Edward Dmytryk’s Walk on the Wild Side (1962) At the Doll House; “When people are kind to each other why do they have to find a dirty word for it”

As part of The Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon hosted by The Girl With the White Parasol

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Barbara Stanwyck in Samuel Fuller’s Forty Guns (1957)

WALK ON THE WILD SIDE (1962)

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The Graphic Genius of Saul Bass post here:

In Edward Dmytryk’s Walk on the Wild Side Barbara Stanwyck is no ordinary ‘Jo’

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Stanwyck was the epitome of independence and determination. She had a streak of non-conformity, toughness, and resilience.

Stanwyck was born Ruby Stevens in Brooklyn, July 16th 1907. A New Yorker like me and a fellow Cancerian. Her mother died and her father disappeared when she was 4, leaving her and her brother in the care of her older sister Mildred and foster homes where she’d often run away. At age 9 Ruby toured with her dancer sister, a John Cort Showgirl practicing the routines back stage. Watching her idol Pearl White on the big screen inspired her to go into showbiz. She quitt school at age 14, followed her sister’s lead and became a Ziegfeld Follies girl.

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Ziegfeld Girl 1924 Barbara Stanwyck

In 1929 Stanwyck had the lead in the road company production of the Broadway hit ‘Burlesque’ which was a hit in theater. She shared the stage with Mary Tomlinson, a clergyman’s daughter who most likely ran away from home because she was a lesbian. Mary changed her name to Marjorie Main and become the quick talkin’ ‘Ma’ in the raucous Ma and Pa Kettle series from ’49-’57.

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Marjorie Main as the unflappable Ma Kettle

One of her good friends during those years was pianist Oscar Levant who said Stanwyck was “wary of sophisticates and phonies.”

Ruby became Barbara Stanwyck at age 19 while she had the lead in ‘The Noose’ on Broadway. At 21 she was introduce by Levant to Frank Fay star of Vaudeville and ten years older than she, a closet homosexual, alcoholic and abusive husband. They married and moved to Hollywood in 1929 when Stanwyck was on her way to becoming a star of the silver screen. They used her money and bought a mansion in Brentwood. That’s how she and Joan Crawford (married to Franchot Tone at the time) became neighbors and close friends.

At first Stanwyck starred in a few B movies but began getting attention for her roles in Ladies of Leisure30, Illicit ’31, Night Nurse ’31, and Miracle Woman ’31.

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Stanwyck in Illicit 1931

While working with Frank Capra on Ladies of Leisure he taught her that much of acting was conveyed with the eyes, and that unless the audience was drawn in, the dialogue didn’t matter. This was her breakthrough movie. Edward Bernds who worked with Capra said “That first take with Stanwyck was sacred.”

Stanwyck’s first Academy Award nomination was for the down trodden mother Stella Dallas ’37 where her old friend Marjorie Main played her mother-in-law.

Three nominations followed for Ball of Fire ’42 with Gary Cooper, Double Indemnity ’44, and Sorry Wrong Number ’48 with Burt Lancaster. Stanwyck was now on her second marriage to another gay man, the handsome Robert Taylor. Their ’39 marriage was arranged by the studio. The couple had separate bedrooms.

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Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor on the cover of Movie Life

Stanwyck had a life-long relationship with her publicist Helen Ferguson. In ’35 she played the rugged farm girl living in a man’s world– Annie Oakley, a masculine woman who was great with a gun.

Annie Oakley

She did a slew of romantic comedies with charismatic co-stars. Twice with Henry Fonda in the screw ball The Mad Miss Manton ’38, and Preston SturgesThe Lady Eve ’41. Remember The Night ’40 opposite Fred MacMurray was her first film with costume designer Edith Head.

Some of my favorite films of her’s were: playing opposite co-star William Holden in Rouben Mamoulian’s Golden Boy ’39. Then Meet John Doe 1941, Lady of Burlesque, and the immortal femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson in 1944 Double Indemnity, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers ’46, The Two Mrs. Carrolls ’47, Cry Wolf ’47, B. F.’s Daughter ’48, Sorry, Wrong Number ’48, in 1950 The File on Thelma Jordan, No Man of Her Own  & The Furies. Fritz Lang’s tumultuous Mae Doyle opposite Robert Ryan in Clash By Night ’52, Witness to Murder ’56, There’s Always Tomorrow ’56, Crime of Passion ’57 & Forty Guns ’57.

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Phyllis Dietrichson is brought to life by Barbara Stanwyck in the noir staple Double Indemnity ’44
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Stanwyck and MacMurray Double Indemnity ’44
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Stanwyck and Wendell Corey in The File on Thelma Jordan 1950

Clifton Webb who co-starred in Titanic 53 called her his “Favorite Hollywood Lesbian.” It’s pretty significant that Barbara had finally played her one and only screen lesbian in Walk on the Wild Side ’62. Barbara Stanwyck’s sexual orientation has been called ‘the best kept secret in the movies’ by Axel Madsen who wrote the very engaging The Sewing Circle. It’s a hell of a read!

Three years later she created a new image for herself as the gutsy matriarch Victoria Barkley in the television western The Big Valley. Stanwyck loved her character ‘an old broad who combines elegance with guts.’ 

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Stanwyck as classy & rugged frontier woman Victoria Barkley  in 60s television show The Big Valley 1968

Walk on the Wild Side was Barbara Stanwyck’s return to the big screen since playing Cattle Queen Jessica Drummond in Sam Fuller’s sexually charged western Forty Guns 1957 which had this fantastic line, `Can I touch it?’ asks Jessica referring to Griff Bonnell’s (Barry Sullivan) gun. Griff tells her, ‘It might go off in your face’  Stanwyck was in love with the Western genre.

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Stanwyck and Sullivan Forty Guns ’57

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She was thrilled to accept a good part in a film, that of Jo Courtney the iron-willed lesbian madame of a ritzy bordello named The Doll House in New Orleans. The film still maintains that clichéd whiff of mothballs from The Celluloid Closet holding the mystique and stereotypes of homosexuals and lesbians who are all either sad souls, psychopaths, or villains. Yet Stanwyck’s Jo Courtney poured from concrete and as dangerous as a steel trap conveys a pathos transcending the caricature of a predatory lesbian. It’s probably what made her such a beloved lesbian icon. Stanwyck proved she could go head to head with any man or woman who came her way. And although she never came out of the closet she went through two marriages to gay men without a hitch of scandal.

in 1962 the film sets this lurid lesbian melodrama and peek at the underbelly of bordello life, down in the midst of the underworld revisiting the archetypes of gays being part of the illicit subculture of society. Revisiting the ‘sexual ghetto’ in quite the same way the briefly liberated films of the early Thirties depicted them. As Vito Russo says in The Celluloid Closet, “The movies simply reflected what little they could identify of a hidden world and, in both pre-Code and post-Code times saw Homosexuals solely in sexual terms because that what had always been sold.”

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For over thirty years the subject had not been talked about, so when the ban was lifted, filmmakers picked up where they had left off. The film was able to represent the whore house openly as just that, a house of prostitution.

Walk on the Wild Side is the story of a New Orleans brothel and the seductive melodrama surrounding an obsessed drifter in search of his lost love, the lugubrious courtesan who is ensnared in a tangled web of vice, decadence and the lesbian madame who desires to possess her.

The bordello is stocked with liquor, a bartender who never quits pouring, and a full jazz ensemble who play fabulous bluesy melodies that cater to their clients while the employees all seem to suffer from a collective languorous state of mind.

Languid ladies of The Doll House

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Stanwyck’s Jo Courtney villainous nature accepts her own lesbianism. Instead of killing herself like Shirley MacLaine’s Martha in The Children’s Hour ’61, Jo decides to declare her power by opening up a brothel, and selling sexuality on her own terms.

Jo lusts after and loves her object of desire Hallie, played by model actress Capucine. But the love that dare not speak it’s name finds itself disrupted once smooth talking Texas farmer Dove Linkhorn (Laurence Harvey) comes looking for Hallie. Three years prior Hallie and Dove swam and kissed each other and danced themselves silly til Dove was hopelessly hooked on the lovely divinity that he refers to as his ‘religion.’ Dove had to wait for his ailing father to die before he could come and claim his love.

