The Fugitive Kind (1960)

119 mins | Melodrama | May 1960

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HISTORY

The film's working title was Orpheus Descending . The opening credits read "Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani and Joanne Woodward in "Tennessee Williams' The Fugitive Kind ." The names of Brando, Magnani, Woodward, Williams and the title are listed on separate title cards. Although the onscreen credits list only the play Orpheus Descending as the basis of The Fugitive Kind , that play was based on Battle of Angels , the first Williams play to be staged professionally. Williams wrote Battle of Angles in 1939, but after an unsuccessful run, rewrote it and retitled it Orpheus Descending . That production opened on Broadway on 21 Mar 1957, produced by Robert Whitehead for the Producers Theatre. Although Williams had earlier written a play entitled The Fugitive Kind , which was produced by a St. Louis theater group in 1937, that play is unrelated to the film.
       According to an Aug 1960 LAMirror news item, Williams had originally wanted to cast Brando and Magnani in the Broadway version of Orpheus Descending , and press materials note that he wrote the film’s screenplay with the two actors in mind. Both had appeared in earlier film adaptations of his plays; Brando rose to fame in the Broadway and film versions of Williams’ drama A Streetcar Named Desire , and Magnani starred in The Rose Tattoo in 1955 (see below for both). Williams also had written The Rose Tattoo specifically for Magnani, and although she was not in the stage production, she won her only Academy Award for her performance in the film version. ... More Less

