Summer and Smoke (1961) Poster

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8/10
Tennessee Williams' somber Victorian study of buried passion and unrequited love set in provincial Mississippi, accentuated by Geraldine Page's luminous star turn.
gbrumburgh29 March 2001
What novelist Zane Grey was to the wild, wild West, playwright Tennessee Williams was to Deep South gentility. His florid, full-throttled female leads have always been the most sought after, while his deeply personal works not only made celebrated stage stars out of Jessica Tandy, Barbara Bel Geddes, Elizabeth Ashley, and Jessica Lange, but created film legends out of Vivien Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor. Fortunate in having a large number of his prize-winners transferred successfully to film, Williams seldom failed to pique interest with his old-fashioned reveries of sexual longing or depravity. 1961's "Summer and Smoke", set in small-town Mississippi in 1916, is a refulgent exercise in the former.

The original Broadway version opened a year after the resounding success of Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1948), and though it doesn't match "Streetcar" in brilliance (what does???), it has a luminosity all its own, with Geraldine Page, arguably the finest American theater actress of her time, providing most of the wattage. Page is one of the more fortunate stage stars to have had the honor of recreating a Williams' heroine for the screen. She did so again a couple years later with the equally potent "Sweet Bird of Youth."

Ms. Page portrays prim, genteel Alma Winemiller ("Miss Alma"), a minister's daughter chided as a youth by her school mates for being such. Far removed from experiencing life's libidinous pleasures, the grown up Alma has consigned herself to living a respectable, straight-laced, unbearably lonely existence as one of the town's more prideful, eccentric symbols of religious piety. Still living at home, her drab life consists of teaching voice lessons and leading bible studies with matronly ladies twice her age. Adding to the drudgery is the obligation of caring for her elderly parents, especially her emotionally erratic mother who delights in taunting Alma with cruel remarks while humiliating her in front of town folk with random acts of shoplifting. The malcontent but dutiful Alma bravely bears up under the weight, living a spinster's life way before her time.

Enter Laurence Harvey's John Buchanan, an exceptionally handsome, hard-living playboy who lives on life's edge. A next-door neighbor to Alma, whose first passionate schoolyard crush was Buchanan, the prodigal son has been sent back home to straighten out his reckless ways. But life's sinful pleasures prove far too tempting and soon he is back to his old habits of cathouse carousing and cockfighting matches. Buchanan's return rekindles Alma's youthful stirrings, for underneath the thick, confining layers of corsets and bustles still lies a heart teeming with unbridled desire.

As she reinserts herself slightly into Buchanan's life under the religious guise of soul-saving, the effort leads to a brief, life-altering romantic interlude for Miss Alma. To witness the bipolar directions the two end up taking is the essence and fascination of Williams' elegiac piece.

Geraldine Page (Oscar-nominated) is spellbinding as Alma, showing brilliant range and delicate power as the fading wallflower who suddenly over-blooms. Laurence Harvey gives a remote, synthetic performance as the roving Lothario which, I suppose, is consistent with the character, yet his rakish good looks and polished charm cannot be denied.

As Alma's maddening mother who reverts to childlike behavior, Una Merkel stands out among the supporting cast with a brittle, flavorful Oscar-nominated performance. Malcolm Atterbury appropriately shows unflinching, old-town values as her stiff, aloof minister of a father. Beautiful Pamela Tiffin, in her early career, plays Alma's young songbird student and object of attraction for Harvey with youthful vibrance. And having just won an Oscar for "West Side Story," Rita Moreno unfortunately returns true to form in one of her many spitfire stereotypes as Harvey's jealous, round-heeled paramour. John McIntire is all gruff and grimace as Harvey's deprecating old man, while young energetic Earl Holliman has a poignant, show-stopping scene with Page in the final reel as a traveling salesman.

Leisurely paced with fine, frilly attention to period detail and atmosphere, the film earned Oscar-nominations for its art direction and lovely, lyrical Elmer Bernstein score.

Required viewing for Tennessee Williams fans and a must for those who love to lose themselves in costumed romantic drama.
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8/10
Tennessee Williams again brought to the screen
blanche-217 January 2008
"Summer and Smoke" is another Tennessee Williams southern drama that, after debuting as a play, was made into a film and later an opera. Set earlier in the 20th Century, it's the story of repressed passion, unrequited love and desperation. Geraldine Page stars as Alma Winemiller, the uptight daughter of a minister. She teaches voice, sings a little, and lives with her father and an insane mother (Una Merkel). Alma, since childhood, has been in love with the young doctor next door, John Buchanan (Laurence Harvey), the son of a doctor and a playboy. Buchanan has recently returned to town and is still a reckless playboy. Now he's involved with Rosa Zacharias (Rita Moreno), a girl from the wrong class and the wrong side of town. On the evening that something could have happened between Alma and John, she runs from him. One night, while a wild party is going on at the Buchanan house, Alma goes next door and learns that Rosa and John are going to be married. Upset, she calls John's father (John MacIntyre) at the hospital and urges him to return home. The result is tragedy.

