Walk On The Wild Side
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A Texas farmer shows up in New Orleans to bring back his old flame, but he finds out that she's the star attraction at a bordello, and the madam doesn't want her to leave.
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Bosley Crowther's strictures on this "Lurid, Tawdry, and Sleazy Melodrama" have not changed my feelings about this raw film, which combines the work of two famous American writers. The film was loosely based on a novel by Nelson Algren. The American novelist John Fante, the author of "Ask the Dust" wrote the screenplay with participation by Edward Morris and Ben Hecht. The movie captures the shady, violent low world of the French Quarter of New Orleans during the Depression.
The movie is best-known for its opening sequence with a menacing black cat and his fight with another stray as the credits roll and the film's theme song plays. Sam Bass directed this sequence and a follow-up at the conclusion of the film. Brook Benton sings the title song. The musical score of the film captures the feel of a New Orleans bawdy house where much of the action takes place.
The film tells the story of a young Texas farmer, Dove Linkhorn, (Laurence Harvey) who hitches and hops trains to New Orleans in search of his long-lost love Hallie Gerard (Cappucine). In the course of his trip, he meets-up with another wanderer, Kitty Twist (Jane Fonda) seeking the opportunity for fortune in New Orleans. Dove resists Kitty's advances during the course of their travel together. Eventually, Kitty winds up working for the Doll House, an establishment in which, as it happens, Hallie Gerard has become the most coveted attraction. Barbara Stanwix plays the sinister madam, Jo Courtney, who wants to have a relationship with Hallie. This was one of the first explicit portrayals of lesbianism in American film.
The film centers upon Dove's and Hallie's effort to rekindle their relationship after many years and after Hallie's life has so changed in character. She had dreams of becoming an artist and still tries to do sculpture in her spare time. Dove is ardent and forbearing while Hallie tries to warn him off. The movie builds to a violent denouement featuring three of the Doll House's vicious henchmen, including Jo's crippled husband.
I was moved to see "Walk on the Wild Side" again after many years. Whatever some may think, I love the film. It still has a sense of toughness and sleaze combined with a feeling of love and vulnerability. It depicts almost hopelessly lost, unredeemed individuals in an underside of American life. I would eagerly watch the film again.
French actress/model Capucine plays a call girl. She looks like a young Joan Crawford without the talent and she can't overcome her European accent.
Lawrence Harvey is a young cowboy. The English actor was always obviously Gay, so how could he be expected to portray a man obsessed with a woman?
A gorgeous young Jane Fonda plays a two-bit tramp and she's the best thing in this movie. No offense intended.
Barbara Stanwyck plays - get this - a Lesbian Madame obsessed with one of the girls in her stable (Capucine). I think this role is what gave Stanwyck the undeserved reputation as a closeted Lesbian.
Joanna Moore plays a prostitute with a child-like mentality, another good performance.
If what I have been saying makes no sense to you, neither will this movie. Any references to Lesbianism or prostitution or sex in general have been excised from the script which left me scratching my head in puzzlement. The best thing about this movie is Brook Benton's rendition of the Title Song. Other reviewers have suggested that the movie is miscast (true) and that it strays too far from the book on which it was based. There was a book? I guess I'll have to read it.
The two stars are for the illustrious cast.
For example, the film starts with an event that takes place well into the novel's narrative and thereby eliminates the whole backstory of why the main character (Dove Linkhorn) is on the road. Then it compounds that mistake by creating another backstory.
Then formative parts of the novel were just dropped. The book went into great detail about how much Dove lived and traveled barefoot, so much so that you could feel the pain from his running barefoot and hopping trains through gravel rail yards. The movie starts with him walking along in a pair of boots. The transition from barefoot drifter to wanna-be pimp in yellow shoes was a key element in the novel and completely missed by the film. It was one of the things that defined the character.
It only becomes more mangled from there, and the film has main characters and plot lines that were never in the novel.
This isn't the first time a book has been seriously twisted by a film adaptation, but this is Nelson Algren's Walk on the Wild Side. It's iconic, it's a classic - it should be mangle-proof.
It might be a good film, but I can't be objective. If you're looking for a faithful or even approximate visual representation of the novel, this ain't it.
Most recent customer reviews
Hot Toasty Rag, October 17, 2017
If you told me there was a movie in which Laurence Harvey was good and kind and Jane Fonda was the...Read more