A free-spirited single mother forms a connection with the wedded headmaster of an Episcopalian boarding school in Monterey, California.A free-spirited single mother forms a connection with the wedded headmaster of an Episcopalian boarding school in Monterey, California.A free-spirited single mother forms a connection with the wedded headmaster of an Episcopalian boarding school in Monterey, California.
The threadbare plot, written by four screenwriters including the legendary Dalton Trumbo, has Danny being sent to a local Episcopal boarding school for killing a deer out of curiosity. The pompous headmaster is Dr. Edward Hewitt, who feels constantly cheapened by his glad-handing efforts to raise funds to maintain the school and build a new chapel. His repressed wife Claire teaches there, and in no time, Danny starts to enjoy school and the company of the other students. Meanwhile, Laura is initially resentful of Hewitt's academic approach, but of course, given this is Taylor and Burton in their prime, they fall quickly into a torrid love affair. Of course, Hewitt grows guilty for his uncontrollable passion and confesses to his wife. This leads to a rather absurd but inevitable conclusion. The film's director is surprisingly VIncente Minnelli who can't seem to do anything intelligent with the limp script handed to him and lets his two stars flail excessively on screen. With her zaftig figure and designer outfits, Taylor simply looks disengaged, while Burton tries to inject some dignity to a basically unsympathetic character but to no avail.
Poor Eva Marie Saint is left stranded by Claire's frigidity and ignorance. Charles Bronson has a few silly scenes as a sarcastic bohemian sculptor, while Robert Webber has his standard role of a wealthy cad lusting after Laura. Morgan Mason plays Danny insipidly, though interestingly enough, he would grow up to become Reagan's Chief of Protocol and marry Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Go's. Much of the dialogue is painfully bad with a lot of counter-culture talk that sounds hopelessly pretentious out of Taylor's mouth, yet for all its flaws, the film is utterly watchable as a trash wallow. The familiar Johnny Mandel song, "The Shadow of Your Smile", comes from this movie and plays over the opening and end credits. The 2006 DVD contains two vintage featurettes: "The Big Sur", narrated by Burton, about the challenges of filming in the area, and "A Statue for The Sandpiper", featuring the artist who carved the redwood statue of the bodacious Taylor, used in the film.
- May 16, 2012