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Jo bitterly resents the intrusion of Dove and feels threatened by this young buck’s presence. The camera frames his coming between Jo and Hallie

The film was not the huge success they thought it would be despite the adult themes and stellar cast. Probably because of it’s screenplay which doesn’t allow Algren’s novel to freely express it’s most provocative and sociological themes. Nelson Algren’s book focused on the seedy underbelly of the New Orleans of Depression Era 30s. Screenwriters, Fante, Morris and Hecht while synthesizing the essence of the story, their observations gloss over the grittier descriptiveness and atmosphere of Algren’s murky brothels filled with even more vile and violent pimps. A world that showcased fetishistic patrons and sullen whores who wade around in the muck hoping for a better life. While the film has a way of self-moralizing the plot to death at times, Algren’s novel did not show contempt for his prostitutes. It had a real strain of class conscious angst and didn’t sermonize about the unpalatable people who lived on the fringe of society but rather focused on those in power who exploited them. In some ways the film hones in on the story making it a more intimate venture into melodrama.

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The wayward Dove (Laurence Harvey) becomes the moral voice as he spouts bible passages about faithfulness and love while on his crusade to ‘save’ the object of his desire, a fallen woman whom he decides to ‘forgive’ for having lived a life of sin. The film does become clichéd in it’s denunciation of whores and ‘fallen women’ yet it allows us inside the Doll House close enough to clutch at the girl’s lazy alluring lifestyle, simultaneously censuring them.

Laurence Harvey stated in the New York Herald Tribute, “The compassion, the sense of personal waste that could make the film unusual and penetrating is crowded out by constant underlining and melodramatic cliches.”

The film doesn’t quite seem to attain the profoundly cerebral nor emotionally primal perspective of a Tennessee Williams story. Except for the incredible outburst and insight when Jo blasts her husband about the nature of real love.

Stanwyck had said, “Always thought it could have been a damn good movie, but it just didn’t work out.”

Stanwyck’s fellow actors had the utmost admiration for her and her working professionalism. Ann Baxter said “I had unburdened to Barbara, she’s that kind of person. You feel that you can trust her.”

Laurence Harvey who was said to have a huge ego spoke in glowing terms, “Miss Stanwyck is one of the most startling and professional women I have ever worked with. She had a great air of honesty and directness about her and her relationship with cast and crew was totally unpretentious. In fact I could never quite decide which side of the camera she was working on”

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Capucine-photo-by-georges-dambier-1952

Capucine was an incredibly elegant and beautiful woman who had been a model in Paris and was herself a lesbian. There are rumors that she was actually a transsexual but that was never substantiated. She went on to act opposite Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther ’64 Sadly, increasingly isolated later on, she took her own life by jumping off the balcony of her eight floor apartment in Switzerland in 1990 at age 57. This is truly a tragic end. She died the same year as Barbara Stanwyck.

Laurence Harvey did not get along with either Jane Fonda or Capucine. The actors were arguing for supremacy over their scripts during retakes. Barbara Stanwyck was unhappy when they cut her best scene on the last day of shooting. Capucine’s friend, producer Charlie Feldman asked for nine days of retakes to try and improve the part of Capucine‘s Hallie.

Harvey was antagonistic toward Capucine’s performance in the film. Referring to one of her key scenes that was taking too long to shoot “You’d better shoot it in the dark!”Bitter Off Screen Feud Likely to End in Court by Sheilah Graham 

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The movie would have been rejected out right a few years earlier by the Code enforcement officials, but now mainstream films like this one were somehow getting slipped through before it ultimately collapsed and the rating’s system took over.

Walk on the Wild Side is directed by Edward Dmytryk (Crossfire 1947,The Caine Mutiny 1954) with an eye on social realism, based on a novel by Nelson Algren (The Man With the Golden Arm ’55) and a screenplay by Joe Fante, Edmund Morris and an uncredited Ben Hecht. Cinematographer Joseph Macdonald (My Darling Clementine 1946, Viva Zapata! 1952 and The Sand Pebbles 1966) truly captures some captivating visual moments utilizing the French Quarter’s intricate ornamentalist Byzantine ironwork and use of shadow and light within the tortuous constructs of The Doll House. Not to mention the incredibly evocative score by the great Elmer Bernstein and the phenomenal costumes designed by Charles Le Maire.

The film co-stars Laurence Harvey (The Manchuria Candidate ’62) as love struck Texan Dove Linkhorn, Capucine as the object of Dove and Jo’s desire– Hallie Gerard. Jane Fonda as Kitty Twist, Anne Baxter as Teresina Vidaverri, Joanna Moore as the childlike Miss Precious, Richard Rust as the viciously psychopathic Oliver, Karl Swenson as Schmidt, Don ‘Red’ Barry as bartender Dockery, Juanita Moore as Mama, Ken Lynch as crook Frank Bonito and John Anderson as Preacher. There’s also Virginia Holden a prostitute and Lee Marvin is listed as ‘Slob’ and the wonderful Crahan Denton has a bit part as well.

By now, Barbara Stanwyck’s voice had grown a bit more rugged, deeper and seasoned like a fine wine, with every word rolling off her purposeful lips seeming to slide out with just a bit of salt. She looks stunning in her tailored suits and tightly coiffed hair style– a handsome woman, and I’m not being facetious.

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Laurence Harvey

I usually love Laurence Harvey’s queer intensity and his 70s sideburns…Yet somehow his being a Texan with biblical infused proportions of morality seems a little off to me. The part of the scheming and untamable Kitty Twist suits Fonda perfectly, she’s got a natural youthful sexiness that fits the role of a vagabond stray. Perhaps the best bit of casting is Joanna Moore who I adore, as Miss Precious. She was a beauty and brought a certain charm to every role she was cast in. Either on the big screen or playing Andy Griffith’s girl friend Peg or one of the women of David Janssen’s The Fugitive. Orphaned as a child, discovered by a producer at Universal, she later married Ryan O’ Neal in ’63 then divorced in ’67. She lost custody of her two kids Griffin and Tatum due to severe drug and alcohol abuse. Joanna Moore died of lung cancer in ’97 with daughter Tatum O’Neal by her side.

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Joanna Moore as girlfriend Peggy on Andy Griffith

The film showcases great character actors who satellite around Stanwyck. Anne Baxter is usually fantastic in anything she does, here she plays the passionately kind Teresina, a Mexican cafe owner who hires Dove to work for her at her Cafe/Gas Station while he searches for Hallie. Inevitably Teresina falls madly in love with him though he cannot return the feelings. Baxter’s virtuous woman is a far ways away from the cunning Eve Harrington in All About Eve ’50. While I don’t see this as Anne Baxter’s fault, her performance as Teresina does boarder on being a stereotype, but it was a time in film when it was the norm for white actors to portray other ethnicities.

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Anne Baxter as Teresina

The film opens with Saul Bass’s incredible surreal title design equating a black cat with a woman’s predatory and dangerous nature, invoking the primal sexuality and fetish of the feline and the feminine. Provocative and sensually emotive horns start blaring under Bass’ title theme as the percussion echos a seductively dynamic cadence. The low camera angle follows the cat while it slinks across the screen as the titles roll and Elmer Bernstein’s provocatively beautiful blues are sexy as hell!

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Saul Bass’ trademark was to contribute Avant-garde title sequences and symbolic posters to a timeless art form, resonant, vibrantly reverberant and memorable, even still. Symbols have been a powerful, motivating and inspiring tool as far back as the creation of Runes. One single image can evoke an entire ethos into the collective consciousness.

Elmer Bernstein’s score has prowling sexual power, decadent and forceful American jazz hints of big band meets strip tease, with the sway of an Overature to a musical. So simplistic and powerful, it goes right to the raw nerves of physical emotion just as the little black cat sleek and simple struts through the street with a regal dignity and sense of bare purpose.

Guitars strum and a drum stick lightly hits the rim of the cymbal bringing down the driving force of the horns to a more stripped down sultry rhythm. As the cadence of melodic arrangement winds down with the cat walking through obstructing stone walls, the music becomes a lilting clarinet leading the way.

