Monday, 25 April 2011

The Long Hot Summer

A very different kind of film unreality is The Long Hot Summer with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Lee Remick and Orson Wells, Anthony Franciosa, Angela Lansbury and Richard Anderson.

Orson Wells is the archetypical southern bid daddy, a widower, who dominates his two children, Joanne Woodward, an outwardly prim school mistress with high standards and expectations, and Anthony Franciosa as an embittered always failing to please son who is yet to produce the longed for grand son with his lacking respect wife Lee Remick. Big daddy has a regular girl friend Angela Landsbury who is desperate to make the relationship permanent. Into this mix comes Paul Newman a drifter, known to several in town because his father was an incendiarist. He hitches a lift from the daughter and her best friend whose brother has been courting, in a fashion, Joanne, for half a dozen years. Big daddy who owns half the town takes to this brash, confident, smartalec of a young man.

He sets him up in a dilapidated small holding and gives him work in his main store much to the increasing resentment of his son who becomes even angrier when Newman is moved into the family home. The anger reaches boiling point and the son threatens to kill Paul who buys time by telling him he has found the stash of gold treasure which legend has it is buried somewhere in the area he is living. They go back and find an old sack with more of the coins like those which Paul had in his pocket. The son has bought out Paul’s interest for a couple of thousand dollars which he thinks is a bargain until his father points out he has been duped because the coins are not of great historical value but minted in the 20th century and those he found were likely to be the only ones.

Woodward cannot stand Newman but equally has become increasingly frustrated at the lack on initiative taken by her young man who lives with his demanding mother. He shows nothing of the passion of Newman and at the local fair only bids up to sixteen dollars for the right to have a private picnic with the girl when Newman offers fifty. However the event does not go well and the young man takes her home but also makes it clear he is not interested in marrying at that time. Father mistakes what she says later and the following morning visits the young man and his mother to organise the marriage only to find she has been rejected. He then decides that she and Newman will marry but before this happens the son attempts to kill, his father by locking him in the family stables and setting fire, but he changes his mind and rescues resulting in the two establishing a new relationship. The local firebrands (hee hee) decided that the cause if the blaze will be the son of the incendiarist and march on the family home where they learn that the blaze was caused by Big daddy dropping his cigar. There is then a lively exchange between Newman, Wells and Woodward in which she reveals that he is the man for her.

The significance of this 1958 released is that this was the first time Newman and Woodward acted together and after the film they were married, a marriage which then to last until his death 50 years later. He was previously married with a son and two daughters. The son died from a drug overdose after several film performances and led to the creation of a prevention centre by Newman who went on to have three daughters with Woodward. His most famous quip when asked about his devotion to Woodward was why got out for a hamburger when you have steak at home. The couple and his children from both marriages are known for their social awareness and responsibility.

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