Summer and Smoke (1961)

Summer and Smoke (1961)

“If I know Johnny, he’s back here for bad.”

The daughter (Geraldine Page) of a small-town minister (Malcolm Atterbury nurtures a life-long crush on the son (Laurence Harvey) of the local doctor (John McIntire), and is distressed to see Johnny (Harvey) fooling around with the daughter (Rita Moreno) of a gambling hall owner (Thomas Gomez). Meanwhile, Johnny encourages the daughter (Pamela Tiffin) of a “loose woman” (Lee Patrick) to be sent off to an edifying boarding school, and Alma (Page) must prevent her kleptomaniac mother (Una Merkel) from committing even more crimes.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Deep South
  • Geraldine Page Films
  • Historical Drama
  • John McIntire Films
  • Laurence Harvey Films
  • Love Triangle
  • Play Adaptation
  • Rita Moreno Films
  • Tennessee Williams Films

Geraldine Page reprised her award-winning role in Tennessee Williams’ off-Broadway play for this cinematic adaptation by British director Peter Glenville, and received an Academy Award nomination for her efforts.

Unfortunately, the storyline is a lesser one in Williams’ oeuvre, and we never feel all that engaged or invested in the characters’ lives. As described in TV Guide’s review, “Like so many of the works of Williams, it deals with tension, with repression, with awakening, and, ultimately, with disintegration” — but we see these playing out to much better effect in other Williams productions. Meanwhile, a potentially intriguing subplot involving Page’s kleptomaniac mother (Merkel, who also received an Academy Award nomination) goes nowhere:

… and Rita Moreno is relegated to a stereotypical role as a Latina spitfire desperate to escape her circumstances through romance with Harvey:

You can skip this one.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Geraldine Page as Alma
  • Charles Lang’s cinematography

Must See?
No, unless you’re a diehard Tennessee Williams or Geraldine Page fan.


One thought on “Summer and Smoke (1961)

  1. Agreed, not must-see. An underwhelming Williams adaptation – although a case can be made that Page can make anything worthy of a viewing, just to see her in action. But this is strictly optional.

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