9 October 2011 | blanche-2
Sluts on the Wild Side
Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Fonda, Capucine, and Laurence Harvey take a "Walk on the Wild Side" in this 1962 film directed by Edward Dmytryk, based on the book by Nelson Algren. One reason the film is memorable is the title song by Elmer Bernstein.
The 1930s story begins with Dove Linkhorn (Harvey) meeting Kitty Twist (Jane Fonda) as they're both traveling out of Texas by the cheapest route possible. Though Kitty has the hots for Dove, he's headed for The Big Easy to find his girl Hallie (Capucine). It turns out that Hallie is working at the Doll House, a brothel run by lesbian Jo Courtney (Barbara Stanwyck) who is in love with Hallie and giving her the good life. Before Dove finds her, he winds up working at a café run by Teresina Vidaverri (Anne Baxter), who falls for him. When he finally connects with Hallie, he finds out that Kitty is now working at the Doll House too.
For some reason this film seemed like it was cut to ribbons. It's very disjointed. Fonda appears in the beginning and then drops out for what seems like an hour. Though she's certainly a beautiful woman today, seeing this film is a reminder of just how dazzling she was. Her acting is effective if a bit over the top, though she doesn't get a lot of help from the script. Stanwyck is excellent as a tough woman made vulnerable because of her love for Hallie.
In fact, Stanwyck and Fonda are the only two who are well cast in this movie. The rest of them seem as if someone pulled their names out of a hat. I mean, Laurence Harvey as a Texan? And because this film is produced by Charles Feldman, that means Capucine gets to come along and give one of her cold as ice, monotone-voiced, frozen-faced performances. We have no idea why Dove fell for her and why Jo loves her. But then, we didn't understand Franz Liszt falling for her in Song without End either. And, though the film is set in the '30s, again thanks to Mr. Feldman, Capucine wears the latest Pierre Cardin fashions.
I'm sure that in real life, Capucine (known as "Cap" to her friends) was a lovely and warm woman - Dirk Bogarde was crazy about her as a person, William Holden I believe was in love with her, and she was a good friend of Audrey Hepburn's - but she just never projected much on screen. Her casting here is woeful.
Anne Baxter does the best she can with her role.
The film is a real old-fashioned melodrama. In the end it doesn't really draw you in and it seems like a lot is missing. It's a miss, but a high budget one.