Well now, what do we have here? It is nothing less than one of the best and sexiest southern fried dramas from the 1950's. This adaptation of several works of William Faulkner is a tour de force for everyone involved. How lucky are we to have two great films on southern family life starring Paul Newman come out in 1958? This film is a fine companion piece to "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof", a bit more upbeat than "Cat" but still full of sound and fury.
As Ben Quick, Paul Newman ignites the screen and fairly burns down half of Mississippi in the process with his incredible magnetism. He brings to Quick all he as to bear as an actor and creates one of his early memorable performances. Just watch him as bare chested he hugs his pillow on the hot veranda while watching Joanne Woodward through a screen door sitting up in her bed trying to ignore him, or his walk across the Varner yard early on in the film, his interactions with Orson Wells or Tony Franciosa. He is every inch the "mean and dirty" barnburner everyone thinks he is. He is just what the Varner family and Clara Varner in particular need to feed their respective fever dreams brought on by the heat of this particular August in the south.
Hitting her marks in a great performance is Joanne Woodward. She being a true daughter of the South comes to the table with and extra barrel loaded. As Clara Varner she is both needy and steely, a magnolia ready to be plucked but at that same time fearful that she will be passed over and left to wither on the vine. Her scene in the general store after closing time with Newman is just about one of the steamiest love scenes ever filmed this
side of "Picnic". Miss Woodward here in this film is pure magic to watch and in combination with Paul Newman the pair become an alchemy of fireworks and lightning bugs on a summers night.
Adding to the fine cast is Lee Remick, Tony Franciosa, the incredible Angela Lansbury and the equally and always impressive Orson Wells. I would go on about each of them but I think it best to let them surprise you. That's half the fun of the film.
The score by Alex North is memorable and one of his best. The cinematography by Joseph LeShelle captures the hazy heat of Mississippi. And Martin Ritt's direction of all parties concerned is perfectly on target. Be sure to check some of his other collaborations with Newman, "Paris Blues", "Hud" to mention only two.
Pour yourself a tall sweet tea, kick off your shoes and open the veranda doors and let the breeze of this long hot summer envelope you.
Adapted from some William Faulkner stories, this 1958 film certainly lives up to its name. It is "hot". The setting is a small town in the Deep South and the characters familiar, but under the skillful direction of Martin Rich, they spring to life as complex, flawed and very human individuals. Paul Newman, in his prime then, is cast as Ben Quick, a young drifter who is taken under the wing of the town's patriarch, Will Varner, played by Orson Wells. Newman romances Varner's schoolteacher daughter, Clara, played by Joanne Woodward, and competes with Varner's son Jody, played by Anthony Franciosa, for the old man's respect and affection. Lee Remick is cast as Jody's pretty wife and Angela Lansbury plays Varner's lady friend. What a cast!
Both Paul Newman and Orson Wells exude the essence of macho in the finest southern tradition. I can almost smell all that testosterone right off the video screen. There's nothing politically correct about this story, as the strength of the women lies only in the way they can manipulate the men in their lives. And, in spite of Joanne Woodward's, declaration of how much she loves books, the audience knows that what she really wants is nothing less than the kind of man who will make her wake up smiling each morning. This was the first movie that Woodward and Newman made together and they married shortly thereafter and so the audience is treated to a very special chemistry between them. Newman's blue eyes sparkle and his sexiness comes through loud and clear when he takes off his shirt. His body is naturally rugged without the sculptured pumped and ripped muscles that have since become trendy. Orson Wells' outstanding performance is the glue that holds the story together. He plays the role of the powerful 60-year old patriarch with exceptional vigor and is completely believable even though he was only 43 at the time. He wears his bulk well and there's sparkle between him and Angela Lansbury. During the course of the film, it is his character that goes through the most changes and he plays this with a naturalness that makes this believable.
There's good writing, directing and close-up shots of the actors. And the story moved fast, holding my interest throughout. The camera also captured the distinctions between the dusty dirt farms and the luxurious mansion, but basically it focused on the people and the human drama. And the ending is a happy and satisfying one. I thought it was excellent.
on April 22, 2003
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The TV-movie version of "The Long, Hot Summer" suffers from miscasting (Judith Ivey was passable, but just, and I can't decide if Don Johnson's attempt to fill Paul Newman's shoes represents touching bravery or misguided arrogance), dreadful accents, and jarring anachronisms.
