Ben Quick (Paul Newman) arrives in Frenchman's Bend, Mississipi after being kicked out of another town for allegedly burning a barn for revenge. Will Varner (Orson Welles) owns just about everything in Frenchman's Bend and he hires Ben to work in his store. Will thinks his own son, Jody, who manages the store, lacks ambition and despairs of him getting his wife, Eula, pregnant. Will thinks his daughter, Clara (Joanne Woodward), a schoolteacher, will never get married. He decides that Ben Quick might make a good husband for Clara to bring some new blood into the family.
This film marks Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward's first collaboration together and marked the beginning of their real-life romantic partnership. The Long Hot Summer is a film that still stands the test of time today as it has a little Tennessee Williams to it while being based on a William Faulkner story. It's a classic story with classic characters and classic actors playing those characters.
This was the beginning for Newman, who really shines in this film playing a drifter entering a town filled with naysayers. Not an original concept now but it shows, me at least, how they still haven't done it better in the last 50 years than this film did it. And Joanne Woodward is also fantastic playing a smart woman living in a man's world who can't help but fall for the drifter.
There's something magical with Newman and Woodward who just have great screen presence. When they appear on screen, you just want to follow them around forever. They just carry the gift of showing strong emotions on screen and therefore just make the audiences fall for them.
An interesting movie to watch and keep in mind that there were many other great subplots happening behind the scenes. Orson Welles, a control freak, especially when he was just acting and not directing, was hard to contain in the southern heat. Welles, famous for acting only with a fake nose in each role he played so all is characters looks would be different, had a hard time keeping the nose on during each take. And he was suffering with a tad of a weight problem and it effected his stamina during long shooting days. Martin Ritt, the director was forever known afterwards as the man who finally tamed the legend Orson Welles, really captures the setting of this small town in the South as he makes it another character. The main plot is not as important as the character's paths to get to the ending of what you already know what will happen. The journey and conclusion is now obvious to our 21st Century eyes, but it doesn't matter because this film has something much more than plot. It has richness and themes that still hold today.
Watch for Angela Lansbury playing the town's 'fun girl' so to speak and even a scene stealer to Orson Welles.
A must see!