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The Long, Hot Summer Reviews

Filmmakers have often found it difficult to bring William Faulkner's dense novels to the screen, but here director Martin Ritt and writers Harriet Frank, Jr. and Irving Ravetch opted for a less-than-faithful adaptation of the author's work, and the results were excellent. Newman plays a Mississippi man with a bad temper who drifts into a small town. He goes to work for Welles, a wealthy landowner, who likes the young man's toughness. He decides Newman would be better suited to running his empire than his weak son (Franciosa) and tries to marry off the newcomer to his resentful daughter (Woodward). Franciosa reacts murderously. The pairing of Newman, on loan from Warner Bros., and Fox's rising star Woodward, was pure magic. She had already won an Oscar for her work in THE THREE FACES OF EVE, while Newman had impressed in films such as THE LEFT-HANDED GUN and SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME, but wasn't quite a star yet. With this film and CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (for which he received his first Oscar nomination), also released in 1958, Newman quickly became one of Hollywood's hottest stars. There was plenty of electricity on the screen in his scenes with Woodward, and, evidently, off screen too, as they were married in 1958. Only 42 at the time, Welles looked much older and, though he overplays the role at times, was well cast as the tyrannical landowner. In fact, the whole cast is worthy of praise. Lansbury, who always played characters much older than she was, is delightful as Welles's mistress, tossing off many of the film's best lines. Franciosa had the year before been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his role in A HATFUL OF RAIN and again received good notices here. However, his film career stalled, and he moved into television, starring in such series as "Valentine's Day" and "The Name of the Game." The script is literate, sharp, and humorous. Ritt and screenwriters Ravetch and Frank would team two more times with Newman, first for HUD, one of Newman's best films, and again for HOMBRE.