This film, the 1958 original, leaves it in the dust. Newman and Woodward generate palpable heat, and Orson Welles--clammy, jowly, bullfrog-voiced, crudely vigorous--is unforgettable as a classically bullying, overbearing Southern patriarch. In contrast to the pallid TV remake, it features a top cast whose work transcends the sometimes creaky melodrama of the plot. Nearly every white Southern archetype is brought to life: the brutish, domineering, castrating patriarch; the arch, charming, coyly seductive belle with hot pants; the aging good-time girl, simultaneously randy and prim, with her eye on the prize of a rich widower; the hotheaded but weak son and heir, goaded to jealousy by his seductive, flirtatious wife and utterly dominated by his father, whom he both adores and despises; the sharp-tongued old maid, smoldering with repressed fire, who just needs a "real man" to take the place of her suspiciously lukewarm long-term suitor; and, of course, the roguish, charming, sexy, potentially dangerous outsider, spiritual heir to Rhett Butler, who gets both the community and the heroine in a lather. There's even a lynch mob--chasing a white man, for a change.
Skip the TV-movie remake, which at best is a clunky imitation, in favor of the classic--if for no other reason than to see Paul Newman, at the peak of his beauty, in an undershirt. If that's not inducement enough, it's also marvelously cast, scripted, acted, and directed, and it captures Southern family dynamics with humor, pathos, and wince-inducing accuracy. Florence King would be proud.
This movie, released in 1958, must have raised eyebrows in the declining Eisenhower years. Sometimes less is more. It is amazing how sexy and erotic a movie can be without the lead characters running around naked. You can feel the sizzling electricity between Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward; but then, they weren't acting since they married soon after finishing this film. Although the movie is billed as "William Faulkner's The Long Hot Summer" and is based on some of his stories, I kept seeing and hearing shades of "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof," which came out in the same year so I don't know who influenced whom if at all.
Both Newman as the sexy drifter and Woodward, the school teacher who is 23 and still not married, are both so young and handsome and play off each other beautifully. The other actors give credible performances as well although Orson Welles is a little over the top at times. He certainly fills up the screen both in physical size and bombast. Angela Lansbury is charming as the local madam who provides pleasure for Welles who plays the rich landowner Varner. I don't know how true to Faulkner the plot is, not having read the stories in question, but something tells me the ending is distinctly not Faulknerian.
Southern accents are always tricky; occasionally they don't ring true here with the exception of Woodward's; but she's a native Southerner after all.
Set in Mississippi although shot in Louisiana, the film has an authentic feel and remains remarkably undated. It sizzles.
on May 20, 2003
"The Long Hot Summer" was (for its time)a steamy study of sexual repression and sensual misbehavior. It starred Paul Newman as a drifter accused of barn burning who sets up house-keeping with the daughter (Joanne Woodward) of a rich plantation owner (Orson Welles). The on screen chemistry is certainly there and why not. This film just happened to be the catalyst for the real life romance between Newman and Woodward. Contextualizing the fact that the censors still reigned supreme during the time of its production, "The Long Hot Summer" still proved to be a smoldering, sexy drama fraught with tension and chaos.
THE TRANSFER: Fox has done a particularly nice job on remastering this movie. Yes, the flicker of scene changes (inherant in all early Cinemascope films)remains present and yes, color consistancy leaves something to be desired. But over all, colors are nicely balanced, if showing slight fading. Contrast and shadow levels are well represented. Pixelization, shimmering and edge enhancement, though all present, are kept to a bare minimum. The audio is Stereo surround and, even though considerably dated, still manages to have a hearty kick in all of the speakers.
EXTRAS: Very nice - the Backstory featurette that details the production of the film, a Paul Newman gallery, original movietone snippet and the film's theatrical trailer.