Ending in a cat fight between the black cat and a white cat. No subtle symbolism here of female conflict between the trope of good vs bad. Of course it’s a cat’s nature to defend it’s territory and so this is a marvelous way to open the film and set the tone for the female confrontations that lie ahead. After the fight, a stark and pronounced cow bell clicks out the ending of the Bluesy rhythm.

Joseph MacDonald’s cinematography drops us into a tonality of gun metal gray sky and open road as the silhouette of Dove walks the long expanse of highway trying to hitch a ride.

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It’s Texas, the Early Thirties. Laurence Harvey as Dove is trying to hitch a ride on the dirt road that lies wide open. The night crickets are singing, and as dusk takes over as he fails to catch a ride. He spots some old metal drains to shelter him for the night.

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Banging on the top of the giant pipe a voice from inside calls out, “What’s that?” “Who’s that?” He answers “Who’s that?… Say get out of here, I said go on get out of here” Dove spins around to find a young woman wielding a stick at him. He says “What are you doing here?”

Kitty mocks, “My doctor recommended fresh air, what are you here for?”

“Looking for a place to sleep” Kitty tells him, “Yeah, well this room’s occupied.”

Doves says, ‘Well how bout this one next door?” She says “Ask the night clerk it don’t bother me.”

Dove asks her “What are you so mad about?” She answers “I’m cold and I’m hungry (she’s the first black feral cat) and a million miles from nowhere and in the middle of my dream, you wake me up.” She shakes her stick at him. He apologizes.

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“Hey mister you got something to eat?” He shines up an apple on his denim jacket and tosses it to her. She begins biting into it, while looking at him sidewise, chomping on her words with mashed apple in her mouth, filling her cheeks up.

“I can’t help it if I slobber mister I haven’t eaten all day” He tells her “Don’t bother me none, wish I had some more, well see ya in the morning.” 

“Hey mister… somethin’ tells me you’re new at this game… a babe in the great big woods.”

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“It’s my first night out in the world” Kitty saysYeah… you need looking after, come on to my room it’s warmer, I got the end stopped up. Besides you don’t look like someone who’d take advantage of a girl.”

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She tries to lift his wallet but he grabs her hand, as she winces let go of me, he says “Serves you right… man that sure was a dumb thing to try.”  She cries “Well I’m hungry and I been dreamin’ all night about potatoes.” “That’s still no reason.” “Yeah well what’r you gonna do to me?” “Nothing, you aint done nothing but tried. You wouldn’t a gotten much but I got the price of a couple a breakfasts if that’s all you want.”

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Kitty tells Dove “I am fed up with this great big undone hunk of State”

They jump aboard a freight train. She tells him her name is Kitty Twist. That’s what they took to calling her in the home. Any folks he asks, she has a Ma back in Kentucky but she’s probably drunk herself to death by now.

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Dove tells Kitty “Kinda bad havin’ a ma like that” She clarifies “Even if it stinks it’s home”

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They hop off the train at Beaumont. Dove goes into a general store to buy some food and Kitty gets into a tight fitting dress. When Dove comes out he looks Kitty up and down while she says, “Every part of me cried out for attention so I gave it.” “Man you sure do look different.” She laughs “Man you not only don’t talk much, you don’t say much.”

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They sit and eat the food he’s gotten at an abandoned house treasured with broken glass and rotting wood. Kitty hangs from the doorway of the dilapidated structure and mimics a train conductor ‘All aboard” clang clang. With her print dress and body language she sounds more like Tarzan with her vocalizations, evoking the wild nature that resides in her.

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They hitch a ride with a truck driver Dove asks “What’d you tell him?” “Never mind just cough once in a while and act like you’re dyin.”

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Later he tells her while they’re snuggling up to each other and Kitty tries to seduce him, “I’m resting up for New Orleans.”

“Sure I like you Kitty but I don’t feel like foolin.'” She tells hims she’ll make him feel like foolin’ but he gets angry. “When I want somethin’ I’ll ask for it.”

“Who you savin’ it for Dove… What’s her name?” “Hallie, her name’s Hallie.” “She in New Orleans?”

“Hope so, I aint seen her in three years. I’ll never forget the first time I met her we went swimming together it was at night. The way she moved in the water, like a kind of a white flash. It was then I kissed her for the very first time. She gave me something I’d never known before. Something I ain’t experienced since. Afterwards in the moonlight we danced like we were celebrating a miracle. Crazy kind of dancing we sang and shouted like it wasn’t real, as if we were in another world. Sometimes I think it never really happened to us.”

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Kitty’s eye betray her sad smile, she’s crying to herself. The feeling of longing for that kind of romance and love escapes her. For a brief moment all her wily ways seem to dissipate and she is revealed as a very lonely character. “She sounds kinda wild, like me” He tells Kitty “She aint like nobody” “You think I’m just a tramp don’t you!… I may act like one but I’m not! You just wait Dove Linkhorn one of these days you’re gonna ask me, and I’m gonna say sorry mister this seats occupied.”

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Crying she throws his cowboy hat at crying and slumps down along the slats of the rattling truck
“It’s a shame. We coulda had such a good time.”

Soon after they jump off and go in search for food but he can’t walk on an empty stomach. There’s loads of chili in New Orleans but he wants to stop into Teresina’s Cafe across the street. Kitty tells him he’s crazy, always getting hungry like he was a millionaire.

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Dove asks Teresina for two bowls of chili and coffee. She asks if he’s from Texas, and tells him she’s from Texas too. Kitty lights Dove’s cigarette and snarks “Sounds like a real old fashioned reunion.”

Kitty is possessive and jealous of Dove. Any other woman giving him attention gets her showing her claws. She tells Teresina she’d prefer good old American food any day, but if he wants that other stuff bring it for him. “Ah Chicharones and Tortillas” Teresina says with a bit of her own claws subtly extended. Kitty answers, “I hope it’s easier to eat than pronounce.”

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When Dove comes back from the wash room, he finds more food then he asked for. “What’s all this, you’ve been asking for hand outs.” Kitty says “Oh you know you can be very insulting.”

Teresina looks satisfied to see him eating her cooking. She puts a Spanish song on the juke box and Dove tells her it’s a nice song. Kitty is clearly threatened. “What part of Texas are you from… Mexico?” she’s filled with fight and combative energy.

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After they finish eating Kitty leers at Teresina counting the money from the register. Dove is impressed with her cooking, nobody makes chili like a good Texas woman. But Kitty gets annoyed that all Texas people talk about is Texas. Kitty tells him if they’re going to stay he should put another tune on the box. He looks at her curiously as she suddenly seems interested “Maybe they got Mississippi Mud.” She’s just stalling, planning on stealing Teresina’s money.

When Teresina comes back into the room, Kitty fakes having stomach cramps from the chili. Teresina offers to bring her to the back room to lye down.

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While Kitty acts like is a feral thing rifling through Teresina’s drawers, Dove goes outside to help Teresina pump gas and wash the windshield.

Teresina and Dove come in and find Kitty sitting up on the bar stool like nothing happened.

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“Hey you alright now?” Teresina is happy to see Kitty feeling better. Kitty tells Dove it’s time to go.

“I never felt better.” Then Kitty threatens to take her to the board of health, they have laws about poisoning people in public places. Dove says to her, “What are you trying’ to do Kitty?” “Don’t be dumb I oughta take her to court, I oughta sue for damages. You know legally lady you’re in trouble.” Kitty has no morals, she’s a conniving little hellion always looking to take what ever she wants.

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Teresina tells her“You recover pretty quick for somebody who was poisoned.”

“Imagine an innocent person walking in here…” Kitty doesn’t get to finish her statement as Teresina interrupts her “And of course you make your living by walking!”

“That remarks gonna cost you extra!”

“It’s on the house, now get out. I don’t like how for 85 cents you smell.”

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As soon as they leave, Teresina gets the sense that she’s been taken. She goes to her room and finds it’s been ransacked by Kitty. Luckily Kitty hasn’t found the hiding place for her cash in the brass bed knob.

Kitty is walking next to Dove, “Some of my best ideas come in the moment. Ah Dove you should always let me take care of you like that.” She leans into him. He looks on pensively and says “Here take this it’s yours. One dollar, it’s eighty five cents plus tip”  looking surprised Kitty says “Oh I didn’t earn it.” “You cheated for it. You conned that woman for it. Take it and we’re quits.”

