Long, Hot Summer, The (1958)

Long, Hot Summer, The (1958)

“Where’s my crop? What follows me?”

A domineering southern patriarch (Orson Welles) — whose mistress (Angela Lansbury) bugs him to marry her — pressures his son (Anthony Franciosa) and daughter-in-law (Lee Remick) to start having children, and his daughter (Joanne Woodward) to finally settle on a husband — either her long-time local crush (Richard Anderson) or a poor but handsome young “barn burner” (Paul Newman) who’s come to live and work on their land.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Angela Lansbury Films
  • Deep South
  • Father and Child
  • Joanne Woodward Films
  • Lee Remick Films
  • Martin Ritt Films
  • Orson Welles Films
  • Paul Newman Films

Formerly blacklisted director Martin Ritt helmed this sweaty southern drama about sex, class, and progeny, based on several short stories by William Faulkner and clearly aiming for a Tennessee Williams-esque vibe. Welles — playing obese patriarch Will Varner — sports distractingly awful make-up:

… but is still a powerhouse whenever he’s on screen. (Has any other character in the movies so openly expressed his desire for heirs — lots and lots of them? The screenplay is simply riddled with quotes like the following: “I’m gonna get me some man in the Varner family, some good strong strappin’ man Varners. That’s what I want, Varners and more Varners. Yeah, more Varners still. Enough Varners to infest the countryside.”)

Meanwhile, Newman once again proves my assertion that there may be no such thing as selecting a particular moment when he was at his hunkiest on screen:

… and it was after co-starring with her in this film that Newman married his wife of 50 years (Joanne Woodward), who makes a convincingly sassy yet grounded sparring partner for both Welles and Newman (no small feat):

As Woodward’s on-screen brother, Anthony Franciosa — best known for his breakthrough role as Polo in A Hatful of Rain (1957) — is overpowered by those around him (perhaps appropriately so):

… while Woodward’s would-be love interest (Anderson) — a mamma’s boy referred to as a “sissy” — similarly lacks spark:

(Newman describes Anderson — only thinly veiled as homosexual — to Woodward thusly: “If you’re saving it all for him honey, you’ve got your account in the wrong bank.”)

This is really Welles’, Newman’s, and Woodward’s show, with everyone else — including gorgeous young Lee Remick:

… and forthright Lansbury:

… simply along for the ride.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Paul Newman as Ben Quick
  • Joanne Woodward as Clara Varner
  • Orson Welles as Will Varner
  • Joseph LaShelle’s CinemaScope cinematography

Must See?
No, though fans of the main stars will likely be curious to check it out.


One thought on “Long, Hot Summer, The (1958)

  1. Agreed, not must-see. As I indicate in my 6/3/20 post from ‘The ’40s-’50s in Film’ (fb), it’s not a bad film. But I would agree its target audience would be fans of the main stars.

    “You got a thin skin, is what you got. But the world belongs to the meat-eaters, Miss Clara – and, if you have to take it raw, take it raw.”

    ‘The Long, Hot Summer’ (1958): I never could quite cotton (as it were) to Faulkner. He’s one of those ‘biggies’ who – like Hemingway and Fitzgerald – cause me to fall into a confused slumber due to their writing styles. But screenwriters Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr. took the Faulkner style (streamlined from a short story, a novella and a novel) and fashioned it into a potboiler that simmers nicely until it literally sizzles. (They were also apparently influenced by Tennessee Williams’ ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’. That film, also with Newman, was released 5 months after this one. But, unlike the bastardized version of ‘Cat’, ‘TL,HS’ manages more than a few better scenes of quiet introspection.)

    In smaller, less showy roles, Lee Remick and Angela Lansbury merely dip their toes into the sea of Southern gentility. Anthony Franciosa gets the all-but-thankless role of Orson Welles’ spineless son. It’s Welles himself – and co-stars Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman (Best Actor / Cannes) – who more or less have this flick all to themselves… and they make it worth our while as the film slowly but surely picks up steam. Fine direction by Martin Ritt.

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