Baby Doll

Another Tennessee Williams play… Kazan kinda had a Tennessee factory going on there for a while?

But this is a movie I haven’t seen before! I think! So I’m excited.

Hey, Karl Malden…

I bought a Kazan box set some years back, and I’m finally watching the last handful of movies from the set. It’s a bit odd, because while the set is very handsome — there’s a huge book and stuff — the movies themselves look very unrestored. Lots of juddering and lots of dust on the film.

Oh, Tennessee.

Hey, she’s great. Carroll Baker? The name’s not familar…

Wow! I’ve seen Giant, but absolutely none of the other movies have names that ring a bell. There’s some bigger names among the directors… oh, and then she goes off to Italy? Based on the directors’ names. I guess her career didn’t really take off? (But she was Oscar nominated for the role in this movie.)

They were eating pizza down thar in the 50s?

This started off like distilled Tennessee Williams, but now it’s really not — it casts a wider net and is much weirder. So I had to pause and goole:

Although the film’s title card reads “Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll” and the film is based on Williams’ one-act play 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, Elia Kazan claimed in his autobiography that Williams was only “half-heartedly” involved in the screenplay and that Kazan actually wrote most of it.

Yeah, that makes more sense.

Really!? Well, the characters are caricatured, but pure comedy? It doesn’t really seem to me like this is intended as a parody of these kinds of movies. It’s just really over the top, I think? Full on.

But I guess, if you take this as a serious movie, it’s incomprehensible why Baby Doll continues to confide in this sleaze ball after he’s made it pretty clear that he’s a sleaze ball.

Yeah, OK, it’s a comedy, I guess… But it’s less funny than horrifying.

Yeah, OK, this had to be meant to be parody, I guess, but it’s not funny.

Yeah, OK, it’s a harsh take-down of Tennessee Williams type movies? All southern angst and stuff? So Jonathan Rosenbaum was right after all.

Still, it’s not actually that funny. The last half hour was excruciating.

Baby Doll. Elia Kazan. 1956.

The Awful Truth

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this before. But… not quite sure?

Heh heh. This is most amusing.

Now that’s some hat.

Heh heh heh.

Yeah, that’s right!

Oh oh oh. I remember this thing. Did I watch this movie in my childhood or something?


The basic plot of this movie is, of course, something that’s been done a lot around this time, and several times by Cary Grant himself. (I.e., they’re divorcing, but… perhaps not!??!!) But it doesn’t follow the expected beats, and it ends with the Dunne character plotting to get them together in the most absurd way. It’s a very funny screwball comedy, and it’s so charming and odd.


McCarey’s improvisational style was deeply unsettling to Grant, and at the end of the first week Grant sent Cohn an eight-page memorandum titled “What’s Wrong With This Picture”. Grant asked Cohn to let him out of the film, offering to do one or more pictures for free and even saying he’d reimburse Cohn $5,000 if he were released. McCarey was so angry at Grant that he stopped speaking to him and told Cohn he’d kick in another $5,000 to get Grant off the film.

The movie didn’t really have a script!

His working method was to ask his cast to improvise the scene, creating their own dialogue and blocking their own action before allowing cameras to roll. If a problem arose with a scene, McCarey would sit at a piano on the set and pick out tunes and sing until a solution came to him.

Sounds like quite a character, and that explains the lack of… well… plot. I mean, there’s a plot, but these things usually have a clockwork plot of fun things, while this movie is basically just a handful of funny scenes.

Anyway, it’s great.

The Awful Truth. Leo McCarey. 1937.

Viva Zapata!

Is that Brando?

What have they done to his eyelids? There’s something odd going on there…

I’m 15 minutes in, and so far, this has been a ridiculously awful movie. Indifferent cinematography, risible performances, unbelievable dialogue…

But on the other hand, it’s got at 56% tomatometer.


Senator John McCain listed Viva Zapata! as his favorite film of all time.

So perhaps it’ll pick up.

Such bourgeoisie.

That would be my response, too.

OK, I’m out.

I’m just not seeing it — this seems more like a parody of one of these movies than one of these movies.

Viva Zapata!. Elia Kazan. 1952.