The only son of wealthy widow Violet Venable dies while on vacation with his cousin Catherine. What the girl saw was so horrible that she went insane; now Mrs. Venable wants Catherine lobotomized to cover up the truth.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
The venomous and amoral wife of a wealthy architect tries, any way she can, to break up the blossoming romance between her husband and his new mistress; a good-natured young widow who holds a dark past.
Brian G. Hutton
Spoiled heiress Louise Durant decides to leave the comfort of her father's estate in southern France to study piano at the Music Conservatory in Zurich, despite she knowing she not having ... See full summary »
Twenty-something Laura Reynolds is a free spirit who questions social conventions, laws and regulations. A struggling artist, she lives in a secluded beach-side cabin in Big Sur with her nine year old illegitimate son, Danny, on who she has instilled her values. Because of this questioning of convention, Laura has decided to home school Danny. Also because of this questioning of the law, Danny runs into some legal problems, and as such is court ordered to be sent to San Simeon, a Christian school in Monterey. This order is against Laura's wishes. The school's headmaster is Dr. Rev. Edward Hewitt, who tries to convince Laura that San Simeon is not the prison she probably believes it to be. Married for twenty-one years to his faithful wife Claire, Edward has become more a fund-raiser at all cost (for a new chapel) rather than an educator or priest. Despite their differences, Laura and Edward begin to fall for each other. Both but especially Edward have to reconcile their feelings for ...Written by
Script was originally envisioned as a Kim Novak vehicle, until she had a falling out with the producer. See more »
Claire Hewitt, talking to her husband about Danny, says, "He was reciting the Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in Old English." The language Chaucer wrote in, and that the boy recites in, is Middle English, not Old English. See more »
[Noting how Dr. Edward Hewitt has bought one of Laura's paintings, more or less out of sympathy]
Look, baby, with a parson and a preacher for a patron, you've got it made. Just think of all those Renaissance cats.
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The story in this film is worth telling, but the script seems to take forever to tell it. Lots of explanatory dialogue bogs the film down, and there's really only enough story for maybe a one-hour television drama. One good aspect of it is it would be very easy to make this a one-sided film in which the Big Bad Headmaster (with a Soft Spot) takes away the child of sweet, free-spirited Elizabeth, but Taylor and Burton play their characters in ways that we could sympathize with either of them--or not.
Unfortunately, "or not" is a very distinct possibility. First of all, the boy in question does not exude a persona that's engaging in any way. (And what he does in his first scene certainly does not endear him to the audience.) And secondly, there's nothing really compelling enough about any of the other characters either. (Eva Marie Saint's character would be a possible exception if she had more screen time.) They're just varying degrees of liberal and conservative clichés.
While Vincente Minnelli was really incapable of making a truly awful film, given his talent--and the talent we would see in Taylor and Burton the following year in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?--this can't be seen as anything but a disappointment. But it's not a total failure either. If you're initially interested, Maybe you'll stay with it. If not, you'll be totally bored.
Note: This film gave us the Oscar-winning song, "The Shadow of Your Smile." But none of the characters smile much, so it makes little to no sense when the Studio Singers perform it over the end credits. But it works as a score.
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