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He puts the money in her pocket and finds the rosary beads she stole from Teresina. Kitty tells him she found it. “Lie, cheat, steal is that all you know?”  “And you think that woman is better trying to steal you away from me.” “I just don’t get you. I can understand some things you done but well stealing from someone who’s doin’ you a kindness. I just don’t…”

“Oh child… Those people are the best kind to take from. The people who are doing you a favor are too busy pattin’ themselves on the back to be watchful.” “Stop talkin’ like a no good… like you don’t know what’s right.” Kitty argues “A good time is right, everything else is wrong.”

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Dove walks away from her, she runs after him begging not to leave her alone. “You headin’ for trouble Kitty but not with me. Now get out of my way and stay out!”

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He goes back and knocks on the Cafe window. Teresina asks through the glass, what he wants. He dangles the rosary beads for her. “So this is what she took.” Dove says “Sorry ma’am.” She thanks him. Tells him he’s very kind. She asks if he wants a cup of coffee. and where Kitty is, he tells her he doesn’t know and that the rosary is one of the prettiest he’s ever seen. Teresina asks “You are Catholic… what religion are you?”

“My religion… it’s a girl. Weighs about a hundred and nineteen pounds and gray eyes. She’s French.” She asks “And where, in what shrine does this holy person stay?

“It’s a big city I don’t know yet.”  Teresina asks what his girl’s name is, Hallie that’s such a nice name. She goes to the phone book to see if she can find her. “My name is Teresina.” “Please to meet you ma’am.”  She can’t find Hallie listed. She says maybe they’ll find her in a Hotel or where she works. “What does she do?” “She’s an artists, paints, sculpts.” “Maybe to find this religion we gotta put an ad in the newspaper. In the personal columns. I’ll show you. Like this.”

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She starts writing on a pad. “Anyone knowing the whereabouts of Hallie Gerard please contact Dove Linkhorn, (she looks up at him, and pronounces his name) uhh pleased to meet you. Contact Dove Linkhorn at?” “Well that’s the trouble, I don’t have no address… besides how much would that cost?” “I don’t know a few dollars” “I don’t have it. Until I find a job I can’t..” ” You know that was my favorite rosary. I think maybe I oughta give you a reward.” She goes to the register but Dove tells her “You don’t owe me nothin’.”

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“So proud so foolish so in a hurry. Can you change a tire, wash dishes?” ” I’m pretty smart for my age.” ” I could use some help here.” “Looks like you’re doin’ alright by yourself.” ” No, in rush hour it’s hard with only two hands. And they need a vacation from dish water… You know I don’t have anybody, because the kind of man drifting around these days I don’t want.” ” How’d you know I’m not that kind?” ” Easy, you see, like all women I’m romantic. You should find a nice woman and marry her. Look I’ll give you a salary. Not too big. Meals and you can sleep in one of the cabins okay?” ” You got yourself a hired hand.” ” Now go on, finish the ad, now you got an address!”

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Scene fades, we see Jo’s husband and flunky Schmidt (Karl Swenson) who has no use of his legs. He’s reading the newspaper ad. Of course he’s going to tell Jo about the ad for Hallie. He propels himself along on a small wooden dolly with wheels dragging his hunched body around the portentous streets of Baton Rough and the Doll House holding two metal hand grips.

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He tells her “It’s in again” Jo snaps at him, “Why do you keep bringing me that like a retriever dog?”

Back at the bordello he drags himself into The Doll House, and shows Jo the newspaper.

“Everyday for a week”. She tells him “Hallie never reads the newspapers, and he’ll get tired wasting his money… It’s a big city full of lost girls.” Schmidt says ” I just don’t want you to get upset Jo.” She shoots daggers at him. There’s also a photo of Hallie in a silver frame behind her desk.

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Jo says very calmly “It’s you who is upset, not me.”

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She tells her boys that she’s going up to see Hallie. Walking through the courtyard where the Doll House ladies are lounging, she stops and shoots them a look that could maul as if she sees all, her stare telling them ‘better behave’.

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In the cover of Chiaroscuro Jo shuts off the muted blues on the record player standing over Hallie’s bed she says softly “Hallie? Hallie it’s 3 in the afternoon.” Hallie groans, tosses and turns and then puts the covers over her head. Jo tells her ” You’re getting lazier and lazier… wake up. Come on wake up.” ” What for.” “Well you can’t sleep the whole day away.” Jo starts picking up the room. She keeps ripping open more curtains until the room is thrust into daylight from the outside world, which comes crashing in on Hallie’s darkness.

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Jo asks Hallie “What were you trying to do here?” Implying that Hallie was creating a mock strangulation, a very violent sexual demonstration against her lover.
Then Jo says right out, “Strangler her?”

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Hallie is lugubrious as Jo turns around in the light and notices a large bust of her head, that Hallie’s been sculpting. There’s a scarf tied around the neck. Jo asks Hallie what the scarf means.

Hallie ignores the comment and lights up a cigarette. Looking at her with a lazy contempt. Dragging on the cigarette like a sexual gesture to taunt Jo. The scene quickly cuts away. We’ve just seen a lover’s quarrel.

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Oliver, Jo’s suave psychopathic thug asks Mama in the courtyard with the other girls if Miss Precious is upstairs. She tells him she’s feeling kind of poorly “When I saw her this morning I said now Precious honey, now you go lye down, I’ll tell Mr. Oliver that you aint up to seeing nobody today. Mr. Oliver’s a gentleman and I…” Oliver cuts her off.

“Mama… shut your mouth.” He walks upstairs while putting a pair of gloves on.

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Mama says to the girls “Lord, I wonder what she’s done now.”

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Precious is sitting up in bed “Oliver I was just thinking about you.” “Was you honey what was you thinking?” He’s playing with his gloves making sure they fit nicely on his hands. It’s a sick touch as  he’s about to smack her around while wearing suede gloves. It’s got fetishistic qualities and psycho-sexual arousal written all over it.

“I was thinking how the colonel used to say that love was really all that mattered. That it melted the hardest heart” Oliver asks “Do you ever watch the movies Precious?” She shakes her head yes like a little girl. “What do they to a girl who holds out on the house?” “Oh Oliver I know I was drunk last night but I didn’t mean it. See this man gave me a tip and it was just a little tip. He said go out and buy yourself some stockins’ Oh Oliver if you just assume I just assume you not whip me if I got my sooners.”

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Joanna Moore is divine in this role as a tragic woman-child surrounded by nefarious parasites who suck the life out of her innocence. A gentle soul who’s just trying to follow the wisdom of ‘the colonel’ a man she constantly invokes through out the film.

Oliver is sadistic. She’s crying and begging as he says “Not soon enough Sugar but you gotta learn not to steal no more.” The scene cuts away as he’s about to strike her. We see Jo in Hallie’s room as she’s getting dressed. We all hear Precious crying out in pain. Jo and Hallie exchange glances.

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Hallie runs out to help Precious but Jo yells after her that it’s none of her business. She bursts into the room, Oliver tells her to go away.

Precious tells her to stay out of here but Hallie yells at him “Out of this room.” “I am not finished yet.” Hallie again yells “I said get out of here.” Oliver argues “She’s been stealing.” “I don’t care what she’s done, don’t you ever touch her again!” Hallie grabs Precious who is cryingIt’s gonna be alright Precious.” Oliver tells Hallie “I never interfere with you do I Hallie, as a matter of fact I’ve taken quite a lot off you.” Hallie comes back “Not even remotely what you deserve”

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“He shouldn’t a done that Hallie… the colonel wouldn’t a done that… Hallie let’s get out of this place, let’s leave here.” “To do what where would we go? After three years of this easy life, I don’t have the energy for anything else… do you?” “Hallie don’t make me answer that, I’m gonna cry again. You know you betta take care of yourself, you know Jo’s got a terrible temper.” ” You don’t know what I know” “What’s that?” “The worse that can happen… you die.” ” Oh Hallie you make me shiver, don’t say that.” ” All right… pretty yourself up now.”

