Sweet Bird of Youth (1962)

Sweet Bird of Youth
Directed by Richard Brooks
Written by Richard Brooks from a play by Tennessee Williams
Roxbury Productions Inc.
First viewing/Netflix rental

Alexandra Del Lago: No. No, I must look hideous in it.

Chance Wayne: Oh, no, honey. You just look exotic. Yeah. Like a princess from Mars or a… big magnified insect.

I’ve loved many movies based on Tennessee Williams plays.  Unfortunately, his crazy lady plot had run out of steam long before 1962.

Chance Wayne (Paul Newman) drifts back into his home town with washed-up movie star Alexandra del Lago (Geraldine Page) in tow.  She is deeply into the sauce and assorted controlled substances and when she comes to she has little memory of how she got there. Chance’s plan is to blackmail Alexandra into giving him a boost toward his own dream of movie stardom.

Alexandra may be a drunk but she is nobody’s fool and things backfire badly on Chance. In the meantime, Chance’s reappearance gives “Boss” Finley, the most powerful man in town, a chance to get vengeance on the drifter for trifling with his daughter (Shirley Knight).

One of the things that throws the film off from the get go is that Page is supposed to be an aging movie star and Paul Newman a much younger man.  Trouble is that Page was only a year older than Newman and they looked like a perfect match sexually.  More fundamentally, we’ve seen this story too many times before.  Billy Wilder did it much better in Sunset Blvd.  I think I had seen bits of pieces of this on TV before.  I always lost interest before seeing the whole thing.  Now that I have, I can see why.

Ed Begley won the Oscar for Best Actor in a supporting role.  Geraldine Page was nominated for Best Actress and Shirley Night for Best Supporting Actress.


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