Movie Review: “Sweet Bird of Youth” (1961)

Hey readers!

Are we all ready for MORE Paul Newman?  He’s not a straight-shooting hero in this picture- he’s immoral, ambitious, and even… desperate.  He still looks SUPER-HOT!

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I saw this film last week on TCM; it’s based on a Tennessee Williams play, but not as well-known as say A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on aHot Tin Roof, or The Glass Menagerie.  This film is a MUST-SEE for anyone who likes snappy dialogue, complex characters, and SMART classic stuff!

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Chance Wade (Paul Newman) drives into his little hometown (a tropical Southern locale near the sea) with drunken/depressed actress Alexandra Del Lago (Broadway star Geraldine Page).  At a large/fancy hotel, he checks her in as “Princess.”  He has to carry her up to the room; the staff starts to gossip about them (of course).  Then Chance sets off to locate his boyhood love, Heavenly Finley (a very blonde and thin Shirley Knight; you may’ve seen her in As Good As It Gets).

But getting together w/ Heavenly is NOT easy; her father Boss Finley (a wealthy/powerful politician) keeps tabs on her every move.  Her older brother Tom (Rip Torn- back then he didn’t have red hair) is a violent thug in a suit.  Heavenly’s maiden aunt is the only sympathetic one in the bunch.  Even the servants on the Finley estate warn Chance to stay away.

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We learn (via flashbacks) that Chance was very friendly with the Finleys growing up.  He and Waverly fell in love, and planned to marry.  But her father had other ideas… 

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Chance: I had my picture on the cover of Life magazine! Woo-ha!  And at the same time I was… employing my other talent…

Why is Chance with Princess if he STILL can’t forget Heavenly?  What does he want from her?

princess

Chance: I like you. You are a nice monster.

I pondered on these questions as I watched:

Why do we find it odd when men use their handsome faces/great bodies to get ahead? 

Why can’t women be in charge of their own bodies?  

How does aging affect women, particularly beautiful ones? 

How/why is a daughter’s behavior tied to family honor?  

chance_weed

Chance: This is pretty high-class pot. Where’d you get it?
Alexandra: You beautiful, stupid young man. That is not pot.  It’s hashish, Moroccan, and the finest.

Yes, they’re talking about drugs.  This movie deals w/ difficult ADULT matters; it’s NOT a feel-good film.  But you definitely MUST check it out!

Best to all, EMMA. 

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