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Hallie places a purse under Precious’ pillow “Here don’t steal anymore.” Precious hugs Hallie “Oh Hallie you’re so good to me… The colonel used to say that you could tell everything there was to know about a person, just by the size of their heart.” Precious beams a sweet smile at her good friend and the camera’s last shot leaves Precious sitting up in her bed. From behind, the metal frame look like bars. It’s a frilly room cheaply ornate with crystal tear drops hanging from the canopy and vintage drapery giving it an air of a decadency.

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Back in her room Jo is waiting, “Now don’t say anything Jo I warn you don’t.” She holds up her hand to try and anticipate Jo’s words. Jo stands there like concrete. Hallie says “I wish you’d get rid of him, Jo.” “I try to stay out of my employees private lives.” “That’s no answer.” “I’m running a business and Oliver is necessary to that business.” “One of these days I’ll go down to the Doll House and do something about that necessity.” “The less you go down to the Doll House the happier I’ll be.” “That was cruel Jo, she’s got the mind of a little girl… it was like beating a sick child. I can not stand that sort of cruelty… I won’t!”
“Alright Hallie, I’ll see that he never touches her again- My we are depressed aren’t we.” Jo smiles a cruel sarcastic smile at Hallie.

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“No I’m bored, and I’ve only just gotten up… maybe I oughta just go back to bed” Hallie lounging on her chaise looks like a Gustav Klimpt painting.

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“You know Hallie you’re really such a fantastic mixture” She answers “I’m different I’m special eh?”

“Yes you are.” Jo walks over to Hallie on her bed “You’re so wrong Jo, I’m really no different than Precious, Georgi or any of the others.” Jo says in a very low slow sultry provocatively flirtatious tone “You are to me…” ” Oh don’t humor me.”

“Promise me one thing Hallie… you won’t go down to the Doll House anymore.”
“Sorry Jo, I can’t stay cooped up here, I’ve got to break out to, to find excitement. Lock me up, swallow the key and I’ll still crawl out… nibble my way through the plaster.”

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“I know all your moods but this one is different, this one is…” “No please don’t nag.” “Nag you… I”m only trying to understand you.” “Then stop hammering at me. Stop trying to change me because I can not change!… Oh Jo stop trying. Just let me go on being what I am, what ever that is.” “Alright Hallie I’ll let you be. Let’s not quarrel it hurts me when we quarrel. I’ve got an idea, let’s spend the afternoon here. You can start a new head of me or my hands, you said you always wanted to do my hands. ” “I’m not in the mood, and you’re too busy.” Hallie acts like a dissatisfied lover “Besides you haven’t got the patience.”

Jo sitting on the bed looking at her, Hallie almost looks like a cat, now sprawled out on the satin bed covers.  “Oh you know me better than that Hallie. Sometimes I’ve waited years for what I wanted.” The camera does not show us Stanwyck’s face. We only hear Jo’s words We gaze at Hallie, but we cannot see the expression on Jo’s face, as she tells her that being a woman in a man’s world and lesbian is hard work.

The scene fades into a shot of the front of Teresina’s Cafe. She is looking out the window waiting for Dove to arrive back home.

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He comes in and tells Teresina “I been gettin’ the feeling that it aint Hallie who’s lost it’s me… me! I’m beginning to hate this town and everything about it. I’d like to kick it in, shake it, bust it wide open.” Teresina yanks the juke box plug out to stop the Spanish music. “No wonder you can’t find your Hallie. Maybe she doesn’t want to see you. Maybe she knows what you are like. All the time sitting around feeling sorry for yourself. You’re not so pleasant to be with. Maybe she has gone away, that she knows you are here but you are no prize.”

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“Shut up will you” ” This is my Cafe no man tells me to shut up in my own Cafe!”

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Dove is sitting on his bed. He is broken without having found Hallie. Teresina comes into his room. “I’m sorry Dove for talking like that. I didn’t mean it. You know, you know how it is with a woman, when they like somebody, right away they gotta become a nuisance. I am a nuisance. Look I brought you something. I know when men have pain, sometimes they drink to forget. To ease the soul. When my husband was alive that’s what he used to do. When he had too much worry or trouble.”

She tells him that she’s going to open the repair shop and he’s going to run it. That they will be partners and then he’ll feel better not so hopeless not so lost.

“Do you know what they call a man who lives off a woman? They call him a…” She stops him from saying it. “When people are kind to each other why do they have to find a dirty word for it.”

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Cut to a night scene with jazz musicians and Brook Benton singing the title song Walk on the Wild Side“Sinner, hear what I’m saying, Sinner you been swinging not praying’ One day of prayer and six nights of Love… the odds against going to heaven six to one… Walk on the wild side, The devil is waiting, he’s waiting to take your hand.”

Hallie goes down to the Doll House. Mr Benito is waiting for her. (the rigid cop who tells Sheriff Andy Griffith just to stick to catching chicken thieves)

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“Last time you told me you wrote poetry.” Hallie sluggishly tells him “No… I just echo it” Hallie has a lugubrious disenchantment of Gothic proportions. Like a tragic heroine of Victorian era who is struck with a darkened soul biting sarcasm and cynicism of life.

“No I”m a sculptress, Or I used to be before I fell down the well. But it’s a very nice well… Cozy. All the little frogs love me, and the big frog Jo… adores me.”

Perhaps a reference to The Well of Loneliness a 1928 lesbian novel by the British author Radclyffe Hall.

Benito says to Hallie “Did you ever hear of bread? I butter yours, Jo’s too… this whole dumps. Without me you don’t last a week, right.” “I know, we’re all so grateful.”
Hallie walks out with him as she sticks a tip in the trumpet and says with compliments from a southern gentleman.

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fades to black.

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We’re back at Teresina’s cafe and gas station. She’s answers the phone Dove is working outside, she tells him he’s got a phone call. “If you want Hallie Gerard you can find her at 904 Charter Street.” the voice on the phone is a woman. “She said she’s know where I can find Hallie do you know where that is?Teresina tells him yes as she looks down so as not to look in his eyes yet. “You just go to the quarter and ask anyone.”

Dove arrives at the Doll House and walks through the ornate wooden door and entry gate. Guided by the french quarter Jazz. horns and brushes pulsing on the high hat.

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Mama sees him, “What you want mister?” “I’m looking for Miss Hallie Gerard.”

“One flight up, first door right up there.” He knocks on the door his image is obscured by crinkly clear glass. Hallie says come in, she’s working on a bust, and Precious says Hi. Hallie’s back is still turned to Dove. He says hello she quickly turns around startled.

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“Precious this is an old friend of mine Dove Linkhorn… Miss Precious lives down the hall.”

“Oh Hallie’s told me all about you Mr Linkhorn and about Arroyo I never even heard of Arroyo till I met Hallie.” Hallie looks worried and ashamed Precious keeps on chatting while Dove just stares at Hallie silently. “Oh you must excuse my ignorance you see I’m from Georgia. Well it’s just that I’ve never been to Texas. I do know about the Alamo and I do know about the panhandle. What in the world is a panhandle, do you know? I though it meant to beg.” Precious keeps laughing though neither Dove nor Hallie has yet to say a word “Hallie says you’re a farmer you know I always wanted a farm.”

Precious quotes the colonel once again, with a few cliches, two’s company threes a crowd, and two old friends should be left alone and all that. But Hallie tells her not to leave.

Hallie tells Dove he’s looking good and asks how his father is. “So are you Hallie… He’s dead.”  She fixes a wet cloth to protect her sculpture, turns around to face him and says she’s sorry. He tells her it was bound to happen miracle was that he held out so long.

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“You loved him very much didn’t you?” “Love or duty I’ll never know which.”

“I lit out to find you the moment I could. I’m free now.” “What?” She seems surprised by his statement. “Just yesterday I give up hope. I been looking everywhere for you. Putting ads in the papers. I didn’t think I’d ever find ya. Now it seems like those three years never passed.”

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He moves in to kiss her. She pushes him away. “Look Dove I should have written.” “But you did write. You wrote me twelve letters.” ” I should have written you a thirteenth, telling you” “Telling me what?” he says forcefully for the first time raising his voice showing some anger after all his twilight dreamy eyed gaping.