This is a very powerful and poignant story of two people, one interested in earthly pleasures and one focused on the soul and spirit. Neither one is entirely right or wrong, but it creates a chasm between them. When each realizes what the other has been saying, it's too late for them.

Geraldine Page, who played this role to great acclaim on stage, brings her magnificent portrayal to the screen. The role was based on Williams' sister, who eventually went insane. If physically Page is a little less delicate looking than one imagines Tennessee Williams' female characters, her portrayal contains all of the fragility of the role. The final scene between Alma and a salesman, played by Earl Holliman shows the shocking contrast between Alma in the beginning and at the end of the film. Geraldine Page gave us all too few gems on films, as she concentrated on the stage. We have to savor what we have.

Laurence Harvey is very handsome and desirable, but probably a little too refined for the role of John. The role needs someone whose sexuality is less ethereal and more earthbound. Una Merkel is excellent as Alma's mother, a truly disturbed and frightening woman.

Very good film based on a Williams play, worth seeing for the wonderful Geraldine Page and its thought-provoking story.
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An unforgettable performance!
Greg Couture26 May 2003
When this was released I quickly made my way to the Fox West Coast Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills, California during its first-run engagement. Advance reviews were quite positive but I was unprepared for the power and yet the delicacy of Geraldine Page's performance as Alma Winemiller. Although I was never a fan of Laurence Harvey, who was cast in so many top films of that era, he joined his fellow players in affording Miss Page some very solid support. Una Merkel and John McIntire were especially worthy of praise, Earl Holliman acquits himself manfully in a brief role in the chilling final sequence, and Pamela Tiffin was touchingly beautiful as a heedless young thing. However, Rita Moreno, who has since complained about all those "spitfire" roles with which she was saddled during her earlier Hollywood days, probably counts this appearance as one of those she'd prefer we forget. (But, parenthetically, she has more than reason to be grateful for a list of credits that had already included the lovely Tuptim in the mega-box office hit, "The King and I," an Academy Award for her supporting role in "West Side Story," resulting in a career that continues to this day, outlasting many of the top stars who had led the casts of her earliest film assignments.)

Peter Glenville's direction (whose filmography is notably sparse) marshalls his actors and the top-notch production values with aplomb, aided by one of Elmer Bernstein's best scores. The VHS version does not appear to be letterboxed, thus losing cinematographer Charles Lang, Jr.'s elegant Panavision framing, which was one of this film's handsomer attributes.
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10/10
A haunting treatment of a Tennessee Williams drama, fraught with repressed, deeply felt emotion. Geraldine Page gives a riveting, heartbreaking performance.
Rogue-1815 August 1999
Set in a small, insular town in the deep South, this is a gripping drama of miscommunication and repressed passion. Geraldine Page's powerful performance becomes progressively more harrowing as her character, the spinsterish Miss Alma, struggles to forge a connection with the man she has always loved--the handsome, dissolute son of the town's respected doctor (Laurence Harvey, perfectly cast). In the process, lives are forever changed--in ways none of those involved could have predicted. Page is simply incredible in this movie, delivering a climactic soliloquy that will leave you emotionally shell-shocked.
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5/10
Hardly the best of Williams
Martin Bradley22 May 2017
Hardly the best of Tennessee Williams and this film version does nothing to improve on it. The director was Peter Glenville who may have been highly proficient on stage but who had no real idea of what made good cinema and this is turgid at best. Geraldine Page may have been ideally suited to the role of the repressed spinster Alma but her tremulous, hesitant and, of course, highly mannered performance is just annoying and you know something is askew when the usually wooden Laurence Harvey more than manages to hold his own against her. He's the good-for-nothing young doctor who seduces her and whose body just drives her wild with desire as a certain Miss Bowles might say. As the local tramp Rita Moreno barely gets a look in though Una Merkel makes a brave stab at playing Page's dotty mother, (she and Page were both Oscar-nominated). Williams later revised the piece under the title "Eccentricities of a Nightingale" which was filmed for television with Blythe Danner and Frank Langella.
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10/10
Long live Williams! Long live Page!
dmwhite505 April 2001
SUMMER AND SMOKE has long been one of my favorite films, as I love Tennessee Williams, and loved Geraldine Page after seeing her in this brilliant, Oscar-nominated performance.Page captures all the poignancy and need of longing and loneliness, and Williams spells it out in lyricism. Page's monologue near the end will tear your heart out, and the final fade-out will give you chills. Tennessee Wlliams is as much of a poet as he is a dramatist, and the screenplay captures some of his best bon mots. For example,in a conversation between John Buchanan and Alma in the movie, John (Laurence Harvey) describes her heart as "that little red fist that keeps knocking, knocking at the big, black door." Or, Alma's mad, kleptomaniac mother (Una Merkel)can't put a jigsaw puzzle together, and , in a panic, cries, "The pieces don't fit! The pieces don't fit!" Also made in 1961 was another Williams work, THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS STONE, starring Vivien Leigh which I recommend highly.I certainly wish SUMMER AND SMOKE would be released on DVD!
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4/10
Awful Williams Adaptation
timmy_5019 March 2008
This is based on one of Tennessee Williams lesser known plays. Apparently, the film is a pretty close adaptation of the play. Based on the film, I can see why this is lesser known than works like A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a huge fan of those plays, but they are miles above Summer and Smoke.

