The Long, Hot Summer (1958)

Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Orson Welles, Angela Lansbury.
Ben Quick (Newman) is a drifter, going from town to town and building a reputation as a barn-burner.  After being asked to leave and never return to yet another town, he hitchhikes and meets two girls from Frenchman’s Bend, Mississippi.  They are both family members of the town’s most important family, the Varners.  Clara Varner (Joanne Woodward) is 23 years old and unmarried.  This fact drives her father Will Varner (Welles) crazy, to the point where Clara claims the only conversation they’ve had for 6 years is about the fact that she isn’t married.

Despite Ben’s reputation, he quickly gains the trust of Will because Will sees a younger version of himself in this newcomer.  Unsatisfied with his son Jody, he starts grooming Ben to carry on his legacy, and in the process get Clara and husband.

The tension between Ben and Jody is nice, and it becomes apparent that Jody is more naive than first thought, and Ben is the quintessential con man.

Something that stood out and always seems to amaze me is the presence Orson Welles has on-screen.  There is no doubt who commands the scene when his character is present.  While I realize this is probably in large part because of how Will’s character is written, I believe Welles is someone who truly brings this to life.  I have not watched many Orson Welles movies, but I’m quickly understanding why he commands such respect in the film industry.

The ending of this movie surprised me a bit, as I imagined Ben Quick would ride off and continue his ways.  It’s good when the main character has a major change, and I know that’s one of the staples of movies, but it’s nice to see and understand Quick’s background more.  Plus the fact that he settles where he’s at gives us a happily ever after ending.

As the book says, Newman and Woodward’s on-screen chemistry shines through in large part as the result of their off-screen romance.  They were shortly married after the filming, and Newman divorcing his first wife, and remained together until Newman’s death in 2008.
As with the previous movie, I don’t see myself watching The Long, Hot Summer again, but again am delighted that I have seen it.  It’s not that I have anything against the movie, it just isn’t one that moved me enough to want to watch again.

My rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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