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“Oh Dove, summers end, things change… it’s nothing unusual for a love to end any more than it is for love to begin. I have a different life now, different friends… I’m sorry you found me.”
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“I didn’t find you, I found somebody else” “Dove wait, I don’t want you to go away hating me, I’d like you to try and understand.”
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“After I left Texas I went to New York, a map of six million people and every one of them a stranger. Weeks passed and nobody ever spoke to me except a waitress or a bus driver or a guy on the make. I was so lonely I ached all over. And then I wrote you letters , Then I cried for you. In a crammed dirty little room I cried for you. Where’s Dove why doesn’t he come.”

“Hallie you know I couldn’t leave my father, he was sick he needed me.”

“I was sick, scared sick and I needed you. Oh Dove if only you could have given me hope.” “I couldn’t count my father’s days.” “But I was counting mine.” She tells him emphatically with tears glistening in her languid eyes.

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“Anyway, one day a woman bought a painting of mine from a little gallery in the village She found out where I lived and came to see me. I was flattered. The hungry lonely artist was discovered. And suddenly everything changed. And I stopped crying for you. I had a friend. For the first time in a long time I could speak with someone who understood, who knew how I felt who protected me… and she lived here in New Orleans and one day she asked me to come with her please for the Mardi Gras. I came. She brought me to this place for a drink. To this studio, I took a look around and I said to myself, Hallie this is it. You’re home at last. Oh Dove… go away, please go away.”

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He tells her that he has so much to make up for but she says “I’m no good for you anymore believe me. I’m not good.”

Dove says softly ” I got so much love for you and it can’t grow less, it can’t Hallie.” Suddenly there’s a knock on the door. She agrees to meet him day after tomorrow.

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Jo is standing in the doorway looking at Hallie with a burning stare. Stanwyck looks so sharp in her tight fitting sweater blouse skirt and pearls. She’s filled with fire and ice right now.

Hallie says goodbye to Dove. Jo looks at him. He brushes passed Jo and says excuse me.

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She asks “Who was that? “Dove Linkhorn.” “Not a bad looking boy… All the way from Texas, I’m sorry for him.” “Careful Hallie, pity can be a dangerous emotion and you have a great capacity for it. Oh I see you’ve started working again , why don’t you go back to it.”  “Suddenly I don’t feel like working.” “Alright then let’s go shopping.”  “Sorry I really don’t feel like doing anything today.” “The boy, he really upset you that much”  she looks at Jo “Yes, yes he did… he reminded me of everything I am not and everything I thought I couldn’t’ be.”

Jo walks out of the room. Hallie sits in her chair reflecting on her life.

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The next day Hallie meets Dove, he tells her that it’s like walking with another girl, and that she looks different. Even since yesterday, She’s even more beautiful.

Hallie begins to tell him something when the preacher who is doing a sidewalk fire and brimstone sermon calls out “Jezebel”  The two turn to look at him. “That’s right I mean you. Now both you sinners hurray and pass.” He waves them away with his hands.

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“You got no business with us mister.” “Oh sinners is my business, you and that hip swinging daughter of satan… (he comes down through the crowd and addresses Hallie up close) You know there’s a smell of sulfur and brimstone about you. A smell of hell fire!”

Dove asks “Who ordained you preacher?” “I am self ordained son, I had the call.”

“You were called by the wrong voice mister.”

“Lord strike this sinner down. Send a bolt down to smite and consume the blasphemer now!” Dove exclaims “He won’t hear ya, because you’re no friend of God or man, standing there hollering hate to the world. God is love, God is mercy and forgiveness. Try that sometime Mr Preacher… Teach people to forgive, not to crawl in fear. Teach people to love not hate. Preach the good book. Preach the truth.” He says Come ‘on to Hallie who with admiration watches Dove admonish this hateful man.

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“He’s got no right preaching like that what was it you was gonna tell me” “Nothing, it’s just I’m so glad you’re here.”

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Lying in the grass Dove asks Hallie to marry him. She tells him it’s been such a wonderful day not to spoil it. “I’m sorry I spoiled your day by asking you to be my wife.”

“Oh no no I didn’t mean it that way… I “ She kisses him. “We haven’t seen each other for years, it’s been so long. Just give me time to think about it.”

When Hallie returns to the house, Schmidt sitting on his little wheeled board calls to Hallie before she climbs the stairs. “Hallie you’re late Jo wants to see you” She tells him she’ll be down after she gets dressed.

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Jo is in her office talking to Oliver and Kitty Twist. “And another thing too many of the girls wind up more loaded than the clients and their so called brains become addled and naturally the customers take advantage of them… Think of the house, not yourself. Call me if there’s any trouble.” She takes cash out of her desk and tells Kitty to get herself a gown. She can pay her back later and Oliver will show her where to buy it and what kind.

Kitty starts to talk “Miss Courtney, I want to assure you that I mean to co operate in every single way” Jo lights up a cigarette. “Because for me, it’s an honor to be working in the Doll House. And if by accident I should step on anybody’s toes like a special boy friend or somebody like that… I just asked to be told in a nice way, because on my mother’s life … “ Oliver interrupts “Get the mouth piece on her.”

Jo is smoking her cigarette blowing smoke and completely tuning her out, looking down at her books. She finally looks up at Oliver.

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Kitty glances at him briefly, getting very tense her voice gets louder “And most of all I want to thank you for getting me outa jail” Kitty hovers over Jo, who finally addresses her “You talk too much, get yourself that gown.”  Before Oliver leaves the room Jo says “Watch yourself she works for the house.”

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Hallie walks into Jo’s office. Jo tells her that she looks wonderful. Frank Bonita stopped by was disappointed that he didn’t see her but left flowers which Jo thinks is quite considerate. Hallie tells her Taste and good manners impress me, not twenty dollars worth of flowers” Jo asks “Have a nice day?” “Oh I just did the town.” ” Alone?” “Yes of course why?”

Jo asks this with her back turned, brewing she slams the door shut for privacy…

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“Oliver saw you. You were with Dove all afternoon.” Jo shakes her body in that Stanwyck sort of way, strong and authoritative “You know lying to me Hallie it…'” She slaps her hip “Oh well perhaps maturity will change all that.” “What do you think I’ll mature into…You?” Jo slaps her hard across the face, it shakes Hallie for a moment.

Then Jo grabs her and starts shaking her, “I want to know what’s going on between you and that boy, you in love with that Texas dirt farmer?” “He’s more than that,” “Ahhh it’s gone quite far already hasn’t it… you’d like to make him happy wouldn’t you, make all his dreams come true, perhaps even get married.” “Yes even get married!” Jo looks at Hallie and starts to compose herself. She’s the one who is truly more shaken, the threat of losing Hallie is too much to bare. Hallie resists Jo’s domination at every turn.

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“All right Hallie, be sorry to lose you. But if you think the world is your oyster, go ahead and take it.” She turns away briefly. She regains her wrath and spins around “But how do you think the boy is going to feel when he finds out what you are, what you’ve been?” “He’ll forgive me” “Alright go to him, after all a girl like you has so much to offer a man” Jo is so filled with scornful jealousy her face becomes like hot white iron “A knife to cut his heart out” “I’ll change” “Of course you’ll change but haven’t you said that so many times before! But go ahead tell him. Tell him about the days and nights of Hallie Gerard. Tell him about the mud you’ve rolled in for years… TELL HIM!!!!”
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I love when Barbara Stanwyck finally blows a fuse. She’s one dynamic lady who packs a wallop of an emotional punch.
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Hallie falls onto the settee crying and clutching her head. She’s knows that Jo is partly right, but hates to hear the truth poke holes in the one bit of hope she’s felt in years.
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“Better throw this one back Hallie. Don’t try to fool him with lies and don’t try to fool me with lies for his sake” “Don’t threaten me Jo” “Why you’re silly stupid blind. Do you think I’m playing childhood games!… Her voice screeches at Hallie like back in Arroyo, if you don’t tell him I will!” Hallie cries “NO!!!” “You may be weak, but I’m not. I’ll find your dirt farmer and that will be the end of that.”

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“Oh Hallie (Jo looks down at her after her explosion, she sits down and caresses her hair. Though we don’t see Hallie’s face just the top of her head as Jo talks softly to her). “Hallie, you’ve been dreaming. You’ve had a brief dream of young love and candy kisses. And it’s all so foolish so unreal.” Jo lifts Hallie’s face to look at her “Hallie, if you have any feeling for that boy let me break it off.”