First of all, I couldn't help but feel that the two main characters were absolutely as stupid and annoying as the leads in any film I've ever seen. The character development is bad-the sudden changes in their attitudes are wholly unbelievable. Everything about the film is extremely obvious-about as subtle as a kick in the face. The whole thing reeks of senseless cynicism. Worst of all, there is enough melodrama in this one film to fill a whole day's worth of programming on the Lifetime Channel.

Given what they had to work with, the performances in the film aren't that bad, I guess.
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Glenville Magic
charles-pope16 August 2004
This is one of the most underrated Films from a T. Williams source. Its star , sadly is Laurence Harvey and even more underrated actor.

Many folks had such huge hopes for a long career for Mr Harvey when it was cut so short we often ponder " what would have been" This film gives us some wonderful insight as to the heights that could have been.

Harvey plays Dr. Buchannon on a multitude of levels of emotional detachment..and is superb. Fitzgerald delivers in her role as the tortured Alma and stalwarts, John MCintyre and Rita Moreno supply the sparks.

Lost in all of this is a fine performance by the large version of Thomas Gomez..who proves again his versatility. I love the irony of the ending with the appearance of Earl Holliman as ' Archie" Good Drama is never dated and Peter Glenville (dir) makes it all happen..also ..one wouldn't be surprised to note that Hal Wallis is the producer..one of the all time best that Hollywood has ever had.

C Pope
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Remembered as a Great Movie
Mardon22 October 2006
I saw this movie at a theater in Springfield, Ohio, at the time of its original theatrical release. I don't know if memory makes things seem better than they really were but I rate this as the most memorable movies I have ever seen. I thought it was fantastic. I've not seen the video and I'm not sure that I would want to since this VHS edition is not letter-boxed. It would have a 1.33 aspect ratio instead of the wide, 2.35 aspect ratio of the original Panavision film. I think that would destroy much of the film's visual appeal. If this movie ever comes out on DVD, in the original Panavision aspect ratio, I'll be certain to buy it!
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10/10
Geraldine Page - Greatest American Actress of 20th Century
drnarsty24 September 2006
In my opinion, Geraldine Page was the greatest American Actress in the 20th Century. I believe that had she not spent much of her time on the New York Stage, she would have won several more Oscars, but was considered somewhat a Hollywood outsider.

She should have won for Summer and Smoke, and Sweet Bird of Youth. She carried these movies by her great acting skills and hard work.

All of her movies need to be on DVD. It is particularly surprising to me that Summer and Smoke has not been converted to DVD.