The film's working title was Orpheus Descending . The opening credits read "Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani and Joanne Woodward in "Tennessee Williams' The Fugitive Kind ." The names of Brando, Magnani, Woodward, Williams and the title are listed on separate title cards. Although the onscreen credits list only the play Orpheus Descending as the basis of The Fugitive Kind , that play was based on Battle of Angels , the first Williams play to be staged professionally. Williams wrote Battle of Angles in 1939, but after an unsuccessful run, rewrote it and retitled it Orpheus Descending . That production opened on Broadway on 21 Mar 1957, produced by Robert Whitehead for the Producers Theatre. Although Williams had earlier written a play entitled The Fugitive Kind , which was produced by a St. Louis theater group in 1937, that play is unrelated to the film.
       According to an Aug 1960 LAMirror news item, Williams had originally wanted to cast Brando and Magnani in the Broadway version of Orpheus Descending , and press materials note that he wrote the film’s screenplay with the two actors in mind. Both had appeared in earlier film adaptations of his plays; Brando rose to fame in the Broadway and film versions of Williams’ drama A Streetcar Named Desire , and Magnani starred in The Rose Tattoo in 1955 (see below for both). Williams also had written The Rose Tattoo specifically for Magnani, and although she was not in the stage production, she won her only Academy Award for her performance in the film version. Producer Martin Jurow had been Magnani’s agent.
       In Jun 1958, DV announced that Anthony Franciosa would play “Valentine ‘Snakeskin’ Xavier.” According to a 27 Feb 1959 HR news item, Carroll Baker was being considered to play "Carol Cutrere" and Lloyd Nolan was in negotiations for a role. Despite the early preparations for the film, principal photography was delayed, as noted in a May 1960 LAEx article, because of Williams’ poor box-office record, Woodward’s pregnancy and Brando’s schedule on One-Eyed Jacks . A Mar 1959 news item in HR stated that the original start date for the production would be pushed back to Jun to accommodate Brando's schedule on One-Eyed Jacks (1961; see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ), which marked the actor’s directorial debut. Woodward, who was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox for the production, gave birth in Apr 1959.
       Press materials affirm that The Fugitive Kind was shot in the town of Milton, NY and at Gold Medal Studios in the Bronx. A May 1959 NYT article noted that the producers wanted to shoot the film in Mississippi, where the story is set, but shooting closer to the Bronx studio saved the production $50,000. That article estimated the film’s budget at $2,000,000, and a Jul 1959 Var article noted that the actors’ salaries accounted for $1,000,000 of that. Modern sources, however, report that Brando alone earned $1,000,000 for his performance. Brando also received remuneration because his personal production company, Pennebaker, co-produced the film. (Pennebaker was at the time experiencing financial problems, and modern sources state that        The Fugitive Kind helped return the company to solvency.)
       As noted in the Filmfacts review, Maureen Stapleton, who plays "Vee Talbott" in the film, played "Lady Torrance" in the Broadway version of the play. R. G. Armstrong, Virgilia Chew and Janice Mars reprised their Broadway roles for the film. 1959 HR news items add dialogue supervisor Jud Taylor to the cast and state that producer Jurow had a one-line scene in the film, but their appearance in the final picture has not been confirmed.
       An Aug 1960 LAMirror article reported on tension between Brando and Magnani, noting that her accent and his customary mumbling compromised their ability to communicate. Modern sources state that Brando antagonized his co-star during filming and deliberately slurred his words to unnerve her. The original running time of The Fugitive Kind was 135 minutes, which is the time listed in some contemporary reviews, but modern sources state that poor previews led director Sidney Lumet to recut the film, to its official release length of 119 minutes. Modern sources report that many of the edits addressed Magnani's pronunciation, and that in one entire scene her voice was re-dubbed. As noted in an 8 Dec 1959 HR news item, United Artists wanted to open the film on 24 Dec 1959 so it would be eligible for that year’s Academy Awards, but the re-edits caused the release to be pushed back until May 1960.
       Publicity for the film touted the fact that it starred three previous Oscar winners, Brando, Magnani and Woodward. The scene in which Carol attempts to perform oral sex on Val was represented in advertisements with an image of Woodward kneeling in front of Brando. In response to the scene, the Var reviewer commented that the film "reaches a new low in suggestive animalism." Although reviews for The Fugitive Kind were mixed, the performances were universally lauded. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Jun 60
pp. 354-55, 379-80, 382.
Beverly Hills Citizen
4 Apr 1960.
---
Box Office
18 Apr 1960.
---
Box Office
2 May 1960.
---
Daily Variety
26 Jun 1958.
---
Daily Variety
8 Dec 1959.
---
Film Daily
13 Apr 60
p. 7.
Filmfacts
13 May 1960
pp. 85-87.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Feb 1959
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Mar 1959
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 1959
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 1959
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 1959
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 1959
p. 1, 7.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Aug 1959
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Aug 1959
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Sep 1959
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 1959
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 1959
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 1959
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Dec 1959
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Apr 1960
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jul 1960
p. 2.
Los Angeles Examiner
1 May 1960
pp. 9-10.
Los Angeles Mirror
12 Aug 1960.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 Apr 60
p. 660.
New York Times
13 May 1959.
---
New York Times
5 Jul 1959.
---
New York Times
15 Apr 60
p. 13.
Variety
22 Jul 1959
p. 1, 8.
Variety
13 Apr 60
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Head gaffer
Head grip
Asst cam
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Dial supv
Dial supv
Scr supv
Prod coord
Prod secy
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Orpheus Descending by Tennessee Williams, as presented on Broadway by Robert Whitehead for Producers Theatre, Inc. (New York, 21 Mar 1957).
SONGS
"Blanket Roll Blues," words by Tennessee Williams, music by Kenyon Hopkins.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Orpheus Descending
Tennessee Williams' The Fugitive Kind
Release Date:
May 1960
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 14 April 1960
Production Date:
mid June--4 September 1959 at Gold Medal Studios, Bronx, NY
Copyright Claimant:
Jurow-Shepherd-Pennebaker Productions
Copyright Date:
14 April 1960
Copyright Number:
LP16372
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
119
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19468
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In New Orleans, musician Valentine “Snakeskin” Xavier, so called because of his trademark snakeskin jacket, explains to a judge that he started a brawl because “my life was something sick in my stomach, so I threw it up.” The judge agrees to let him off as long as he leaves the city, so Val takes his beloved guitar and drives east until his truck dies in a small Mississippi town. He seeks shelter at the first illuminated house, where amateur artist Vee Talbot awaits her husband, Sheriff Jordan Talbot, who is chasing down a boy who escaped their jail when Vee left the door ajar. When they hear gunshots in the distance, Vee, realizing the boy has been killed, cries. Impressed with her kindness, Val comforts her and admires her paintings. Learning that he hopes to leave his wild past behind him, Vee suggests that he ask for a job at Jabe Torrance’s mercantile store. Jabe, who has terminal cancer, is just returning from the hospital, and he and his wife Lady, who live above the store, will need a salesman. Jordan then returns with his deputies, and after ignoring Val, berates Vee for her carelessness. The next day, Vee brings Val to the Torrances’ store, and while he awaits the arrival of Lady and Jabe from the hospital, Carol Cutrere, the daughter of a wealthy local family, recognizes Val and enters the store. Carol is disheveled and unruly, and when Val claims not to know her, she announces that he served as her “entertainment” at a New Orleans party, after which he stole her cousin’s watch. Just then, Jabe returns, and while the townspeople welcome him boisterously, ... +


