Alcoholism, dysfunctional families, romance, infidelity (w/ its gendered double-standards), and America’s obsession w/ money and power are the main themes in this (ahead of it’s time) melodrama. I watched it last night (on Netflix); of course, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward (who were married for 2 years at that time) were the draw. Wow, if you want to see some HOT onscreen chemistry, check out their scenes together (first half of the film)! As for Newman, he’s the definition of Hollywood’s total package (looks, presence, talent, the ability to be both humorous and serious, etc.)
In 1946, Aflred Eaton (Newman) returns to suburban Philly after serving in the Navy (WWII) to the loving arms of… his household staff. His parents checked out long ago. His father (Leon James) puts all his heart into his steel mill and mourning someone who will never return. His mother (Myrna Loy) has turned to alcohol and another man. A private nurse lives with her- a great shock to Alfred. As his best pal, Alex Porter (a young and dapper George Grizzard), says he “needs to get out of that house” and their expectations. Like many young folks, Alfred heads to NYC.
In a few months time, Alfred falls in love with Mary St. John (platinum-haired Woodward), a blue blood from Delaware. She is engaged to another man and her parents would not approve of Alfred’s “qualifications,” Alex quickly explains. “There are all types of qualifications,” Alfred slyly retorts. After winning Mary’s hand, he starts working with Alex on designing/selling small planes on Long Island, but grows tired of being left out of the decision-making. (The business was financed by the Porter family.) An accident of chance propels Alfred into the society, then business, of one of the wealthiest financiers on the East Coast. Alfred throws himself into his work, repeating his father’s mistake, and neglects Mary (not content to sit at home alone in their fancy Manhattan apartment).