Sweet Bird of Youth

He used love like most men use money.

No, they don’t make ’em like they used to–there’s nothing quite like a good Tennessee Williams’ play or his Sweet Bird of Youth. Naturally, the original play is strange in plot , conflicts, scenes, style and atmosphere; hashish, castration, and venereal disease being three of the sensational elements which got somewhat sanitized in this popular 1962 movie starring Paul Newman as an aging ‘beach bum’/Hollywood gigolo, and Geraldine Page as a washed-up movie star who has sunken into promiscuity, alcoholism, and drug-taking (the latter which ‘daringly’ included pot as well as Benzedrine).

The movie has ample instances of the power and control theme in addition to the usual honesty vs. hypocrisy Williams’ motif. The movie is a typically over-emotional, somewhat over-the-top melodrama reminiscent of other Williams’ plays. Ed Begley deservedly won a Best Supporting award for his mean, nasty, evil governor who bullies all the other characters. Newman, Page, Rip Torn (Page’s actor-husband) and Madeleine Sherwood were all strong holdovers from the Broadway show. Like Begley, Shirley Knight makes her film debut playing the governor’s pretty daughter, who is in love with bad boy Chance (Newman).

Well-worth seeing if you have never seen a Williams’ play or movie. Very fast-paced dramatic direction by Richard Brooks who also directed another Williams’ hit Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

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