Does anyone know if any of her Stage Plays have been captured on video, and if so, where such videos could be obtained?
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8/10
Geraldine Page was Outstanding
whpratt114 January 2008
Enjoyed this dramatic love story which involves a girl named Alma Winemiller, (Geraldine Page) a pretty young gal who is a preacher's daughter and very straight laced. Alma grew up with the boy next door named John Buchanan Jr., (Laurence Harvey) and unknowing to herself she fell in love with him a very long time ago. Alma always looks out her window in order to see what John is doing and simply cannot stop watching his whereabouts in life. John's father is a medical doctor who sends John off to medical school and when he returns back home, Alma is all grown up and still has a heart throb for Johnny. However, John has changed and became a ladies man and is a wild guy who loves women and drinking. John finds a Spanish girlfriend named Rosa Zacharias, (Rita Moreno) and they are always making romantic love and living it up every weekend. Alma shows an interest in John and goes after him for a date and John decides to take her out on a date and finds out she is not willing to make love to him, so he calls her a cold fish and predicts she will become an old maid. Great film and excellent acting.
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4/10
It doesn't convince for a moment, yet it sure is pretty to look at...
moonspinner5513 January 2008
Geraldine Page received an Oscar nomination for her sterling portrayal of a small town spinster hoping to kindle a spark with the ne'er-do-well doctor's son who has lived next door since they were kids. Adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play (in which Page scored a personal success off-Broadway some nine years before the film) is brightly-painted and full of nervous, fluttery life (it's like a neurotic Disney movie--Pollyanna herself might just live down the street). It never takes off into its own emotional sphere however, mainly because the melodrama inherent in the story is so wan (it isn't encumbered by character neuroses, like many of Williams' other works--this one could actually use more). Laurence Harvey is somewhat mild-mannered as Page's leading man (one can't imagine this guy getting too wild), and the supporting players are a variable lot, ranging from Una Merkel's dotty mother to Rita Moreno's strutting flooze. Page is the one to watch; with the tiniest sparkle of dementia in her alert eyes, and the quiver of her uncertain mouth, she nearly transforms this material, an amalgamation of Tennessee Williams and Hollywood in 1961. ** from ****
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8/10
Summer and Smoke ***1/2
edwagreen1 March 2008
Tennessee Williams is at his best here in this great play made into a startling motion picture.

The phenomenal Geraldine Page is absolutely brilliant here as a repressed spinster who finds love with the doctor next door only to throw it away.

Williams continues his never ending attack on religion, rebelliousness, drug addiction and dysfunctional love.

Una Merkel, who received a supporting Oscar nomination for her role as Alma's (Page's) mother, is excellent here. She is weird, a manipulator and pulls out every stop in a very good performance. Too bad that her role was concentrated solely at the beginning of the film.

Laurence Harvey has what it takes as the wild doctor brought down to reality when his lifestyle causes the tragic demise of his father.

Miss Page exhibits every nuance in playing the part that made her such a great actress- a neurotic woman, in conflict with society, or is she a victim of it?
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10/10
"WOW....One of the Tennessee Williams Best Plays and Great Film"
victorsargeant9 July 2005
I have watched this film several times. It still holds its power over me. Earl Holloman, made "Giant" in 1956, "The Rain Maker" and now here he is again, doing a great job. Bravo Earl. Stood next to him at Sherman Oaks Tower Records, and out of respect, didn't say a word. If you like them, you allow them, their private lives. They know you know who they are, and are grateful, you don't bother them. The best zoo in the world, this Hollywood community?

Geraldine Page deserved an Oscar. Yes, "Sweet Bird of Youth" is fine as well, but in "Summer and Smoke", she is brilliant as Alma.

Ms. Page carries the film alone.

Tennesse Williams, said, "He was all the women in his plays", and I believe it.

Ahhhh...the battle with the flesh and the Soul, timeless struggle, that no one seems to win, completely. Life happens between rounds, somewhere in the middle perhaps? Elmer Berstein's score is haunting and one of my favorites, next to his "To Kill a Mockingbird". See his website.

Alma represents the part of our collective psyche, that fights our sensual wild desires, that eventually, becomes "intergrated" into our whole self. The battle is white hot, on some summer nights. Summer is a sensual season, as our armor, mask, are shed, from the heat of the night, exposing our flesh, that screams to get loose, and thrive. Winter, where this battle resolves, allows these desires to be blanketed by heavy clothes, brisk winds, and we bury our self to put to sleep our pseudo-selves.

Summer seems to be a favorite season for Tennessee Williams, "streetcar Named Desire", again sweat, blood, and tears, leave us naked with our demons of desire. In the hot Southern nights, where Bible passages, do not quiet the beast, blood fires burn hot, and white linen grows damp with passions.

"Summer and Smoke" changes me a little each time I allow myself, to become enmeshed in its desperate struggle. "Night of the Iguana" again, a hot summer night, seems to finally, release us, from "Summer and Smoke" and we are redeemed, refreshed, anew...from "the night of the blue devils". Bravo to the cast for this splendid theatrical presentation on film.
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Slender, Stagy, and Over-Stretched
dougdoepke23 April 2018
No need to recap the plot, which is largely character study, anyway.

