Stripper, The (1963)

“When I was a kid, did you used to kiss me goodnight?”

Synopsis:
After her abusive boyfriend (Robert Webber) leaves her stranded in a small town without money, stage-show actress Lila Green (Joanne Woodward) stays with some acquaintances: a woman (Claire Trevor) she used to babysit for, and the woman’s grown son (Richard Beymer), who — despite having a pretty girlfriend (Carol Lynley) his own age — is deeply attracted to Lila.

Genres:

Review:
Franklin Schaffner’s adaptation of William Inge’s play (originally titled A Loss of Roses) suffers first and foremost from one of the worst re-titlings ever. Though Lila does become a stripper in the final ten minutes of the movie (hence the provocative image on the video cover), this isn’t what the movie’s about. Rather, it’s the story of a woman who once hoped for a legitimate career as an actress but knows this will never happen, and who has accepted that she will have to eke by on small-town performance gigs — but draws the line at stripping. Even more importantly, however, it’s the story of a woman who has learned not to expect much from men, yet — given her innate sensitivity — is bound to get her heart broken yet again when callow Kenny (Beymer) insists he’ll “treat her right”.

The Stripper is ultimately not one of Inge’s best stories — Beymer’s character in particular is especially underdeveloped — but the performances make it enjoyable to watch nonetheless. Woodward is excellent in the lead role; as noted by Peary in his review of Rachel, Rachel (1968), Woodward “has specialized in playing women who are warmhearted, maternal, vulnerable, victimized, and confused about the harshness of the world” — a description which fits Lila to a T. Also noteworthy is Claire Trevor as Kenny’s mom — a well-meaning woman who wants to be kind to Lila, but can’t help feeling concerned about Kenny’s growing attraction to her. It would have been easy for her character to come across as a shrew, but, thanks to both Inge’s writing and Trevor’s performance, she never does.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Joanne Woodward as Lila
  • Claire Trevor as Kenny’s concerned mom

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended for fans of Woodward or Inge.

Links:

One Response to “Stripper, The (1963)”

  1. Not must-see.

    This adaptation of the Inge play is an odd duck indeed. It’s not bad but it’s not particularly great, either. Strangely, Inge (I think) considered it among his best work (as a play). A friend of mine saw the play revived in NYC not that long ago and rather liked it. But, of course, that’s the play and this is the screen version…which was adapted by writer/actor Meade Roberts (who also adapted Williams’ ‘Summer and Smoke’ and appeared – surprisingly but memorably – as Mr. Sophistication in Cassavetes’ ‘The Killing of a Chinese Bookie’). I remember reading the play a long time ago but, at the moment, I can’t speak for what may have changed for the film.

    The saddest news to report, I suppose, is that the acting, overall, is so-so; not embarrassing but not all that impressive. Some of the supporting players come off best: Trevor, Webber, Beymer and comic Louis Nye in a small role as one of Woodward’s traveling-show buds (who is vaguely gay). As the other member of the Woodward act, Gypsy Rose Lee brings the least to the film. (Lee seems to have a limited acting range, but she is at least better in ‘Screaming Mimi’ and ‘The Trouble with Angels’.)

    My biggest beef is with Woodward. As I’ve stated elsewhere, I think Woodward starts coming into her own later in her career – around the time of ‘Rachel, Rachel’…when her husband started getting a hold on how to bring out her best. Prior to that, it may have been that Hollywood didn’t know what to do with her (combined with her own tentativeness in what to do with herself). As Lila, Woodward does have her effective moments…but, overall, I don’t really buy her here as someone who has real sex appeal. Of course, Lila is not especially written as a sex kitten but Woodward seems too unsure about playing a woman who is alluring enough to almost-nearly-make-it as a box-office draw in Hollywood. We don’t (or I don’t) sense that she comes very close and only falls a tad short of being an ‘It girl’.

    Woodward – in fact – appears to be standing in for Marilyn Monroe here. Just look how she’s made-up (look at the hairstyle, in particular). Marilyn, of course, had just died the previous year (and she had already done her Inge bit with ‘Bus Stop’). Nevertheless, she echoes in what Woodward is trying to accomplish. (Note that the song JW strips to is ‘Something’s Gotta Give’…the title of MM’s last, incomplete film.)

    ‘The Stripper’ is still an ok watch – but it’s now something of a lost film and can be difficult to come by. (I happened upon it on YouTube.)

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