From the Chicago Reader (January 17, 2007). — J.R.
One of Elia Kazan’s most underrated movies is his only pure comedy, scripted by Tennessee Williams and shot on location in rural Mississippi. Carroll Baker stars (in her debut) as a virgin child bride hitched up to Karl Malden at his most unsavory; Eli Wallach (in another debut) is brilliant as Malden’s business rival who manipulates both of them. Though this film was roundly condemned for salaciousness by the Legion of Decency when it came out (1956), its plot actually pivots around the ambiguous matter of whether sex actually takes place or not, and it’s the seediness of the southern milieu — Baker’s dirty neck rather than her dirty mind or morals — that seemed to have the censors up in arms. But it’s largely Kazan’s authentic feeling for the locale, aided by Boris Kaufman’s superb black-and-white cinematography, that makes this movie so special, combined with first-rate ensemble work. With Mildred Dunnock. 114 min. (JR)