The two hours bears all the earmarks of a prestige Paramount production. There's kingpin producer Wallis, stage prima donna Page, fast-rising Harvey, celebrated writer Williams, plus elaborate period production values. So why was I yearning for the engaging crudities of Roger Corman and Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957). Well, for one thing, hotshot Page manages one of the most mannered turns I've seen in 60-years of movie viewing. It's darn near eye-rolling in its staginess. And since she's in most every scene, there's little relief. I know, she's a great actress, but then I'm going on results not reputation. On the other end is Harvey, fresh off his Room at the Top (1959) triumph. Except here, he's too wooden for the role of occasional hedonist. Due to that expressionless exterior, any hint of pleasure seldom shines through and his crucial character fails to develop. And since the twosome slip and slide off each other for two remorseless hours, there's little let up in the ennui. The best part is the ending which I didn't see coming and was indeed unusual for it's time.

All in all, it's too bad the spotty acting and plot repetition distract from the basic theme of body vs. soul. In my case, I was just too uninterested to want to delve more deeply into that worthy premise. If there's a moral here, I think it's something about good eggs not necessarily making a good omelet, let alone a tasty one.
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Tennessee Williams universe
Kirpianuscus21 November 2016
nothing new . at the first sigh. the atmosphere, the final fall, the love as ambiguous desire, the ordinary too late for the essential gesture. at the second sigh, a revelation. because Geraldine Page and Laurence Harvey are the perfect interpreters of a story who represents a fascinating game of nuances. a love story in the Williams style who conquest new nuances in the performances of the lead actors.Alma by Geraldine Page is fragile and tender and the perfect victim of her feelings, family and illusions. she is one of many victims from the Williams plays but the great familiarity with the role on the stage imposes the right tone for each gesture and word and decision. the transformation , the profound change of Alma is more than dramatic. it becomes the fall who remands so many from every day stories . and this could be the detail for impress.
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7/10
An average film borough to life by solid performances
sdave759616 December 2008
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.
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6/10
Great actress
brianwalker-341-20739911 April 2012
In my opinion, Geraldine Page was the greatest American Actress in the 20th Century. I believe that had she not spent much of her time on the New York Stage, she would have won several more Oscars, but was considered somewhat a Hollywood outsider.

She should have won for Summer and Smoke, and Sweet Bird of Youth. She carried these movies by her great acting skills and hard work.

All of her movies need to be on DVD. It is particularly surprising to me that Summer and Smoke has not been converted to DVD.

Does anyone know if any of her Stage Plays have been captured on video, and if so, where such videos could be obtained?
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Dynamic characters exchanging moral values to the extreme.
Bart Termini24 January 2017
Tennessee Williams brilliant and expertly told tale of a woman and man whose moral standards or lack of standards never meet as they they both journey to opposite extremes.

The story is set in 1916. The lead role of a meticulous yet nervously self conscious reverend's daughter is skillfully portrayed by Geraldine Page. Her name is Alma, as she indicates early on, is Spanish for soul. Too highly moral minded to act on or even think of the physical acts of pleasure she exists in a fantasized world of the romanticized connection of souls. The realities of her life justify her mental escape. Her mother(Una Merkel) had a nervous breakdown some years back and is childishly stubborn. Alma to the outside observer purposely projects a maturity beyond her age as she has taken over many duties usually the responsibilities of a preacher wife. She also bears the duty of disciplinarian to her bratty, shoplifting, and childlike mother. She lives up to the responsibilities thrust upon her. Also she provides public vocal performances at special events and gives voice training lessons. In her fantasy she loves the young doctor next door with whom she grew up.

Her handsome neighbor John(Lawrence Harvey)is the son of the town doctor. He has recently finished his medical internship. He is morally the extreme opposite of Alma. He is a drinker, womanizer, gambler, and lacks any sense of responsibility. He has just returned to town and shows Alma a bit of interest but is is distracted by newest town slut Rosa Zacharius whose father owns a nearby casino featuring drinking, gambling, and what else one can only imagine. He is bewitched by Rosa(Rita Moreno). He still shows a mild interest in Alma.

He takes Alma to the Casino one night and she is horrified by the activities there. She is with John watching a cock fight and is sickened. Suddenly a spot of blood from the fighting roosters splashes on her blouse. She screams. Brilliant T.W. symbolism! The pure spinster being marked with the symbol of original sin. John and Alma walk outside to a secluded spot. They become rather excited by one another. Alma is about to give in to her physical desire but her pure and high morals overtake the moment and she runs off.

