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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.

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