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“No Jo let me end it. Let me tell him, I owe him that please” “Alright Hallie” Jo looks sad, realizing that her lover is unattainable. Even if she breaks it off with Dove, her heart is lost and unconquerable. Jo bares a tragic look on that usually concrete exterior as she caresses Hallie’s hair gently.
“Alright Hallie” She says so gently. Jo is hopelessly in love with Hallie, it drives her to jealous possessive fits.

scene cross fades

Hallie and Dove are sitting at an outdoor cafe. They’re approached by an old woman who is begging for two cents with yesterday’s damp newspaper. She says “Forty years of a good life forty years married to a good man.” Hallie gives her two cents but doesn’t want the paper. The old woman doesn’t take charity but Dove wants it and says yesterday news is harder to come by. He gives her more than two cents. She thanks him. Hallie gives him a curious look.

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Dove has rented a furnished apartment he takes Hallie there to show her the surprise. “$16 a month. The sky comes free.”

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The two spend the night together then Hallie leaves Dove a goodbye note on the pillow while he’s sleeping. He furiously runs over to the Doll House to confront Hallie. Did Hallie really think he wasn’t going to come following after her?

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He meets Precious on the balcony. She tells him that Hallie is down at the bar. He walks in, Dockery the bartender asks what he’s drinking. Neither say a word. But he looks crushed, the realization that she belongs to the Doll House. She looks down, and he walks out. The scene fades.

Back at Teresina’s Dove in a drunken rage starts flinging metal objects around making noise as she comes to put him to bed.

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The next night Teresina is driving him. “You feel better now?” “Yeah fine… I’m leaving tomorrow.” Teresina looks anguished “Oh you made up your mind before to go away… I have known such a time would come… I have also known what I would say. I would beg you to stay. On my knees I would beg. I”m begging you now, please stay” Dove says “Teresina I can’t” Teresina gently pleads “You don’t love me, I know that. But in love it matters not which loves the most. I love enough for two… that girl you still love her?”
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“You know the story of Josea and Gomer… In the bible Josea fell in lover with Gomer. She was a Harlot. They got married, but she couldn’t stay away from men. Josea got mad and threw her out. Sold her into slavery. But he couldn’t get her out of his mind so he went lookin’ for her. When he found her he brought her back home. But it was no good. Before long she was up to her old tricks again. But he loved her anyway. And he couldn’t give her up. So he took her into the wilderness, away from temptation. Away from other men. And that’s what I have to do with Hallie.”

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Teresina gives Dove a kiss and a via con dios and he sets out for the Doll House.

There’s a repulsiveness to the Josea/Gomer story, where only women are harlots but men can use them as objects and possessions. Throw them into slavery and then confine them or hold them hostage from being themselves. The film definitely seems to play on Dove’s hero savior complex in his sanctimonious way he needs to rehabilitate Hallie from a life of sin. There’s judgement about the lives of these women, but not a shred of awareness about the horrible men that satellite around. Except for when Dove admonishes that hateful preacher for not talking about love and only spouting hate. Yet he is only awarding love on his terms.

Back at the Doll House Hallie walks into the bar, and Dockery tells Jo who turns around to see her.

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Hallie looks so elegant. Jo quickly moves over to her grabbing Hallie’s arm. “Hallie you don’t have to be here, you’re not well, I’ll take you…” Hallie reviles her.

Everyone wants a piece of Hallie. To control her, like a captive thing. Jo is no better. Both Jo and Dove have a sickly obsessive love for Hallie. Who is stifling from being everyone’s object of desire. “Get your claws off of me… I’m not going back to my room how long do you think I can sit there chewing my lower lip?” “Now Let’s not have a scene if you want we’ll sit down and have a drink.” Hallie stings her “I want to sit drinking with a man, not with you… Ouch… This one perhaps, he looks like a…”

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“You’re being perverse.” “I was born perverse. Isn’t that a woman’s nature?” “Maybe I should let you do exactly what you want… go to hell in a hack.” “Fine, as long as the driver’s got gold braid and he’s tall dark and handsome.” “I’ve had enough of this.” “Do you want me to scream, do you?” Jo unhands her grip on Hallie’s arm and she walks away. Hallie goes and sits with a client and asks him to buy her a drink.

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Dove walks into the bar and orders a whiskey. In the mirror we see Kitty who recognizes him. She exclaims “Hallelujah… look who I see, if it isn’t the reverend Dove Linkhorn” “Kitty” “Little Kitty from Paduca nobody else… got a cigarette Red Dockery?” The bartender smiles “What are you doing here?”

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“I run the candy concession. You know reverend when you left me and didn’t give a damn what happened to me I got picked up for vagrancy. And if it weren’t for Jo Courtney’s lawyer I’d still be rotting in that stink in’ jail… well you ole bible thumper what are you here for?… looking for justice, mercy… love?”

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Suddenly Jo walks into the bar and sees Dove. Kitty says, “You know Dove I oughta thank you cause if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be working here.” “Why are you doin’ this Kitty?” “I like my work… beside you meet a better class of people than you do on the road.” “Kitty… I…”  he grabs her arm, she smiles and gets sarcastically cute with him.

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“Dovey you wanna see me… she gets indignant You make an appointment with that gentleman over there” “I’m here to see Hallie, Kitty” “Hallie… the Hallie that works here?” “Do you know where she is?” “Oh Dovey you betta get in line.”

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We now see Hallie sitting with the man “Are you a surgeon… that explains your long beautiful hands.” She grabs his hands. He asks if she’s ever been married. the question strikes a chord, she says regrettably “Almost.”

“You know something I wish I hadn’t met you here.” She says “As they say the breaks of life” she tells him goodnight. Meanwhile Jo asks to see Kitty.

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As Hallie looks down, she hears Dove’s voice- “Hello Hallie.”

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“Well what are you going to do just sit there looking at me?” “If you let me” “Only money buys attention here” “Hallie supposed I said we forget the past and we start from scratch again. I need you Hallie” “So does every man who comes in here.”

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“Did you hear what I said I need you” “I’m passed reclaiming Dove don’t you understand If you’ve got the price you’re welcome if not there’s the front door”
He takes money out of his pocket “alright I’m joining the bandwagon.”
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Back in Jo’s office she’s grilling Kitty. “When did you first meet him?” “We come from Texas together. He brought you from Texas?”

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Now we can see Hallie and Dove walking up the stairs together through Jo’s office window.
Soon Jo notices them too.

“Well he didn’t exactly bring me Miss Jo we come in on the back of a truck.”  “You crossed the State line?” “How else do you get from Texas to Louisiana “ Kitty notices Jo’s attention on the window. “What what is it Jo?” Kitty looks worried by Jo’s stance and line of questions.

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“Nothing Nothing I just like to know all about my girls, their background, their friends that’s all.. now go on back and cheer up the guests.”

In Hallie’s room she begins to undress for Dove. He moves to her and starts putting the dress back on her shoulders and tells her to pack.

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“Dove think.” “Thinkin’s no good only feelin’ is.” “But thinking can be a trap, please think.” “About what?” “About the way I’ve lived about what I am.”

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“It can’t be over one night, a thing like that, a thing like…  a thing like being…”  he looks down in emotional pain, she moves her head close to his. “Right away you cringe.” He gets up and runs to her wardrobe. “The past don’t mean a thing.” They kiss, she tells him to be ready in half an hour. He runs down the stairs. Jo stands in the darkness next to Oliver looking down and seeming defeated by her mysterious unsavory love that also hides in shadow.

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Jo tells Oliver, “Wait here in case I need you.”

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Jo walks into Hallie’s room while she is packing. “Well you’re not planning on carrying all those yourself are you?” “Don’t stop me.” “You mean you’re really leaving, this isn’t some joke. Ah yes with your farm boy I bet… I just saw him leave, but he’s coming back and he’ll carry them for you, porter, lover, general romantic dream.” Jo calls to Oliver Hallie begs Jo to stop. “Unpack your things you’re not going anywhere, this place needs you… I need you! “ Jo tells Oliver to watch her and not to let anyone in.

