Ben Quick arrives in Frenchman's Bend, MS after being kicked out of another town for allegedly burning a barn for revenge. Will Varner owns just about everything in Frenchman's Bend and he hires Ben to work in his store. Will thinks his own son, Jody, who manages the store, lacks ambition and despairs of him getting his wife, Eula, pregnant. Will thinks his daughter, Clara, a schoolteacher, will never get married. He decides that Ben Quick might make a good husband for Clara to bring some new blood into the family.
Paul Newman ... Ben Quick
Joanne Woodward ... Clara Varner
Anthony Franciosa ... Jody Varner
Orson Welles ... Will Varner
Lee Remick ... Eula Varner
Angela Lansbury ... Minnie Littlejohn
Richard Anderson ... Alan Stewart
Sarah Marshall ... Agnes Stewart
Mabel Albertson ... Mrs. Stewart
J. Pat O'Malley ... Ratliff
Bill Walker ... Lucius (as William Walker)
Director: Martin Ritt
Codecs: XVid / MP3
The Long Hot Summer is chiefly noted for the fact that Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward made their joint cinematic debut in this film. One of Hollywood's best personal and professional partnerships, Joanne had won a Best Actress Oscar for The Three Faces of Eve the year before and it took Paul thirty more years to match it for their mantelpiece in The Color of Money.
Based on some William Faulkner short stories, The Long Hot Summer commences when Joanne Woodward and Lee Remick, daughter and daughter-in-law of local patriarch Orson Welles give drifter Paul Newman a lift into town. Woodward's a repressed school teacher and Welles despairs of her finding a suitable match.
Because he started dirt poor and worked his way up to the top, Welles takes a liking to Newman and pushes, a little too hard for Newman and Woodward to team up. That's not sitting real well with Anthony Franciosa who is Welles's son and sees Newman displacing him in the family pecking order.
In fact my favorite in the film is Franciosa, he usually is in any film he's in. When he's on the screen, you don't pay attention to anyone else, not even Orson Welles.
Welles borrows a bit from Tennessee Williams's Big Daddy Pollitt from the Paul Newman film the year before, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. His Will Varner though is a bit softer around the edges, also lends itself more easily to caricature. I think the creators of The Dukes of Hazzard used Welles in The Long Hot Summer as their model for Boss Hogg.
In fact it's interesting to see the contrast in The Long Hot Summer and Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. It's obvious to me that William Faulkner liked the people of Mississippi a whole lot more than the southerners that are in Tennessee Williams's work.
Almost fifty years later, The Long Hot Summer is still enjoyable viewing and still may be the best of Paul and Joanne's joint ventures.
Paul Newman stars with Joanne Woodward, Orson Welles, Lee Remick, Anthony Franciosca, Richard Anderson and Angela Lansbury in "The Long, Hot Summer," based on stories by William Faulkner. It's a lushly produced film about a drifter, Ben Quick (Newman), who comes to town. His reputation precedes him, and he soon upsets the status quo in the wealthy Varner family, headed by Orson Welles with a fake nose that kept melting off and an even faker southern accent. There's the weak, insecure son (Franciosa) married to a sex kitten (Remick) and an unmarried daughter (Woodward) saving herself for a momma's boy (Anderson). In town, there's also Varner Sr.'s mistress, played by Angela Lansbury. Ben sets his sights on Clara Varner and puts himself in direct competition with nervous son Jody for papa's approval. But Quick ultimately needs to reach underneath his swagger and bravura and confront his cut and run philosophy.
This is a fantastic cast that delivers sparkling dialogue and an interesting story that has mostly well-drawn characters. The exception would probably be Remick, who has a small but showy role. She doesn't get to do much except show off her figure and sexiness. Welles is a riot - a marvelous technician, he knew how to externalize a character perfectly, and he is here the epitome of a Big Daddy type. His southern drawl is outrageous, and why he decided he needed a new nose (which he had in other roles as well) is beyond me. Woodward gives a touching performance as a young woman who has been living on hope and can't quite cope with her attraction to the overtly sexual Quick. Franciosa is excellent as a tortured young man unable to win his father's love.
But as any film that stars Paul Newman, the movie belongs to him, one of the greatest actors to ever hit the screen. Macho, sexy and handsome, his Ben Quick is angry, determined, manipulative, and disturbing, with a hidden vulnerability. His scenes with Woodward sizzle, and you can see her character blossom under his attention. They're a great couple, both on and off the screen.
Highly recommended, as is any film that stars Paul Newman.
