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Baby Doll (1956);
God's Little Acre (1958)

Baby Doll (1956)
July 21, 2006 - 7:30 pm

Preservation funded by The Film Foundation

Baby Doll (1956)

Directed by Elia Kazan

The script for Baby Doll was created from two of Tennessee Williams' short works, "27 Wagons Full of Cotton" and "The Unsatisfactory Supper." Elia Kazan recalled that Williams was lukewarm about the project until he saw Carroll Baker—a stunning young actress from the Actors Studio—read for the part (Baker claimed that Williams initially wanted Marilyn Monroe for the role).

The story centers on Archie Lee Meighan (Karl Malden), the middle-aged owner of a dilapidated cotton gin, and his young bride, Baby Doll, whose dying father consented to the marriage with the provision that Archie Lee not deflower the girl until she reaches the age of 20, and that he adequately provide for her. But on the eve of her 20th birthday, repo men appear at the crumbling Meighan mansion to dispossess Archie Lee of his furniture, dashing his hopes of consummating the marriage. In a desperate act he burns down the gin of his enterprising competitor, Silva Vacarro (Eli Wallach). As retaliation, the smooth-talking Vacarro engages Baby Doll in a tense game of manipulation and seduction.

Baby Doll was virulently attacked by both the Catholic Church's Legion of Decency and by some critics: Time magazine called it "just possibly the dirtiest American-made motion picture that has ever been legally exhibited." The risque publicity campaign, which included a block-long billboard in Times Square featuring Baker spilling out of a crib while sucking her thumb, added to the frenzy.

—Mimi Brody

Warner Bros. Based on the plays "27 Wagons Full of Cotton" and "The Unsatisfactory Supper" by Tennessee Williams. Screenwriter: Tennessee Williams. Cinematographer: Boris Kaufman. Editor: Gene Milford. Cast: Karl Malden, Carroll Baker, Eli Wallach, Mildred Dunnock.

35mm, 114 min.

Preserved in cooperation with Warner Bros. from the 35mm acetate original picture and soundtrack negatives and from 35mm acetate fine grain master positive materials.

Laboratory services by YCM Laboratories, Audio Mechanics, Chace Audio, OJ Audio.

Special thanks to: Mrs. Elia Kazan, Ned Price, Bill Rush.

Preceded by:

Baby Doll—Publicity Film (1956)

35mm, 2 min.

Laboratory services by YCM Laboratories.

Special thanks to: Ned Price, Warner Bros. 

Preservation funded by The Packard Humanities Institute

God's Little Acre (1958)

Directed by Anthony Mann

Author Erskine Caldwell's second novel, "God's Little Acre," sparked a firestorm of controversy in 1933 for its earthy, overheated depiction of life and love among poor Southern sharecroppers that was still blazing in 1957, when Georgia refused to allow director Anthony Mann to film the screen adaptation in the state. A decided departure from Mann's typically austere oeuvre, the film sings with Caldwell's distinctive brand of social realism, a ribald blend of political, sexual and social themes that casts a sharp, knowing eye on the hypocrisies and hardships of Southern customs and culture.

Robert Ryan stars as Ty Ty, the eccentric patriarch of the Walden clan who has forsaken farming in favor of spending the last 15 years obsessively digging for gold on his hardscrabble patch of farmland. Tina Louise. making her film debut, keeps tensions and temperatures running high as Ty Ty's buxom daughter-in-law who still holds a flame for her ex-beau (Aido Ray).

The political content of Caldwell's work, however, was as liable to raise the hackles of local censors as its sexual content. Adapted by blacklisted screenwriter Ben Maddow (but credited to Philip Yordan), the film binds its bawdy love triangle to a stark portrait of a company town thrown out of work by the closing of the local cotton mill. Mann deftly captures the oppressive poverty of rural America while never losing sight of the simple faith that makes life bearable. Initially edited for release in the South, God's Little Acre is being presented here in its entirety.

—Paul Malcolm

Based on the novel by Erskine Caldwell. Producer: Sidney Harmon, Anthony Mann. Screenwriter: Philip Yordan. Cinematographer: Ernest Haller.Editor: Richard C. Meyer. Cast: Robert Ryan, Aldo Ray, Tina Louise, Buddy Hackett, Jack Lord.

35mm, 120 min.

Preserved from the 35mm acetate original camera negative and a 35mm acetate fine grain master positive.

Laboratory services by Cinetech Laboratory.

Special thanks to David Cetra. Sean Coughlin, Lisa Davidson. Joseph Olivier, TV Matters.