Baby Doll Screen 7 articles

Baby Doll

1956

Baby Doll Poster
  • Based by Tennessee Williams on two of his one-act plays, this is arguably one of Kazan's least ambitious and most successfully realised movies... Condemned by the Legion of Decency upon release, its erotic content now seems tame indeed; but the grotesquely caricatured performances and the evocation of the baking, dusty, indolent homestead make for witty and compelling viewing.

  • Its plot pivots around the ambiguous matter of whether sex actually takes place or not, and it's the seediness of the southern milieu—Baker's dirty neck rather than her dirty mind or morals—that seemed to have the censors up in arms. But it's largely Kazan's authentic feeling for the locale, aided by Boris Kaufman's superb black-and-white cinematography, that makes this movie so special, combined with a first-rate ensemble.

  • For whatever else he was, Kazan was not a cynic, and mixed in with all of this despair is a genuine tenderness for this very problem—which you might call History—and the people who bear its weight. If any blame is assigned it is to something called the human condition with all of its flaws and its violent tendencies; whether or not humanity deserves such a concession is one step further than the film is prepared to go.

  • It still remains as sexually charged, perversely interesting and psychologically complex as it did then. It’s also incredibly funny, superbly acted and weirdly beautiful. Though somewhat, inexplicably forgotten through time (it finally got a DVD release a few years ago), Baby Doll is one of Kazan’s greatest accomplishments -- a masterpiece that stands on equal footing with Streetcar and Waterfront.

  • Kazan's masterful use of real locations (perhaps his most consistent strength as a filmmaker) heightens rather than detracts from the writer's poetics; the neglected landscapes make a perfect backdrop for Williams' lost souls. Malden and Wallach are great enough to imbue their caricatures with human qualities, but caricatures they remain, and it's fascinating to watch their outsized performances clash with Kazan's realistic tendencies.

  • As Silva easily twists both Baby Doll and Archie Lee with his intimidating smooth talk, their relationships hinge on violent (though seldom serious) potential and teasing provocation, veering into comedic absurdity. Extended close-ups of Silva as he caresses Baby Doll’s face and neck, leaving her in an aroused tizzy, are followed by playful pursuits, the mania both sultry and tense, the high anxiety hilarious and perverse.

  • One of the great pleasures of Tennessee Williams’ writing was a kind of adoration of the dying bourgeoisie and celebration of white-trash vulgarity. In the case of Baby Doll, you have a coveted white feminine object infantilized in the dust bowl of the South’s former slavery-built legacy and the outsider who threatens to take it all away.

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