John and Rosa become engaged. One wonders why he thought he had to marry her since her character was one of the easiest conquests ever depicted.

John's father is in another part of the state treating victims of a deadly outbreak of illness as a volunteer, Alma alerts him about a wild party at his house. He returns home to find drunk people all over his property. He sees Rosa's father and starts beating the passed out man with his cane. He wakes up and shoots John's father. His father linger a few days and dies stating he does not forgive his son. Alma tells John she alerted his father to return home. John verbally assaults her with insulting dialog and blames her for his father's death.

Alma descends into deep and dark depression. Meanwhile John is shocked into the reality of the situation and takes up his father's volunteer work at the clinic. He returns a hero to take over his fathers practice as town physician.

Alma at this point has taken a dark journey. Her father asks her why she never dresses during the day and where she has been disappearing to at 2:00am. She reminds him of all the chores she does everyday and says,"what more do you want of me?" He says, "what will I tell people that ask about you?" Her startling reply is, "You can tell them I have changed. You don't yet know, how or why... but you may wish that I hadn't. The most important key scenes follow filled with amazing emotion and dialogue. Miss Page is at the top of her game in these scenes. Believe me Alma's father would have wished she hadn't changed. The final scene is lurid. Don't miss this underrated Tennessee Williams masterpiece.
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7/10
Smoldering emotions
tomsview26 January 2015
I wanted to see this film after reading reviews of "Splendor in the Grass", which claimed that the basic idea for that movie was borrowed by William Inge from Tennessee Williams' "Summer and Smoke". I love "Splendor," and wanted to see if the 'Bard of the Midwest' could possibly have copied from his friend's homework.

I think nearly all the films made from Tennessee Williams' plays reveal their stage origins, but none more so than "Summer and Smoke". Sometimes that theatricality works in a film's favour as it does in "A Streetcar Named Desire", but here, it put me off at first. Nonetheless, there are many things I do like about the film.

Set in a small town in Mississippi in the early 1900's, the story centres around Alma Winemiller (Geraldine Page), the daughter of a minister. She is in love with the boy next door, John Buchanan (Laurence Harvey), the son of the local doctor. Repressed emotionally, she believes that personal dignity is the most important thing of all; he on the other hand is adventurous and wild. While she stays at home nursing her mentally ill mother, he goes out into the world experiencing life to the full.

John returns and has affairs with other women, including Rita Marino's Rosa Zacharias in a couple of over-the-top sequences. Alma is crushed, but although both eventually come around to the other's way of thinking, in the end they are just as apart as they were in the beginning.

Although Inge probably saw "Summer and Smoke" when it opened on Broadway in the late 40's, any influence was slight to say the least. As far as the two movies are concerned, "Splendor" is the more accessible work while "Smoke" struggles to overcome its stage roots.

"Summer and Smoke" does picks up the pace along the way, and the two leads are good together. Geraldine Page is an unusually arresting actress, and repeats her role from the stage. She has some tough speeches to deliver, but the vulnerability of her character is painful to watch.

I've always found Laurence Harvey a terrific screen presence, but a number of his peers from British cinema and theatre would disagree - some even thought him a bad actor. Maybe they got his roles on-screen mixed up with his life off-screen. However, there could also have been sour grapes involved; he was very good-looking, had a great voice and the camera loved him; he gives a confident performance in this film.

I knew Elmer Bernstein's score long before I saw the movie. It is a beautiful and nostalgic work with a heart-wrenching main theme. The music gives a haunting sense of loss to the film, offsetting the static sets and overlit photography. It shows the power of music to enhance a film.

"Summer and Smoke" presents some challenging ideas. It's not the best translation of Tennessee Williams to the screen, but more than one scene stays in the memory.
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7/10
The tables get turned...with a vengeance
JasparLamarCrabb28 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
A tale of pent up lust like no other. Geraldine Page is a spinster whose idea of moral decay is holding hands with a man (while NOT wearing her gloves). She's hopelessly in love with local doctor/bad boy Laurence Harvey. Through an outrageous series of events she drives him away while saving his soul! This Tennessee Williams play has a fiery script by James Poe & Meade Roberts and a brilliant performance by Page. Harvey is as stiff as he is in nearly all of his films. There's little chemistry between the two stars and while that's a detriment, it doesn't derail the film. Peter Glenville, an expert director who only made seven films, recreates 1916 Americana nicely. Elmer Bernstein wrote the score. The supporting cast, including Pamela Tiffin, Rita Moreno, John McIntire (as Harvey's saintly father) and Thomas Gomez is excellent. Lee Patrick has a great cameo as the town hussy and Una Merkel is a standout as Page's demented mother.
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7/10
Nothing Like A Little Responsibility
bkoganbing11 December 2011
As compared to other Tennessee Williams works like The Glass Menagerie and Streetcar Named Desire, Summer And Smoke is distinctly second rate. But second rate Tennessee Williams is better than a lot of first rate work from most and a really good cast puts this one over.