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Jo walks down the stairs then looks up toward Hallie’s room. She walks into her office where Schmidt asks her what’s happening. She tells him Hallie’s packing. He asks if she’s going away? “Oh you’d like that wouldn’t you… no no things are still going to be the same.” “That’s what you said before the accident, before they took away my legs. Are things still the same? Am I still your husband!… Let them go!” He slams his metal clamp on her desk after dragging himself along the floor on his cart.

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“I know what’s going on inside ’em” Jo stairs off, her body is rigid. She knows about love too but it’s not what goes on between a man and a woman, her pain is unacceptable.

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“I know what it’s like lovin’ somebody, not being able to do anything about it.”

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Jo grumbles and chokes on the word “love’ as if she’s chewing on something hard and bitter.

“Can any man love a woman for herself without wanting her body for his own pleasure.” She grits her teeth on the word ‘pleasure’ in particular .“Love is understanding and sharing and enjoying the beauty of life without the reek of lust.”  A little insight into Jo’s bitterness and disillusionment with life. Her running a bordello says “if a man want’s pleasure he’s going to pay for it”

Jo turns around and faces Schmidt whom we now know is her husband. She’s tearful yelling out the bitter words “Don’t talk to me about love! What do you know, what does that young fool know. What does any man know!” She turns back around holding her hand to her face. Stanwyck cries with such conviction that it’s almost unbearable to watch. She conveys the pain of having to hide her love for Hallie in a world where men get to express their need so openly.

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It’s a tour de force moment and one that Stanwyck pulls off without cheapening the moment. My heart broke for Jo at that moment. She had to be tough all these years. Not excusing her streak of ruthlessness in business. I feel for her because all she really wanted to was to be loved by Hallie. Just like Dove… the  journeyman cowboy with so called ethics. This staunch and stone cold business woman without morals who had to dig herself out of the mud in order claim her own power in a man’s world. Stanwyck manifests this persona with verisimilitude.

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Schmidt wheels himself around to get closer to Jo. “Jo, forget everything that I just said, just being near you, that’s enough for me honey.” She recoils from his touch.

“I’m going to call Frank Bonito, tell Dockery I want to see him right away.”

I’ll end the story here as not to spoil the ending for those of you who haven’t seen Walk on the Wild Side.

If the Code had allowed Barbara Stanwyck’s Jo Courtney in 1962 to be more reflexive about her sexual orientation on screen who knows how much more layered and powerful her personification of a woman desiring another woman amidst a tableau of decadence and social outcry in Depression Era 30s would have been.

As Fred MacMurray’s character Walter Neff says about Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson in Double IndemnityShe was perfect. No nerves, not a tear, not a blink of the eye.”

Stanny as Phyllis Double Indemnity

In Naremore’s book More Then Night: chapter Modernism and Blood Melodrama

“Wilder’s melodramatic allegory couldn’t be more obvious;The Bad girl represents Culture and the good girl represents nature. Wilder’s indebtedness to Weimer German cinema in the 20s often used the decadent eroticism of the late nineteenth century to express growing fears of the ‘new woman’  The flapper in Pandora’s Box and the city woman in Sunrise. were to suggest an urbanized mass-cultural type that the Germans both loved and hated. A smart woman poses a threat to men. Phyllis belongs in that category she is so bad that she seems like modernity and kitsch incarnate a realist version of the ‘false maria’ in Lang’s Metropolis.

Stanwyck’s Phyllis is a dame as Joseph Conrad quoted in The Crime Novel: A Deviant Genre by Tony Hilfer  with a ‘shape’ that could drive a man {or woman} nuts. As Naremore brings out, she was shamelessly provocative, with her iconic ankle bracelet, lacquered lip stick, sunglasses and ‘chromium hair’ that made her seem “cheaply manufactured metallic look… she reacts to murder with an ‘icy calm’ “

We could say that Jo Courtney is just as much a femme fatale, a ‘bad woman’ with ‘deviant’ desires and an iron willed cynicism poised with chromium hair and an icy calm. Far off from Stanwyck’s real life grace, dignity and long term relationship with Helen Ferguson. Regardless of her sexual orientation, she remains one of the most incomparable actresses of all time.

Stanwyck

miracle woman

Barbara Stanwyck and HelenFerguson
Barbara Stanwyck and life long partner Helen Ferguson

12 thoughts on “Edward Dmytryk’s Walk on the Wild Side (1962) At the Doll House; “When people are kind to each other why do they have to find a dirty word for it”

  1. Wow, Jo, your post has kind of blown my mind! I had NO IDEA about Stanwyck OR Robert Taylor.

    That aside, I enjoyed your analysis of “Walk on the Wild Side” which is yet another Stanwyck movie I’ve never seen. (That’s the thing about this blogathon — I’m realizing there are so many of her movies that I’ve never seen!) And I liked what Lawrence Harvey said about Stanwyck’s professionalism. A lot of Hollywood folks seem to comment on her work ethic.

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    1. Hey Ruth- I hope I didn’t blow your mind too far out! Everything that I ever read about her was glowing about her kindness and her professionalism. I agree with you about this blogathon as well others that just are loaded with films that I’ve not seen yet or need to see because I love the actor or director so much-Wild Side is not one of the greatest movies that you must see, however Stanwyck brings her style and depth to the role of Jo and knocks it out of the park as far as I’m concerned- She’ll break your heart- Love love love that woman-Come back and tell me if you catch it k

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  2. I have to admit there is a strange appeal to this mongrel of a movie. It will never be hailed as a lost classic but it’s a whole lot of fun. Miss Stanwyck socks her part across without breaking a sweat and Jane Fonda is all ripe sexuality and spunky grit as the marvelously named Kitty Twist, I also agree that Joanna Moore is very touching in her small part the problems start with everybody else. I love her but Anne Baxter as a Mexican senorita? Really? The woman could give elocution lessons so her casting is absurd. But then so are the British Laurence Harvey and his unconvincing accent and why the hell did Capucine, who I believe they state in the film is a Texas native have a French accent, oh well that’s Hollywood! Of course the pair share zero chemistry on screen but that could lie in the fact that they loathed each other off. Sometimes that can translate into magical onscreen work like it did between Veronica Lake and Fredric March in I Married a Witch or create an vacuum between the players as it does here. Either way it’s a wild weird film and I enjoyed your thorough synopsis.

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  3. There is something truly mesmerizing about this film and it doesn’t end with that fantastic opening sequence and song. Maybe it’s that nagging feeling that it could have been a real classic. If they’d been able to do more than hint at the themes of the original Algren novel. If it hadn’t been so miscast all around (with the exception of Moore, Fonda, and Stanwyck). I think Capucine fares the worst since a) she’s French to the tips of her fingernails but playing the little lost Texan girl b) supposed to be madly in love with Laurence Harvey but looks at him with utter weariness through the whole thing and c) just not that good at acting, despite her beauty. Harvey just seems like he’s concentrating too hard on the accent to put any believability into his part. Still, it’s not dull to watch and your wonderful screencaps give a nice sense for the film’s visuals. I never thought much before about how cloying and claustrophobic the Doll House looks.

    I really like your description of Stanwyck’s big moment. You can read a whole lifetime of pain and revulsion in that speech. Even when she’s sharing a scene with a legless man who’s begging for some scrap of affection, Stanwyck still manages to grab all the sympathy.

    Thanks for an amazing and detailed contribution to the Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon!

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    1. Aubyn I agree with everything you said. And it got me to thinking- If you took out all the really badly cast actors like Harvey who was quite ludicrous as Dove and Anne Baxter as Latina and of course the ever lugubrious Capucine, whom I think is luscious to gaze at but did act like Harvey had body odor… the film might have been such an amazingly powerful piece. Plus they only grazed the surface of his novel, so the true gritty realism just wasn’t there.. I appreciate your comment so much as it not only validates my impressions but is nice to have a great writer like yourself take the time to go over my piece… it was wonderful being part of your Stanny Blogathon. Thanks so much

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  4. I have just watched “Walk on the Wild Side” for the first time, and so have come to your excellent post on Stanwyck and the movie. Without your posting the detailed still photos, I would not have noticed the framed portrait on Jo’s desk. It appears to be Helen Ferguson.

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by! I appreciate your comment, and now I have to go back and check to see if that was indeed Helen Ferguson… It’s an interesting subtle detail considering Stanwyck’s role as the blustering Jo! Cheers Joey

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