Sweet Bird of Youth

Sweet Bird of Youth (Richard Brooks, 1962) play Tennessee Williams, screenplay Brooks

Paul Newman, Geraldine Page, Ed Begley, Rip Torn, Madeleine Sherwood, Shirley Knight

Drifter Chance Wayne returns to his hometown after many years of trying to make it in the movies. Arriving with him is a faded film star he picked up along the way, Alexandra Del Lago. While trying to get her help to make a screen test, he also finds the time to meet his former girlfriend Heavenly, the daughter of the local politician Tom 'Boss' Finley, who more or less forced him to leave the town many years ago.

Any account of the films based on Williams stories should mention what was left out. In the case of Sweet Bird of Youth, it's castration. The play ends with Chance about to undergo that. In the film, he is hit on the face by Joe Jnr with a cane, supposedly rendering him forever unattractive. Heavenly, his beloved, is not at all put off by this (of course). She has the last speech, telling Joe Snr (Ed Begley) that she will never re-enter his house, and drives off with Chance. It's all wrapped up in a few unconvincing seconds. This is, I assume, Richard Brooks's coming to terms with working in a Hollywood still dominated by the Hays Code, in which there are things which may not be discussed.


Garry Gillard | reviews | New: 13 September, 2018 | Now: 14 September, 2018