“When I was a kid, did you used to kiss me goodnight?”
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, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Actors and Actresses
- Carol Lynley Films
- Claire Trevor Films
- Joanne Woodward Films
- May-December Romance
- Play Adaptations
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
No, but it’s recommended for fans of Woodward or Inge.