The Long, Hot Summer is an adaptation of William Faulkner's novel The Hamlet. Now, I just happen to be one of the world's biggest Faulkner fanatics, having read all but five of his novels. I have read The Hamlet, and it is a somewhat lesser work than his grand masterpieces (The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom!, A Light in August, and Go Down Moses; I would also add, though they are lesser known than those five, If I Forget Thee Jerusalem and Pylon). It is more or less a novel made up of a bunch of various stories about the Snopes' family invasion into Yoknapatawpha County in the early part of the 20th Century (1920s, if I remember right; it's been a while since I've read that novel), and as such, it is quite poorly constructed. Faulkner's miraculous writing is intact, but the structure is convoluted.
The Long, Hot Summer changes most of what happens in The Hamlet, but it still ends up feeling very Faulknerian (if a little Hollywoodized, especially around the ending). The Hamlet contains a cast of several dozen townfolk and the Snopes family, a Northern family of carpetbaggers who have their eyes set on the hamlet of Frenchman's Bend. The main character in the novel is Flem Snopes. His name is changed in the film to Ben Quick, who was himself one of the original townspeople in the novel (in fact, the Quick family, although they never play a major role in any novel or even short story, pops up constantly in Faulkner's mythology). Quick is played impeccably by Paul Newman. If Flem Snopes had remained as he was written by Faulkner, Paul Newman would have been way too handsome to play him. Instead, the screenwriters,Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr., have made him more likable without losing his complexities. They do it by making Ben Quick the little boy who runs away from his barn burning father ( from the short story, one of Faulkner's most anthologized, Barn Burning). That little boy disappears without a trace in Faulkner's writings. Flem Snopes, a teenager during Barn Burning, stays by his father's side afterwards.
Will Varner remains fairly intact in the film, the most enterprising of any person in the community. He may actually have a more complex character in the film than in the novel. The literary character is more or less an opponent who is forced to deal with Flem Snopes and his family. Here, Will Varner meets a man who reminds him too much of himself in Ben Quick. The filmic Varner has a rather selfish desire to have grandchildren before he dies, and he tries desperately to get his two children to reproduce for him. In the novel, Will Varner has 16 children. With Orson Welles, we should expect nothing more than the best, and we get another one of his masterful performances here. Will Varner is a lot like Hank Quinlan from Touch of Evil (which was released the same year), and the complexities that Welles communicates here are equal to his Charles Foster Kane or Harry Lime.
All the other characters are basically completely changed from the novel. Eula Varner is still a sexpot, but she is no longer Will Varner's youngest daughter, but his dauther-in-law (Flem Snopes originally married her). I don't remember Jody Varner too much from the novel, but I'm pretty sure the insecurities he feels towards Ben Quick were created by the screenwriters (Will Varner never got chummy with Flem Snopes in the novel, so there would be less of a reason for the hatred of Jody). I believe Clara Varner either didn't exist in the novel, or she was much less important. She certainly wasn't the school teacher, since he fell in love with Eula Varner at 13 and ultimately had to resign because of his lust, and then one of the Snopeses taught, I think I.O.
The part of this film that really gives it power is the amazing dialogue. I'm pretty sure that no direct dialogue, or at least very little, was taken from the novel. It was all created by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. It is absolutely poetic. I don't think that there is much dialogue in the novel. Faulkner rather likes to tell his stories silent for the most part. Also, if you are a Faulkner fan, or a fan of this novel in particular, keep your eyes open for echoes of other novels or of things that have dropped out here. There is the sewing machine salesman crack when Ben Quick is approaching Varner's mansion (a joke about the salesman Ratliffe, who provides a majority of The Hamlet's point of view), the hint at Absalom, Absalom! (when one of Varner's horses foals near the end), and the hint at A Light in August (the fire in the distance, the townspeople moving towards it). All in all, The Long, Hot Summer is a masterpiece. It is a beautiful, passionate, and intelligent film, and the best literary adaptation of which I am aware, or maybe only second to The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
* It took five days to film the barn-burning scene because the sky, winds, or amount of sunlight were not acceptable to the director.
* Director Martin Ritt was forever known after this movie as the man who tamed Orson Welles. During filming Ritt drove Welles into the middle of a swamp, kicked him out of the car and forced him to find his own way back.
* Orson Welles always wore a fake nose when he worked, so when he would sweat on this film, his fake nose would slip. Make-up people had to keep applying material to keep the fake nose from falling.
* This film marks Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman's first cinematic collaboration.