Sweet Bird of Youth (film)
Sweet Bird of Youth is a 1962 drama film starring Paul Newman, Geraldine Page, Shirley Knight, Madeleine Sherwood, Ed Begley, Rip Torn and Mildred Dunnock. Based on the 1959 play of the same name by Tennessee Williams, it focuses on the relationship between a drifter and a faded movie star. The film was adapted and directed by Richard Brooks.
|Sweet Bird of Youth|
original movie poster
|Directed by||Richard Brooks|
|Produced by||Pandro S. Berman|
|Written by||Richard Brooks|
|Edited by||Henry Berman|
The film won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Ed Begley), and was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Geraldine Page) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Shirley Knight). The film version was sanitized, with Chance becoming a drifter rather than a gigolo for hire, and no mention of Heavenly Finley's operation and resulting infertility. The ending was also heavily altered from the explicit sexual mutilation scene depicted in the conclusion of the original stage version.
Handsome, young Chance Wayne returns to his hometown of St. Cloud, Florida, accompanied by a considerably older film star, Alexandra Del Lago. She is needy and depressed, particularly about a film she has just finished making, and speaks of retiring from the acting world forever.
Chance had gone to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune at the behest of St. Cloud's most powerful and influential citizen, "Boss" Finley, either too naive or unwilling to appreciate that Finley merely wants Chance, a waiter from the country club, to keep away from his beautiful daughter, Heavenly.
A political kingpin, Finley enjoys putting Heavenly on display as a model of purity and chastity. His ruthless son, Tom Jr., aids his father's ambitions in any way he can. He, too, is unhappy to have Chance Wayne back in town.
Desperate to have Alexandra further his fantasy of becoming a star, Chance has become her lover. He goes so far as to blackmail her with a tape recording, on which she speaks openly of a dependence on drugs. Alexandra defies him, becoming irate at the realization that Chance's romantic interests in Heavenly are more important to him than her own needs.
Just when Alexandra is at her most vulnerable, a call comes from Hollywood to notify her that the new movie she's just made appears to be a certain success, reviving her career. In a scene with Finley, Chance is shown being muscled off the screen by Finley's henchmen for purposes of either being roughed up or castrated. Meanwhile, Finley's discarded mistress, Miss Lucy, exposes Finley's underhanded tactics to the government authorities. Chance, with nowhere else to turn and still on his own two feet, persuades Heavenly to leave town with him. Able now to face the truth about himself, Chance and Heavenly reconcile and leave town together, leaving her father to face indictment.
- Paul Newman as Chance Wayne
- Geraldine Page as Alexandra Del Lago
- Shirley Knight as Heavenly Finley
- Ed Begley as Tom Boss Finley
- Rip Torn as Thomas "Tom" J. Finley, Jr.
- Mildred Dunnock as Aunt Nonnie
- Madeleine Sherwood as Miss Lucy
- Philip Abbott as Dr. George Scudder
- Corey Allen as Scotty
- Barry Cahill as Bud
- Dub Taylor as Dan Hatcher
- James Douglas as Leroy
- Barry Atwater as Ben Jackson
- Charles Arnt as Mayor Henricks
- Kelly Thordsen as Sheriff Clark
- William Forrest as Bennie Taubman
- Roy Glenn as Charles
- Les Tremayne as Trailer Narrator (voice)
The film was adapted and directed by Richard Brooks. The adaptation of the original play by Tennessee Williams went through several drafts with emphasis on how to film the controversial ending in which Williams had originally called for the castration of Chance's character as portrayed by Newman. The depiction of an actually depicted castration was left out of the film and filmed as an ambiguous portrayal of Chance being muscled off the screen by Finley's henchmen for purposes of either being roughed up or castrated as originally written into the play. The roughhouse implied to take place off-screen was further offset in the film itself by a closing scene depicting an ambulatory portrayal of Chance on his feet and preparing to leave town apparently not scarred in any appreciable way by the scene near the end of the film depicting Finley's henchmen taking bodily control of Chance.
The film was a hit, making almost $8,000,000 on a $2,000,000 budget.
- Variety film review; February 28, 1962, page 6.
- Harrison's Reports film review; March 10, 1962, page 34.
- OCLC 317647354
- TCM film review of Sweet Bird of Youth. .
- "Tragic play ending transformed into happier film version in "Sweet Bird of Youth"". sites.utexas.edu.
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.