BOTTOM LINE: This is a nice presentation and a pretty good film besides. At the extremely economical price that Fox has advertised it at, "The Long Hot Summer" is guaranteed to burn up your DVD player.
on September 28, 2002
Paul Newman plays another one of his cocky, dangerous characters in this story of a drifter who moves into a small Mississippi town dominated by fatcat Orson Welles. Welles' own son, Anthony Franciosa is weak, and he likes Newman and wants to match him up with his staid daughter Joanne Woodward, but she's not interested ... or at least not at first. Newman's high wattage star charisma is on display here as the man who manages to get out of tight spots and can spot an opportunity when it is presented. Woodward is very good as the young woman who needs to let go and allow herself to live. Welles dominates every scene he is in, with his characteristic bluster and dramatics a good fit for this character. Lee Remick, as Franciosa's wife, and Angela Lansbury, as Welles longtime girlfriend, are both sadly underused. The script has got some great bits of dialogue, and the main characters are allowed to develop quite well. But the ending seems rushed, and the full dramatic potential of the town's confrontation with Newman and Welles is not allowed to play out enough. The movie does evoke a Southern atmosphere, and this chance to see Newman and Woodward in their primes shouldn't be missed.
on July 17, 2000
Pay no attention to the reviewer from New York that disliked this film. It was shot and came out before Cat on a Hot Tin Roof did, so it was not trying to capitalize on Cat's much deserved success.
Newman also won best actor at the Cannes Film Festival for his riveting, sexy portrayal of Ben Quick in Summer, even though the American Film Academy would soon snub him the first of seven out of eight times for his role of Brick in Cat.
Ben Quick is an early Newman con man characterization, long before his well-loved role of Henry Gondorf in The Sting came along to enchant the world some 25 years later.
As for the pairing of Paul & Joanne...she was excellently cast in the role of a smart, young southern lady struggling to break free from her dominant father and stifling family history. Orson Welles is excellent as the domineering old brute of a dad. Anthony Franciosa, Lee Remick & Angela Lansbury all turn in wonderful performances as southern folk fighting the stifling heat and Welles' blustery personality at the same time.
Paul & Joanne are lovely together...knowing that they married a few months after making the film adds to it's allure. The last big scene between the two of them on the front porch is glorious chemistry to behold, not to mention her evening visit to the family store that Newman is "tending", in order to work his way into getting a share Welles' wealth.
This is a subtle, intelligent romance and I agree with the reviewer who particularly appreciated the snappy dialogue. It holds up, even if the times have changed.
on March 7, 2014
I first viewed this movie in my early twenties and had never view such a movie that hinted if not explicit in the passion which happens between men and women and the complexities of growing up in a dysfunctional family with a tyrant as a Father. This was in the early 70"s and by this time the movie was almost 20 years old. At that time I did not have the knowledge of the back story of the personal relationship of its stars Paul Newman and Joanne Woodard. The acting was wonderful by all even though at times it was difficult to understand some of the dialog of Orson Wells. As I review the movie now the best performance was that of Tony Franciosa, whose every emotion was on full display . At the time the movie was made in 1958 some of the subject matter could only be whispered about, which may have been the caused of the movie not being well received at the time of its release. For me and other viewers I am sure this movie has stood the test of time along with Cat on a Hot Tin roof. Which is why I purchase both of these old classic starring Paul Newman and was wonderful blue eyes does not hurt.
on July 11, 2001
I loved this movie!!!I keep watching it again and agian.Director Martin Ritt made this movie work.This is a moody drama,adapted from Faulkner Story,about small- town lovers resisting paternal tyrant's mandates.A favorite movie for drama and classic movie lovers.Out of 10 I would give this a 7.
This is a very entertaining melodrama. Paul Newman is incredibly handsome as a charismatic drifter and Joanne Woodward is perfect as a repressed yet spunky schoolteacher. Orson Welles plays Woodward's father in a manner that brings Boss Hogg to mind. His fake Southern accent, though, is so tough to understand it is fortunate that this film is close captioned. Lee Remick is lovely as a brainless Southern belle but Tony Francioso seems miscast as Welles's despised weakling son. Angela Lansbury is also at hand and does a passing Southern accent for a British gal. The ending is not at all what I expected but I'm sure it pleased 1950's movie audiences. An AMC channel "Back Story" is included with Newman, Lansbury and Woodward sharing their memories of making the film.