A cast dominated by Geraldine Page who plays a woman who is carrying a Statue of Liberty torch since childhood for the kid next door who grew up to be Lawrence Harvey. At first glance these two seemed ideally suited for each other, her the daughter of minister Malcolm Atterbury, him the son of town doctor John McIntire. But both have some issues, her's the kind that Tennessee Williams is known for being frank about in his work, him an inability to settle down. As the film opens Harvey has returned to their southern town after medical school a newly minted doctor. But he's got enough seeds for a field of wild oats and he just wants to have a good old time. Page won't give him that.

But when you've got a raging libido like Harvey has, the only kind of girl you want to quench it is Rita Moreno. 1961 was Rita's year to be naughty, she won her Oscar playing gang girl Anita in West Side Story. Had that film not been out, more attention might have been paid to what she did in Summer And Smoke.

As Page is frigid and won't give up a little to land Harvey she resorts to a bit of trickery to break up Harvey and Moreno which ends in tragedy for one of the cast. Ironically both Harvey and Page modify their behaviors, but there's too much that now makes them incompatible. In fact Page at the end is showing hints of becoming a lot like Tennessee Williams's other great character Blanche Dubois.

Four Oscar nominations went out to Paramount for Summer And Smoke, Best Actress for Geraldine Page, Best Supporting Actress for Una Merkel, Best Art&Set Decoration and Best Musical Score. Sadly it did not bring home a statue and poor Una Merkel her portrayal of Page's kleptomaniac mother lost to Rita Moreno for West Side Story.

Summer And Smoke is a base hit for Tennessee Williams, but not a home run. Still devotees of the man and others should enjoy this film.
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7/10
Smoke & Mirrors
sol121810 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
(Some Spoilers) Having carried a torch for John "Johnny Boy" Buchanan, Laurence Harvey, since childhood Alma Winemiller, Geraldina Page, had almost forgotten about him until he unexpectedly showed up, in his jalopy, at a Forth of July fireworks display at his and Alma's home town of Glorious Hill Mississippi.

Johnny had been away for years studying medicine in order to fill his old man's Dr. Buchanan, John McIntire, shoes as the towns doctor. It doesn't take long to figure out what Johnny really is in his both arrogant and condescending display of hubris towards both Alma and his dad. Having hit every whore house gambling den and ginmill from Virginia to Mississippi Johnny got back home ten days late outraging his dad who refused to let him stay at his house.

Spending the evening at the notorious Moon Lake Casino Johnny got right back into action gambling drinking and striking up a hot and heavy relationship with the joints owner Papa Zacharias', Thomas Gomez, hot to trot and hot blooded daughter Rosita, Rita Marino. Johnny in a effort to put the hurt on Alma, the town preacher's daughter, who's alway pestering and annoying him about the goodness of the soul lets it out that he plans to wed the fiery and anything goes Rosita.

Angry and deeply hurt Alma gets in touch with Dr. Buchanan at his clinic about Johnny's wild and uncontrollable lifestyle that in the end might well end up killing him. Rushing home to bang some sense, and morality, into his son's head Dr. Buchanan finds the placed a total wreck. With dead drunk party goers, including Johnny Boy, and empty whiskey bottles littering the place Dr. Buchanan spots Papa Zacharias plopped down on his, Dr.Buchanan, favorite easy chair and completely loses it.

Before Johnny, who's upstairs smashed on booze, could stop it Old Man Buchanan starts to beat the barley sober Papa Zacharias who in self defense pulls out a gun and blasts him away. Johnny seeing what a mess he made and not even being forgiven by his dad, on his death bed, turns over a new leaf and goes straight. Straight to his now deceased old man's clinic finishing the work, in saving the townspeople from a deadly epidemic, that Dr. Buchanan started.

Alma who wanted to straighten Johnny out, in him seeing the light, during the entire movie succeeded beyond her wildest dreams! Johnny became so spiritual that he, in respecting Alma's wishes, refused to have anything psychical, or sexual, to do with poor Alma! Treating her as if she were an unapproachable and untouchable Goddess instead of a real live and wanting to be sexually fulfilled woman!

