dr. John Buchanan, Jr.. But John has fallen hard for Rosa Zacharias, the town's sultry vamp, and descends into a seamy nightlife while ignoring Alma's dreams of romance and possible marriage. —alfiehitchie
An average film borough to life by solid performances
Geraldine Page had her first true starring role in "Summer and Smoke" released in 1961. Yes, she had been a theatrical star and did television work, and did fine in 1953's "Hondo" opposite John Wayne. But here, Page brings the repressed Tennessee Williams character of Alma to glorious life. The story, set in the 1920's, deals with the Southern small town stifling morals of the day. Page is a preacher's daughter, making her even more repressed; her father is played by actor Malcom Atterbury with all the proper moral condemnation. Her mother, played by old Hollywood star Una Merkel, is mentally unbalanced, adding to the responsibility Alma feels, as she lives at home with both of them. Alma is at an age that would have been considered a "spinster" of the times. Enter the young handsome doctor John (Laurence Harvey), whom Alma has known since childhood, since he lives next door with his cantankerous doctor father (John McIntyre). Alma desires John, but her own sexual inhibitions will now allow her to explore that, so she secretly lusts after him. John is a fellow who focuses on the physical, and takes up with a woman who would have been considered quite loose at the time (Rita Moreno in an early performance). John knows Alma desires him, and he is not sure how to handle it. He tries to take the relationship further, but Alma resists his sexual advances. Neither of these individuals is wrong for how they feel - and they seem to go through the whole movie not connecting. This is probably the finest work Laurence Harvey did on screen - his smoldering sexuality is used here to great effect. He and Page have palpable chemistry. The supporting players are capable as well, but this is Geraldine Page's show, and her genteel demeanor and southern accent are spot on. We are left pondering Alma - she is both tragic and wonderful.
- Dec 16, 2008
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