Twenty-something Laura Reynolds (Dame Elizabeth Taylor) is a free spirit who questions social conventions, laws, and regulations. A struggling artist, she lives in a secluded beach-side cabin in Big Sur with her nine-year-old illegitimate son, Danny (Morgan Mason), on who she has instilled her values. Because of this questioning of convention, Laura has decided to home school Danny. Also because of this questioning of the law, Danny runs into some legal problems, and as such is court ordered to be sent to San Simeon, a Christian school in Monterey, California. This order is against Laura's wishes. The school's headmaster is Dr. Reverend Edward Hewitt (Richard Burton), who tries to convince Laura that San Simeon is not the prison she probably believes it to be. Married for twenty-one years to his faithful wife Claire (Eva Marie Saint), Edward has become more a fund-raiser at all cost (for a new chapel) rather than an educator or Priest. Despite their differences, Laura and Edward begin...Written by
This was the last of the many movies Vincente Minnelli directed for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Although it was a money-maker, it is generally regarded as his worst movie. See more »
In a beach scene, Laura is shown sketching on a drawing pad. In shots facing her, she is always holding the pad up with her left hand. In shots facing Edward, the pad is propped up against some driftwood. At one point she is lying face down, with both elbows in the sand, her left hand on her head and sketching with her right. When the camera angle changes, she is suddenly partially raised up on one side, facing Edward. The drawing pad is flat on the sand with a rock in the middle of it. See more »
[they're on the beach, along the Big Sur]
I feel as alone as Robinson Crusoe. Even with the footprints of a man beside me.
Dr. Edward Hewitt:
You should always have a man's footprints beside you, Laura.
How do you know I haven't always?
Dr. Edward Hewitt:
Because you're afraid of them...
But I'm not as afraid as you think.
Dr. Edward Hewitt:
Do you think that one of these days Danny's going to feel somehow that you robbed him of a father?
Well, that's a chance I'm gonna' have to take. Do you know something? If I were a devoted widow, and Danny's father were...
[...] See more »
The story in this film is worth telling, but the script seems to take forever to tell it. Lots of explanatory dialogue bogs the film down, and there's really only enough story for maybe a one-hour television drama. One good aspect of it is it would be very easy to make this a one-sided film in which the Big Bad Headmaster (with a Soft Spot) takes away the child of sweet, free-spirited Elizabeth, but Taylor and Burton play their characters in ways that we could sympathize with either of them--or not.
Unfortunately, "or not" is a very distinct possibility. First of all, the boy in question does not exude a persona that's engaging in any way. (And what he does in his first scene certainly does not endear him to the audience.) And secondly, there's nothing really compelling enough about any of the other characters either. (Eva Marie Saint's character would be a possible exception if she had more screen time.) They're just varying degrees of liberal and conservative clichés.
While Vincente Minnelli was really incapable of making a truly awful film, given his talent--and the talent we would see in Taylor and Burton the following year in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?--this can't be seen as anything but a disappointment. But it's not a total failure either. If you're initially interested, Maybe you'll stay with it. If not, you'll be totally bored.
Note: This film gave us the Oscar-winning song, "The Shadow of Your Smile." But none of the characters smile much, so it makes little to no sense when the Studio Singers perform it over the end credits. But it works as a score.
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