Johnny throwing away his wild life of womanizing and drinking ends up marrying young, who's 19 years old compared to Alma's 35, Nellie Wells,Pamela Tiffin, who was once a student in Alma's Bible Sunday-school & singing class.

Alma now left out in the cold losing the only man that she was ever in love with ends up doing what she tried to, successfully, save Johhny from doing. Alma gives into the sinful lifestyle that Johnny, with her help, just threw away! Discarding her strong religious upbringing Alma ends up going to the Moon Lake Casino with Archie, Earl Holliman, a lonely traveling salesman, whom she picked up in town, to have a wild crazy and wonderful time with!

Beautifully photographed, in lushes color, the movie "Summer and Smoke" greatly benefited from the wonderful acting of Geraldine Page as the spinster religious and ultra sensitive daughter of the towns preacher Reverand Winemiller, Malcolm Attenburg.

We also can't leave out the great acting contribution in the film by British actor Laureance Harvey. The very British, as well as Lithuanian/Jewish, Mr. Harvey seemed to have made a name for himself in playing Southerners as well as lovable heels all throughout his great but unfortunately short, Harvey died in 1973 from stomach cancer at age 46, movie and stage career.
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10/10
One of the greatest dramas on the screen
danielcallas19 September 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Summer and Smoke details the life of a woman overwhelmed by unrequited love, a love that possesses her and ultimately kills her in Williams' metaphoric manner at the close. Geraldine Page is a revelation in every scene in this film, and her co-stars are excellent, with the exception of Rita Moreno, whose part is overly extended and not well acted.

Page dominates this film, however, and the experience of this performance is unforgettable from start to finish.

The haunting, beautiful score is by Elmer Bernstein, still available on CD.
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8/10
humble in its material construction but a deep-fish psychological balancing art between two polarized species
lasttimeisaw14 October 2017
A sultry, clammy celluloid adaptation of Tennessee Williams' searing gender study SUMMER AND SMOKE directed by the UK thespian-turned-stage-regisseur Peter Glenville (his third feature film). Living in Glorious Hill, Mississippi in the early 20th century, Alma Winemiller (Page, parlays her stage success into cinema), a minister's daughter, has been carrying a torch for her neighbor John Buchanan, Jr. (Harvey) ever since she was a little girl.

Weaned on a puritanical upbringing and encumbered with a kleptomaniac mother (Merkel, facing off grandly with a full-throttle Page, and is given a career-commemorating Oscar nomination) who is off her trolleys, a maiden Alma dreads that her youth will soon get shrouded into spinsterhood. One summer, when Johnny, now a medical practitioner like his father (McIntire), the prodigal son returns to Glorious Hill, Alma's feelings for him are rekindled, but for a gadabout Johnny, Alma's modesty cannot rival the exotic allure of Rosa Zacharias (Moreno, oozing strangely touching empathy in her feral presence), a wild Mexican girl who revels in their carnal knowledge, and affectionately admits that he smells really good, their liaison is basically corporeal but there is candor in it.

Be that as it may, Johnny is not at all chaste towards Alma, but makes a blunder when he tries to liberate her torrid soul (Alma means "soul" in Spanish) from her prissy manacles. A consequential tragedy further drifts them away (from our vintage point, Alma is quite blameless for its unexpected but vacuous fallout) but subliminally the disparity between them starts to squarely influence their respective perspectives about themselves (although in Johnny's case, his metamorphosis is obviously more associated with his personal loss).

Therefore, emboldened by a trading-places scenario, the drama takes a heart-rending turn in the "right people, but wrong time" finale, which bestows Ms. Page a crowning showpiece of self- liberation mingled with a smorgasbord of emotions, her rejoicing aspiration, segueing to a heart- opening tête-à-tête, then following by revealing dismay and heartbreaking, the karma is holy stiltedly designed, but Ms. Page's flair holds its own when her southern mannerism is sublimated into something like a tenable institution, a flesh-and-blood being. Laurence Harvey, on the other hand, beautifully plays out his raffishness and ekes out sensitive gesticulations incessantly, but most of the time, he keeps Johnny's morality ambiguous.

In company with Elmer Bernstein's bespoke score measuring up protagonists' internal flickers, SUMMER AND SMOKE is humble in its material construction but a deep-fish psychological balancing art between two polarized species inhabiting in the same biome, a bone-fide heartstring-tugger among Mr. Williams' canon.
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