The Long, Hot Summer

Movie Information

In Brief: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Orson Welles (and his perpetually melting fake nose) and a collection other stars got together in 1958 — along with their phony (and often wavering) southern accents — to bring this mash-up William Faulkner to the screen under the direction of formerly black-listed Martin Ritt. The resulting movie — immensely popular at the time — now plays more like a knock-off of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, despite the fact that it beat the film version of Cat to the screen by four months. The Long, Hot Summer is everything you might reasonably expect from a movie of its era. It's glossy and slick (though marred by rampant rear screen and process work that ruins any illusion of realism) and overacted and over-heated and pretty empty-headed. It even boasts one of those awful 1950s theme songs. In short, it's so completely of its era that it serves as a perfect example of what's wrong with so much American film of the time. This isn't to say it's not entertaining. As camp, it's pretty hard to beat.
Genre: Drama
Director: Martin Ritt
Starring: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Orson Welles, Anthony Franciosa, Lee Remick, Angela Lansbury, Richard Anderson
Rated: NR



I first saw The Long, Hot Summer when it came out — meaning that I was about four. Of course, it wasn’t suitable for children, but in those pre-ratings days, not many (apart from subscribers to the National Catholic Film newsletter) gave that a whole lot of thought. Going to the movies just seemed to be a family activity. (If that seems strange now, just try wrapping your heads around the idea of continuous showings where you walked into a movie at any point, stayed to the end, then stuck around for the next show till you got to “where we came in” and left.) My main memory of that original viewing is one of boredom. It wasn’t just that the movie was awash in what we now call “adult themes,” it was also of no possible interest to a child. Most of it was barely comprehensible. Now I can appreciate it as a kind of glossy — frankly rather silly — “trash” that was not then uncommon. It was low-wattage tittilation dressed up in literary prentension (in this case, William Faulkner).




Is it good? Well, not in any realistic sense, though I know there are those who think otherwise. It is, however, a wild concoction of repressed sexuality of just about any flavor you choose. We have the sexually frustrated school teacher (Joanne Woodward) with the controlling father (Orson Welles), whose interests in his daughter are a weird mix of too interested and an overbearing desire for grandchildren. There’s also her semi-fiance (Richard Anderson), who is a “mama’s boy” (code for repressed gay man). And there’s her impotent brother (Anthony Franciosa) with daddy issues. It’s a mix just waiting for the arrival of cocky, but troubled, drifter (Paul Newman), who will awaken passions and teach the school teacher to appreciate a “masterful” man (one who promises to leave her smiling every morning). It’s nothing if not overheated.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Long, Hot Summer Sunday, Sept. 13, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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2 thoughts on “The Long, Hot Summer

  1. Ben Gilbert

    Joanne Woodward is from Thomasville, Georgia. I wouldn’t think that her accent would be phony.
    An enjoyable movie nonetheless.

    • Ken Hanke

      I’m from Concord NC and Lake Wales FL and I couldn’t do a convincing southern accent to save my life. At least not of the sub-Tennessee Williams kind.

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