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  Baby Doll

Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I wish I had this movie poster of Baby Doll when I worked as Elia Kazan's assistant when the Director's Guild of America was preparing to go on strike back in the 1980's. One of my jobs was setting additional work space for members to prepare for what every demonstrations would be taking place. Some of the desks ordered came from the US Customs office either at Ellis or Governors Island. I set up Kazan's office with one of those classic wooden desks with three draws on each side, like your teacher used back in the boomer days. The only reason I'm telling the story is that when it came time to return all the desks I had the one Kazan used sent to my apartment, where it resides to this day. It still has the metal US Customs plaque and serial number on it.

Baby Doll is a 1956 American black comedy drama film directed by Elia Kazan, and starring Carroll Baker, Karl Malden and Eli Wallach. The film also features Mildred Dunnock and Rip Torn. It was produced by Kazan and Tennessee Williams, and adapted by Williams from his own one-act play 27 Wagons Full of Cotton. The plot focuses on a feud between two rival cotton gin owners in rural Mississippi; after one of the men commits arson against the other's gin, the owner retaliates by attempting to seduce the arsonist's nineteen-year-old virgin bride with the hopes of receiving an admission by her of her husband's guilt.

The film was controversial when it was released due to its implicit sexual themes, provoking a largely successful effort to ban it, waged by the Roman Catholic National Legion of Decency. Nevertheless, the film received multiple nominations for major awards and performed decently at the box office. Kazan won the Golden Globe Award for Best Director and the film was nominated for four other Golden Globe awards, as well as four Academy Awards and four BAFTA Awards  awards, with Eli Wallach taking the BAFTA prize for "Most Promising Newcomer to Film."

The film is credited with originating the name and popularity of the babydoll nightgown, which derives from the costume worn by Baker's character. The film was featured in The New York Times' Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made

Although the film's title card says "Tennessee Williams' Baby Doll", and the film is based on Williams' one-act play 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, in his autobiography director Elia Kazan claimed that Williams was only "half-heartedly" involved in writing the screenplay, of which Kazan himself actually wrote the majority.  The film was shot in Benoit, Mississippi in the J.C. Burrus house, built in 1848, the only antebellum house in Bolivar County. Other locations were Greenville, Mississippi and New York City.  According to Kazan, Williams did not stay long while the film was shooting in Benoit, because of the way people looked at him.  Some locals were used for minor roles, and one, "Boll Weevil" not only acted but was the production unit's utility man as well.

The working titles for the film included the name of the play and "Mississippi Woman"; actress Carroll Baker claims that Kazan changed the title to Baby Doll as a present to her.  Although Baker was Kazan's first choice for the role, Williams would have preferred to see Marilyn Monroe get the part.

Baby Doll is a 1956 American black comedy drama film directed by Elia Kazan, and starring Carroll Baker, Karl Malden and Eli Wallach. The film also features Mildred Dunnock and Rip Torn. It was produced by Kazan and Tennessee Williams, and adapted by Williams from his own one-act play 27 Wagons Full of Cotton. The plot focuses on a feud between two rival cotton gin owners in rural Mississippi; after one of the men commits arson against the other's gin, the owner retaliates by attempting to seduce the arsonist's nineteen-year-old virgin bride with the hopes of receiving an admission by her of her husband's guilt.

The film received a seal from the Motion Picture Code, but the Catholic Legion of Decency gave it a "C" ("Condemned") rating and called it "grievously offensive to Christian and traditional standards of morality and decency." They succeeded in having the film withdrawn from release in most U.S. theaters because of their objections over its sexual themes.  Variety noted that it was the first time in years that the Legion had condemned a major American film which had received the approval of the Code.

Other religious figures became involved in the controversy surrounding the film, including Francis J. Spellman, the Catholic Archbishop of New York, who called it "sinful" and forbade Catholics in the archdiocese to see the film and James A. Pike of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, who countered Spellman by pointing out that there was more "sensuality" in the film The Ten Commandments than there was in Baby Doll, and argued that "the church's duty is not to prevent adults from having the experience of this picture, but to give them a wholesome basis for interpretation and serious answers to questions that were asked with seriousness."  Others agreed with Pike, including the Catholic Archbishop of Paris and the head of the Catholic film Institute in the U.K., while the Catholic Bishop of Albany, New York also forbade Catholics to see the film, which the American Civil Liberties Union objected to as a violation of the First Amendment

 

According to Baker, she and everyone else who had worked on the film had "no idea" that the material would be perceived as controversial.  It was believed that the main reasons behind the backlash regarded the seduction scene between Baker and Wallach, in which his character successfully attempts to seduce and arouse her outside the farmhouse. There was also speculation that, during their scene together on a swinging chair, that Wallach's character was touching Baby Doll underneath her dress due to the fact that his hands are not visible in the close up shot. According to both Baker and Wallach, the scene was intentionally filmed that way because Kazan had put heaters all around them because of the cold weather.

The movie was banned in many countries, such as Sweden, due to what was called "exaggerated sexual content". The film was also condemned by Time magazine, which called it the "dirtiest American-made motion picture that had ever been legally exhibited".  Due in part to the attempts to have it banned or suppressed, the film was not a commercial success, although it performed decently at the box office in spite of the controversy. According to Kazan, however, the film did not make a profit.

In retrospect, star Eli Wallach called the film "one of the most exciting, daring movies ever made", adding "People see it today and say, 'What the hell was all the fuss about?'"              Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Through its overt sexual undertones and public controversy, Baby Doll helped establish actress Carroll Baker's status as a sex symbol in Hollywood. It is also widely believed that Carroll Baker's style in the film as Baby Doll was a main inspiration for the 1990s kinderwhore fashion that was popularized by Hole vocalist/guitarist Courtney Love.  The second song on Hole's debut album was also named after the film.

  • Academy Awards nominations (1957)

    • Best Actress – Carroll Baker

    • Best Adapted Screenplay – Tennessee Williams

    • Best Black and White Cinematography – Boris Kaufman

    • Best Supporting Actress – Mildred Dunnock

  • British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards nominations (1957)

    • Most Promising Newcomer – Eli Wallach – winner

    • Best Film from any Source

    • Best Foreign Actor – Karl Malden

    • Best Foreign Actress – Carroll Baker

  • Golden Globe Awards nominations (1957)

    • Best Director – Elia Kazan – winner

    • Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama – Karl Malden

    • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture – Eli Wallach

    • Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama – Carroll Baker

    • Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture – Mildred Dunnock

  • Writers Guild of America WGA Awards nominations (1957)

    • Best Written American Drama (Screen) – Tennessee Williams

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