The Fugitive Kind
Rugged, sad-eyed drifter Val “Snakeskin” Xavier (Marlon Brando) arrives in a small Southern town on his 30th birthday, guitar in hand. Willy-nilly, every woman he encounters falls for the newcomer, causing a ripple effect throughout the town that brings some explosive issues to the surface. Much as it might sound like the plot outline for a tawdry romance novel, director Sidney Lumet’s 1959 film The Fugitive Kind is actually based on Tennessee Williams’ play Orpheus Descending, its script (co-written by Williams) taking us into some grim psychological territory. Idiosyncratic interpretations by Brando, Joanne Woodward (as juke joint-addicted hellcat Carol Cutrere), and Italian star Anna Magnani (defiantly out of place as shopkeeper Lady Torrance) hold our interest, but overall this film provides too much talk and too little grit, starting and ending strong but suffering from snoozy stretches and tonal inconsistencies in between. It feels like a dry run for Lumet’s on-point 1962 Eugene O’Neill adaptation Long Day’s Journey Into Night, the film that began a staggering 15-year stretch of classics (Network, Dog Day Afternoon) and sleepers (The Pawnbroker, The Hill), but it’s not just relative to such successes that The Fugitive Kind feels like a flawed and minor piece.