Friday, October 4, 2019

Baby Dull

I've mentioned on a couple of occasions that I'm not the biggest fan of Tennessee Williams, or overheated Southern Gothic in general. A good example of this phenomenon is Baby Doll.

Carroll Baker plays "Baby Doll" Meighan, a virginal bride just shy of her 20th birthday. She lives with her husband Archie (Karl Malden), in a decaying Mississippi manor house, in a town where Archie runs one of the cotton gins. Except that business is lousy, as we can see not only by the fact that the house is decaying, but the furniture company is repossessing the furniture. Anyhow, Baby Doll is still virginal because Archie promised her father that he would have sex with her until she turned 20, in exchange for being allowed to marry her. Since that birthday is coming up, he's very eager to be be able finally to have sex with her.

The reason that Archie's business has been falling off is that there's a better businessman who's recently entered the area, Italian-American Silva Vaccaro (Eli Wallach). He's set up his own cotton gin, and it's been taking business away from Archie's. Archie responds as any bad businessman would: he burns down Silva's gin.

Silva is pretty darn sure who did it, but he needs to get evidence. So he decides to go to the Meighan place, having met Mrs. Meighan. His plan is to get an affidavit from her. Not that she realizes this; in addition to being virginal, she's also a bit naïve. Of course Silva doesn't make things easy on Baby Doll by moving thing as though there were a ghost in the house. Eventually, the two play a game of hide-and-seek that results in Baby Doll cowering in an attic she's afraid is going to cave in.

When Archie finds out what happens, he's pissed, more about Silva's pursuit of Baby Doll because it's not until a bit later that he finds out about the affidavit. How Archie reacts provides the climax of the movie.

Baby Doll is one of those movies that has a repuation because of is controversially lurid-for-the-times presentation. To be honest, however, I found the whole thing a bit tedious. The characters are obnoxiously loud, they're unsympathetic, and the story came across to be as being rather unrealistic. Still, it has its reputation for a reason, and a lot of other people really like this one.

Baby Doll is available on DVD, so you can watch and judge for yourself.

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