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The Long Hot Summer

The Long Hot Summer

By Patrick Samuel • May 7th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
20th Century Fox

Original release: April 3rd, 1958
Running time: 115 minutes

Director: Martin Ritt
Writers: William Faulkner, Irving Ravetch, Harriet Frank, Jr.

Cast: Paul Newman, Orson Welles, Joanne Woodward, Anthony Franciosa, Lee Remick, Angela Lansbury

The Long Hot Summer

If, like me, you grew up watching movies starring James Dean, Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift, then you’ll no doubt know Paul Newman – and what he shared in common with them. Newman was also a student of Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio and studied the Stanislavski method of acting which allowed him to fine tune his skills and create memorable characters both on screen and on the stage.

While the aforementioned actors all brought an intensity to their roles, taking on brooding and troubled characters, Newman was somewhat different. There was still something dangerous about him, but there was a different kind of magnetism in his screen presence; something that made him fun to watch and look easy to be around.

The Long Hot Summer was the first of his films I saw, and it was back in the early 90’s when I just learning about him. Based on the novel The Hamlet by William Faulkner, it’s a brooding screen adaptation that also stars Joanne Woodward in their first of many films together. Newman plays Ben Quick, a rancher who moves to Frenchman’s Bend in Mississippi after being run out of his previous town when he was accused of being a “barn burner”, something which seems to happen wherever goes.

Once in Frenchman’s Bend he gets tangled up in the lives of wealthy landowner Will Varner (Orson Welles) and his daughter Clara (Woodward). Varner is disappointed with his own lazy free-loading son, (Anthony Franciosa) and worried he’ll inherit and squander his estate, the only way to prevent that from happening is to make sure Clara is married off to someone manlier and more ambitious.

It’s a good plan, but Clare dislikes Ben and Jody doesn’t take too kindly to the stranger moving into his home and working his way into his father’s affections. It’s only a matter of time before all these tensions reach boiling point during the long hot summer.

The Long Hot Summer

It hangs thick in the air in this Faulkner story and all the ingredients are there for a great southern fried melodrama. Orson Wells’ performance is the glue that holds the story together, and there are some great scenes with him and Angela Lansbury, but our eyes remain on Newman the whole time.

He exudes all the machismo needed to make Claire weak at the knees, despite her professing her love for books; deep down she can’t resist the blue-eyed bad boy. And Ben Quick is a bad boy; a man only has to look at him the wrong way and his barn goes up in flames.

In The Long Hot Summer we really begin to see something of the actor that would make him a superstar, and not just his good looks. Newman’s scenes with Woodward show a genuine spark, while at the same time remaining tender as their real-life romance blossomed.

With its southern charm and burning tension, The Long Hot Summer remains a memorable piece of cinema history. Anyone wanting to know what made Newman so appealing would do well to start here, if not with Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956).

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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