“I dreamt I was back in the pen.”
When a young woman (Lee Remick) and her daughter (Kimberly Block) reunite with Remick’s ex-con husband (Steve McQueen), Remick finds that the trauma of McQueen’s abusive childhood is still preventing him from future happiness and success.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Don Murray Films
- Lee Remick Films
- Play Adaptation
- Robert Mulligan Films
- Steve McQueen Films
Scripted by Horton Foote and based on his 1954 play “The Traveling Lady,” this Southern Gothic drama by director Robert Mulligan is atmospherically shot (by DP Ernest Laszlo) but falls short of its narrative potential. The main challenge is that we don’t sufficiently understand McQueen’s deeply troubled, highly erratic character; we’re simply informed he was bullied as an orphan when adopted by a cruel woman (Georgia Simmons) whose presence upstairs in a decaying mansion is primarily hinted at rather than directly shown (she’s on-screen just a couple of brief moments).
If the shot above reminds you of Norman Bates about to confront his “mother” in Psycho (1960), you wouldn’t be too far off, given that the music (by Elmer Bernstein) becomes incredibly ominous whenever McQueen is forced to face his demons (i.e., his mother) and acknowledge various truths of his life to her, including his secret marriage and child as well as his lifelong dream of being a rockabilly singer (the film gets its title from a song the obviously-dubbed McQueen performs).
The most tender moments take place between the young family out at the shack they’re renting, where they experience some happiness before things inevitably fall apart.
Note: Watch for Don Murray in a crucial but underdeveloped role as McQueen’s loyal buddy:
… and Black stage actress Estelle Hemsley in a bit role as Simmons’ aged caretaker:
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
- Lee Remick as Georgette
- Steve McQueen as Henry
- Ernest Laszlo’s cinematography
No, but it’s worth a one-time look if you’re a fan of either of the stars. Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book.