Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Barbara Stanwyck
WALK ON THE WILD SIDE (1962). Director: Edward Dmytryk.

"I know what it's like to love someone and not be able to do anything about it."

In the novel A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren, the protagonist, Dove Linkhorn, is a 16-year-old drifter who winds up in the sex business when he's paid to deflower [supposed] virgins for eager voyeurs. In the Hollywood adaptation, Dove is now thirty [played by British Laurence Harvey], a former caregiver for his dying father, and is shocked to discover that his lady love, Hallie (Capucine), has become a prostitute at a famous New Orleans brothel. The story is still set in New Orleans in the 1930's, but everything else is screenwriters John Fante and Edmund Morris' invention and has virtually nothing to do with Nelson Algren. Dove has gone to work for the Italian store owner Teresina (Anne Baxter) while hoping to re-connect with Hallie, a sculptress who is now hooked up with brothel owner Jo Courtney (Barbara Stanwyck), who seems to think Hallie is her personal property. Courtney's husband Dockery, (Don "Red" Barry) has lost his legs, and Jo deludes herself that her feelings for Hallie are not lustful [this latter business is more tacit than explicit]. When Dove does his damnedest to get Hallie back, all Hell breaks loose, resulting in tragedy. The "Doll House" is the least bawdy "bawdy house" that I've ever seen on film, and I've no doubt some viewers at the time had trouble figuring out whether Hallie was a prostitute or not. Jane Fonda has a supporting part as Kitty, another lost gal who winds up at the Doll House, and Richard Rust, who played the bellboy who marries the blond in Homicidal, is vivid as one of Jo's nastier associates. The performances are okay, with Fonda and Stanwyck, especially Stanwyck, taking top honors, although the material is far beneath the latter. It's pretty much beneath everyone, in fact.

Verdict: Vaguely entertaining and well-made but kind of schlocky in spite of it. **

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