10 March 2017 | Wuchakk
Southern Gothic tragedy with Brando, Magnani and Woodward
Released in 1960 and directed by Sidney Lumet from Tennessee Williams' screenplay, "The Fugitive Kind" is a B&W southern Gothic drama starring Marlon Brando as loner minstrel Val "Snakeskin" from New Orleans in pursuit of a new life and the people with whom to live it. He stumbles upon a Mississippi town and gets a job at a mercantile store, which is run by a lonely passed-her-prime woman, Lady (Anna Magnani). While Snakeskin works the store downstairs, Lady's terminally ill husband is bedridden upstairs (Victor Jory). Joanne Woodward plays a histrionic beatnik while Maureen Stapleton is on hand as a housewife enamored by Snakeskin. R.G. Armstrong appears as the redneck sheriff.
The first time I watched this movie (in 2008) I didn't much like it, probably because I wasn't familiar with Williams' stagey, melodramatic style of writing. However, after just viewing Williams' "The Night of the Iguana" (1964) and really appreciating it, I had a taste for more and so gave "The Fugitive Kind" a second chance. I'm glad I did because, this time, I was able to discern its highlights and got a lot more out of it.
Marlon was in the midst of my favorite period of his career while filming this movie. Arguably his greatest films, "The Young Lions" (1958), "One-Eyed Jacks" (1961) and "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1962), were all shot during this time. While "The Fugitive Kind" is easily the least of these it's worth checking out for a number of reasons, as long as you're in the mood for a talky adult melodrama. Like "The Night of the Iguana," this is a brooding rumination on the nature of existence. As such, there are numerous treasures to glean from the seemingly interminable dialogues. The movie's overlong and could've been tightened up, but the interspersed riches hidden within make it worth staying with, but you have to be a seasoned adult to appreciate it or, at least, mature for your years.
Woodward's beatnik character is interesting as she's basically a hippie before hippies existed. Although her character is histrionic and somewhat annoying, some of her reflections are poignant, like in the interesting cemetery scene with Snakeskin. Emory Richardson is almost fascinating as Carol's silent black friend in a racist community. Some of their platonic imagery together is unexpected and intriguing for a film shot in 1959.
Brando was 35 during filming and became the first actor to make $1 million for a single film (although Elizabeth Taylor earlier signed a $1 million contract for "Cleopatra," that movie wasn't released until 1963). Magnani was 51 and hot to sleep with the star, but Marlon didn't find her attractive which, needless to say, negatively affected the shoot. This is surprising because some of their scenes together are quite good. I incidentally had an Italian neighbor who passed away six weeks ago who was strikingly reminiscent of Magnani's character, both looks-wise and temperament-wise. So I know firsthand that people like her exist.
The film runs 119 minutes and was shot in Milton, New York.