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Geraldine Page- "Summer and Smoke"


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OMG! Just watched this film at the suggestion/recommendation of a friend...Without doubt, one of the screens greatest performances. I was familiar with Ms. Page from her amazing role in "Sweet Bird of Youth" and "Dear Heart", but, holy sh*t...the last 15 mins of "Summer and Smoke" were amazing! it was so enthralling that I sat on the phone with my friend for over a hour talking about how her character slowly transforms throughout the films progression....if you have not seen this film...watch it! Laurence Harvey does a okay job in the supporting role, as does Rita Moreno...Una Merkel also puts in a fine performance in her brief time on the screen....but Page, totally owns this film!!

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Well, dang! I'm glad somebody like it! :)

 

What did you like about it??

 

I saw this film in a theater in 1961 and I thought it was the most boring film I had ever seen.

 

If I recall correctly, it takes place in a small rural American town, circa 1910, and Laurence Harvey, a medical student, tries for several years to seduce a shy young unmarried school teacher, and he tries to do it with lectures. She always listens and always turns him down.

 

This goes on and on, for years, until they are both older. He lectures, he shows her medical charts of the human anatomy, she listens, but she always turns him down.

 

In the mean time, he goes out and finds other girlfriends.

 

But, for the next two hours of film, he keeps coming back to her and he continues the same routine with her, and then the film ends.

 

I don't think the guy ever smiled or brought her flowers or took her to dinner or tried to kiss her or anything like that. None of the usual stuff. Just the medical lectures.

 

If I missed something, maybe you can explain to me what it was.

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If you notice Laurence Harvey in alot of his films gets to "tell off" a character so that he reveals the truth about them & often regrets doing so. A person asked me about him & it dawned on me he does that, then I started seeing it more & more. I'm positive he told off Geralding Page causing her alot of heartbreak & then self realization turned into self appreciation. Everybody must do it - to stop behaviors you must understand why you do them in the first place. If our prisons had better psychological counseling & a generally better environment we would see offenders improve themselves. But since the prison environment is horrible & psychological counseling so poor, the game is set to keep people from escaping the merry go round. Laurence Harvey for Warden!

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@ Fred

 

For me, I was fascinated with the way that Page's character Alma, changes from the dotty, prim and proper, spinster to basically a woman who roams the park at night, in order to pick up other lonely people like herself. The film is full of symbolism, especially, at the film's end, whenever she turns her back on the stone angel in the park, and sets off to entertain a young gentlemen she meets.

 

The monologue that Page gives towards Harvey's character in the end...is in itself, something every young actor should watch and study. Her acting is so nuisanced, and the mannerisms are spot on...gorgeous!

 

I read a review once, that questioned the believability of Harvey's character being interested in the prospect of seducing the "plain Jane" Alma( Page's character), but, I found it to be extremely believable.....because, she was the one woman in the town who was not interested in him sexually, and put up a resistance to her sexual advances and charms.

 

 

There are some weak points in the film....I found Pamela Tiffin's character annoying! but, the scenery, costumes and performances more than make up for the few pitfalls.

 

For me....this film, Streetcar, Sweet Bird of Youth and Suddenly Last Summer are the more enjoyable and watchable films based on Williams' plays

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Thanks for your explanation. Maybe I missed something or didn?t understand something about the movie.

 

Did Page go home with those strangers she met in the park near the end of the movie? Did she begin to seduce the strangers? If so, I guess I totally missed that part of the film.

 

I have a memory that she was still a maiden by the end of the movie, and that she still just wanted to be nice friends with some nice men, but not spend any nights with them.

 

I like several other Tennessee Williams stories, and I very much like A Streetcar Named Desire.

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From the way you initially described the film, I think maybe you were seeing the story more through the eyes of the man than through the woman's eyes, which was usually what Williams intended. Since you liked "A Streetcar Named Desire", it might be worth considering how much alike Alma and Blanche were and how the frustrations of a sheltered lfe eventually wore on both of them. I don't think it's so much that Alma wasn't interested in John sexually as it was that she didn't have an inkling of how to express it, or that a "decent" woman could allow herself such feelings. Society and its taboos were way more the villain than John Buchanan. John could carouse at Moon Lake Casino and it would be virtually pased over by society. When Alma goes there at the end, society will never give her a pass. She is essentailly "checking out", partly out of despair, but partly out of a new-found committment to the kind of self-exploration she's never been allowed. Like Blanche and her increasing reliance on alcohol, Alma's change is partially fueled by those little pills for "anxiety". (What would they have been?) Alma is now on a journey to self-discovery, but it's obviously going to be via the heart of darkness, which is the essential tragedy of most Williams female leads. They can't connect with their true selves in such a restrictive society and they can't keep their place in society if they try.

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It boggles the mind that producer Hal Wallis wanted Audrey Hepburn to play Page's part initially (how could Audrey be believable playing a middle aged spinster?) But after meeting with her decided to go with Page who originated the part........

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It almost came to be. I've no doubt she could've handled the acting, but the audience wouldnt have bought it (besides she was only in her early 30s then). They couldnt agree on her look, so that ended that......

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Hi Dougie,

 

Thanks for your intelligent analysis of this film. I would love to say more about it, from my point of view, but since I haven't seen it in 52 years, I think I need to see it again to see what I might have missed the first time around. :)

 

Fred

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