Tennessee Williams' Broadway play Summer and Smoke (expanded from his one-act piece Eccentricities of a Nightingale) was brought to the screen by adaptors James Poe and Meade Roberts and director Peter Glenville. Geraldine Page repeats her stage role as minister's daughter Alma Winemiller, who lives a spinsterish existence in her WWI-era Mississippi home town. Though her hateful mother (Una Merkel) has nothing but nasty things to say about men, Alma carries a torch for her handsome next-door neighbor and lifelong friend, Dr ...
Tennessee Williams' Broadway play Summer and Smoke (expanded from his one-act piece Eccentricities of a Nightingale) was brought to the screen by adaptors James Poe and Meade Roberts and director Peter Glenville. Geraldine Page repeats her stage role as minister's daughter Alma Winemiller, who lives a spinsterish existence in her WWI-era Mississippi home town. Though her hateful mother (Una Merkel) has nothing but nasty things to say about men, Alma carries a torch for her handsome next-door neighbor and lifelong friend, Dr. John Buchanan (Laurence Harvey). The doctor prefers the companionship of Rosa (Rita Moreno), a "wrong side of the tracks" girl who is as open and freewheeling as Alma is shy and repressed. Desperate for Buchanan's attention, Alma begins behaving with uncharacteristic affection towards him. He misreads her signals and attempts to seduce her. Already on the edge, Alma goes ballistic, literally running out of Buchanan's life. When the doctor throws an engagement party for himself and Rosa, the neurotic Alma tells Buchanan's father (John McIntire) that a wantonly immoral get-together is taking place in the doctor's home--an act of vengeance that has long-range tragic consequences. By film's end, the previously strait-laced Alma, unhinged by previous events, has become as misguidedly passionate as her spiritual sister, A Streetcar Named Desire's Blanche DuBois. Summer and Smoke earned Academy Award nominations for both Geraldine Page and Una Merkel; while Merkel would never win an Oscar, Ms. Page finally collected her statuette for 1985's A Trip to Bountiful. Hal Erickson, Rovi
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Earl Holliman, Malcolm Atterbury, Pamela Tiffin, Thomas Gomez, John McIntire, Una Merkel, Rita Moreno, Geraldine Page,... Good. 2013 Run time: 118. Connecting viewers with great movies since 1972. All used discs are inspected and guaranteed. Used discs may not include digital copies. Customer service is our top priority!
I have been reading a good deal of Tennessee Williams recently, including "Summer and Smoke" and "Eccentricities of a Nightingale", his later rewrite of the play. The reading led me to want to see a dramatization. I had never seen the film before. Plays are meant to be seen as well as read.
I was moved greatly by this 1961 film adaptation directed by Peter Glenville. The film stars Geraldine Page who received the best actress award from the National Board of Review and from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for her portrayal of Alma Winemiller. Page also starred as Alma when "Summer and Smoke" was revised off-Broadway in 1952. Her performance rescued the play from its initial chilly 1948 reception on Broadway. Page also starred in several other theater and film productions of Williams' plays.
"Summer and Smoke" is set in a small Mississippi town in the years just before the United States entered WW I. It tells of the failed romantic relationship between a spinsterish, sexually repressed minister's daughter, Alma, and a young physician, John Buchanan, performed by Lawrence Harvey, who appears on the verge of throwing his life away to sexual dissipation. Alma has been in love with John since childhood. In the drama, the characters gradually reverse their roles. Alma at first rejects John's physical advances because she finds they lack soul or true emotional feeling. Late in the play, after a pivotal scene in which John and Alma disagree about the significance of a chart of human anatomy, Alma seeks to initiate a physical relationship with John. By that time, John has already committed himself, and he sees Alma only in spiritual terms.
"Summer and Smoke" is sometimes seen as a "metaphysical" play which explores abstractions such as the dualistic conflict between body and soul. Watching this film shows that Williams fleshed-out his theme with human character. Page gives a fully realized performance of the repressed, plain Alma and makes her change of direction in the play convincing. Harvey plays the rakish young doctor effectively and conveys the increasing but belated depth of his character. Una Merkel, who played Alma's emotionally disturbed mother also turns in an excellent performance in a challenging role. The film captures the ambience of a small Southern town early in the 20th Century, with its outward conventionality and with the vice not far below the surface. Elmer Bernstein's music helps bring out the complex emotions and sadness of the story.
The film makes small changes to the play but is faithful to it in character and theme. have loved this play for a long time and enjoyed rereading it after several years. I found it rewarding to see this film version of "Summer and Smoke" at last.