In New Orleans, musician Valentine “Snakeskin” Xavier, so called because of his trademark snakeskin jacket, explains to a judge that he started a brawl because “my life was something sick in my stomach, so I threw it up.” The judge agrees to let him off as long as he leaves the city, so Val takes his beloved guitar and drives east until his truck dies in a small Mississippi town. He seeks shelter at the first illuminated house, where amateur artist Vee Talbot awaits her husband, Sheriff Jordan Talbot, who is chasing down a boy who escaped their jail when Vee left the door ajar. When they hear gunshots in the distance, Vee, realizing the boy has been killed, cries. Impressed with her kindness, Val comforts her and admires her paintings. Learning that he hopes to leave his wild past behind him, Vee suggests that he ask for a job at Jabe Torrance’s mercantile store. Jabe, who has terminal cancer, is just returning from the hospital, and he and his wife Lady, who live above the store, will need a salesman. Jordan then returns with his deputies, and after ignoring Val, berates Vee for her carelessness. The next day, Vee brings Val to the Torrances’ store, and while he awaits the arrival of Lady and Jabe from the hospital, Carol Cutrere, the daughter of a wealthy local family, recognizes Val and enters the store. Carol is disheveled and unruly, and when Val claims not to know her, she announces that he served as her “entertainment” at a New Orleans party, after which he stole her cousin’s watch. Just then, Jabe returns, and while the townspeople welcome him boisterously, Lady stands aside quietly, exhausted by his cruel domination. Noting how the others despise Carol, Val agrees to leave with her and accompanies her to a nearby “juke joint.” There, however, Carol's brother David is drinking, and when the proprietor tries to throw Carol out for past indiscretions, she lewdly flirts with the men until David slaps her. Val ushers her out, and in the car asks her why she is so out of control. She answers that she is an exhibitionist who needs to be “noticed and seen and heard and felt.” Carol takes Val to a cemetery, but when she tries to perform oral sex, he pushes her away and insists she drop him at the store. Inside, he overhears Lady on the phone demanding sleeping pills from the druggist and then whispering that she wishes she were dead. Val introduces himself and explains that he left with Carol in order to help her, but returned after realizing that she considered him a “stud” for hire. Equally drawn to and suspicious of Val’s good looks and charm, Lady is intrigued by his description of people as either buyer, those who are bought, or those who belong nowhere, whom he likens to a legless bird that must spend its whole life in the air. Warming to him, Lady shows him the back lot that she plans to transform into a confectionary. When they are interrupted by Jabe, pounding his cane to summon her, Lady offers Val the job, warning that he holds no interest for her. Two weeks later, Lady is annoyed by the women who frequent the store, hoping for Val’s attentions. After Jabe treats Lady with customary contempt, she lashes out at Val, to whom she is attracted. Soon after, Carol causes a commotion in the gas station next door, and when the owner slaps her, Val drags her away, bleeding. She informs him that she rushed back to town from New Orleans that morning to find him, and when Lady refuses to allow her into the store, Carol takes Val in the back and tells him she loves him. She warns him that the town will destroy him, but he calls her a little bird and tells her to fly away. David has been summoned to collect Carol, and when he enters the store looking for her, Lady confronts him, revealing that their affair years earlier led to a pregnancy. After he left her and she lost the baby, she continues, she “sold” herself to Jabe. David tries to apologize for leaving her, but she screams and he leaves with Carol. Later, Vee and Jordan arrive, and Vee is mesmerized by Val’s description of the creative process, which he says the two share. Spurred on by Jordan, Jabe demands that Val come upstairs, and there sadistically derides Val and Lady, whom he suspects of having an affair. Lady asks Val to accompany her to the site of her father’s wine garden, which was burned down years ago after her father sold liquor to blacks. She explains tearfully that when her father tried to extinguish the fire, he was burned alive. They are interrupted by Jordan, who has come to check up on them. Back at the store, Lady offers to let Val sleep in the back room. Later that night, he steals money from the till and drinks, carouses and gambles until he has doubled the cache. He then returns to the store to inform Lady he is leaving, and when she tells him she is disappointed in him, he drags her into the back room, slaps her and reveals he knows she set up the room just for him, hoping to seduce him. Although he assumes she is interested only in having sex with him, Lady has fallen in love with Val, and when he realizes her sincerity, he takes her to bed. Over the next weeks their love deepens as they build the confectionary together, decorating the lovely structure with tinsel, bells and lights. On opening night, Lady has planned a gala celebration, which is marred by the appearance of Jabe. Upon seeing her creation for the first time, he explodes in disgust and declares that he helped burn down her father’s wine garden. Upon mounting the stairs, Jabe suffers a hemorrhage and falls. Later, Val sees Vee staggering in the street, but when he tries to help her, Jordan corners him and warns him to leave town by morning. Soon after, Carol approaches Lady in the store and, within Val’s hearing, announces that David has offered to support her financially as long as she leaves the state. She invites Val to come with her, and although he refuses, he tells Lady he must leave, and she assumes he plans to join Carol. He asks her to accompany him, but Lady, bent on revenge, insists that she must open the confectionary because she “will not be defeated again.” When she grabs Val’s guitar to force him to stay, he slaps her, but then they embrace. Jabe’s nurse spots them and tells Lady with disgust that she can tell she is pregnant, and Lady dances with joy. Upstairs, however, Jabe sets the confectionary roof on fire and calls the sheriff to place the blame on Val. When Lady goes after Jabe, he shoots her. As she dies, Jordan leads his men in leveling the water gushing from the fire hoses against Val, until they drive him backward into the burning confectionary. The next morning, Carol surveys the wreckage, cradling Val’s snakeskin jacket. “Wild things leave their skins behind them so the fugitive kind can follow their kind,” she says, before driving away. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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