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Baby Doll (1956)

Cast: Karl Malden, Karl Malden, Carroll Baker, more...
Director: Elia Kazan, Elia Kazan
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Warner Home Video
Genre: Classics, Cult, Classic Comedy, Classic Drama
Running Time: 114 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
    see additional details...

Tennessee Williams' 27 Wagons Full of Cotton was the basis for this steamy sex seriocomedy. Karl Malden stars as the doltish owner of a Southern cotton gin. He is married to luscious teenager Carroll Baker, who steadfastly refuses to sleep with her husband until she reaches the age of 20. Her nickname is "Baby Doll", a cognomen she does her best to live up to by lying in a crib-like bed and sucking her thumb. Enter crafty Sicilian Eli Wallach (who like supporting actor Rip Torn makes his film debut herein), who covets both Malden's wife and business. Malden's jealously sets fire to Wallach's business, compelling Wallach to try to claim Baby Doll as "compensation." Heavily admonished for its supposed filthiness in 1956 (it was condemned by the Legion of Decency, which did more harm to the Legion than to the film), Baby Doll seems a model of decorum today--so much so that it is regularly shown on the straight-laced American Movie Classics cable service. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Please Note: This title is also available in

  • Tennesse Williams Film Collection

  • GreenCine Member Reviews

    Nearly Unwatchable by notrust August 27, 2006 - 2:04 PM PDT
    2 out of 10 members found this review helpful
    First, a couple of biases of mine should be explained. I don't go to stage plays, so I still get Tennessee Williams and Tennessee Ernie Ford confused sometimes. And I stay away from movies with scenes of people arguing endlessly for no good reason. And finally, I usually find fake accents annoying, especially when they are badly done southern drawls that seem to fade in and out. An of this example would be the TV series "In the Heat of the Night". Every New York or California actor seems to think they can just add a little twang to their voice and become a convincing southerner.

    The film is a kind of stagey, black and white, 1950's "sex comedy" about a 40-ish man (Karl Malden) who wants his teenage wife (Carrol Baker) to sleep with him, but she won't. Malden later burns down a competitor's (Eli Wallach) cotton gin. The Wallach character then steals Malden's wife's affections as well as his cotton gin as payback. That's the entire plot. There is nothing but arguing going on during the other 95% of the movie. Endless arguments to me are a sure sign that the writer has run out of ideas. I admit that I had to turn the sound off about 30 minutes into the movie and just watch the captions because the phony southern accents were sooooo annoying, especially during the extended argument scenes.

    I thought the actors were all extremely unappealing, especially the lead Baby Doll character. What a car wreck! The audience is supposed to like her, but I have no idea why, except possibly pity or lust. She is apparently irresistable to the local men, because when she goes out in public, there are always shots of drooling slack jawed yokels watching her. I guess this is so the audience will know she's really sexy, in case they hadn't yet noticed.

    The humor was flatter than a 50 year old can of beer. An aunt living with the couple screams when the phone rings because she's afraid of it. Black cotton gin workers sit around in he shade and laugh hysterically at the main characters during their endless arguments. I guess this is so the audience will know the argument is funny, in case they hadn't yet noticed. The house falls apart from time to time. And there are some old hound dogs who follow the actors around while they argue with each other, but unfortunately the dogs are usually the most interesting thing on the screen.

    Watching the extra features on the disc, it appears that this movie was very controversial in 1956 when released, and was pulled from distribution due to its "pornographic" content. However, all this controversy did nothing to improve the quality of the movie. 50 years later it still lacks any serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. I found the film is patently offensive due to its flaccid 1950's style sexual pandering, unappealing characters, endless arguing, dated humor, and really annoying phony southern accents.

    GreenCine Member Rating

    (Average 7.10)
    29 Votes
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