Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Orson Welles, Anthony Franciosa, Lee Remick and Angela Lansbury co-star in this riveting tale of life in the Deep South. Provocative and compelling, it simmers with sexual tension, bawdy humor and a powerful clash of personalities. When Ben Quick (Newman), a suspected barnburner drifts into town, he catches the eye of Will Varner, a tyrannical, intimidating patriarch (Welles) who decides Quick is the ideal husband for his spinsterish daughter (Woodward). But once the loner moves in, the two men lock horns, drawing Varner's family into a complex web of emotions and actions that leaves all of them changed forever.
Paul Newman has his glorious youthful swagger in this southern-fried melodrama, which marked his first picture with Joanne Woodward (they married after shooting ended). The script is a melange of William Faulkner stories, although it appears more under the influence of Tennessee Williams and Picnic
than the Nobel Prize winner. Drifter Newman catches the eye of schoolmarm Woodward and her father, a rural Mississippi bigshot (Orson Welles). This is not one of Welles's better moments; he appears to be conducting make-up experiments. There is some enjoyable flapdoodle along the way, in the Freud-meets-Gone with the Wind
manner of '50s southern cooking, but the ending is embarrassingly compromised. The same production team would leave out the box-office concessions a few years later on Hud
. A studly Newman justifies this description of his character: "I wish I was Ben Quick. He's got the whole state of Mississippi to graze on." --Robert Horton