Summer of Paul: Sweet Bird of Youth

I decided about a month ago that I would start watching Paul Newman movies for fun this summer. I started with Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, at the suggestion of Erin at Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs, and then stumbled on to a list of Paul Newman movies on a movie site to sort of guide me.

I have a lot of catching up to do on this list and hope to get to as many of them as possible through August. So far this summer, I have watched Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Long Hot Summer, Paris Blues, and Sweet Bird of Youth. In the past, I have watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Exodus.

Up this week will be The Rack and The Hustler. The Husband wants me to watch The Hustler with him this weekend.

Before the summer ends, I hope to get to:

Cool Hand Luke (which I watched once many years ago),

Somebody Up There Likes Me

Rachel Rachel (which he directed and stars his wife Joan)

The Color of Money


Nobody’s Fool

The Sting

The Verdict

And the documentary series about him and his wife, Joan Woodward:

The Last Movie Stars

The documentary is on HBO Max, but I will have to get a subscription to watch it because we were sharing a subscription with someone, and they got rid of their subscription. We will see what can be done, but, man, a subscription to HBO Max is expensive now! Maybe they will have a sale.

I have digressed quite a bit here because I had planned for this post to be about Sweet Bird of Youth, which I watched a couple of weeks ago. This is yet another movie that Paul was in that was based on a Tennessee Williams play. I didn’t realize that Paul had been in more than one movie based on Williams’ plays until I started watching his movies this summer.

I had never heard of Sweet Bird of Youth before and for a movie made in 1962, it was quite dark and heavy and also seemed ahead of its time somehow. The acting was absolutely stellar all the way around. The overall story was gritty and raw, focusing on some serious issues, at least one of which I don’t want to share because it will be a spoiler. A couple of the issues I can mention are alcoholism, drug (pot) use, promiscuity, domestic abuse, power-hungry politicians, greed, and nepotism.

Paul’s shirt was off quite a few times in this movie, which wasn’t a bad thing to me but did drive my son nuts because every time he walked in the room, there was a shirtless Paul Newman.

“Just go back to watching your movie with that shirtless guy,” he told me one day to avoid discussing his need to eat healthier food (or maybe it was about his need to clean his room. I lose track of our discussions now that he is a teenager).

In addition to Paul, the movie starred Ed Begley (wow. His performance made me want to reach through the screen and slap him! Dang!), Shirley Knight (she was stunning and so perfect in that part), Rip Torn (didn’t even recognize him, he was so young), Geraldine Page, and Madeline Sherwood.

Here is a small description of the movie I found online: “After unsuccessfully trying his luck in Hollywood, charming gigolo Chance Wayne (Paul Newman) wanders back to his hometown, accompanied by Alexandra Del Lago (Geraldine Page), a movie star on the wane. Chance quickly falls back into his old rut — he’s still smitten with his former sweetheart, Heavenly Finley (Shirley Knight), but her thuggish brother (Rip Torn) and her crooked politician father (Ed Begley) both hate him. When Alexandra leaves town, Chance is left with little more than trouble.”

I do recommend the movie, but I will warn you that it is not a happy Paul and some of the topics are a bit uncomfortable. I am not giving rankings to the movies I am watching but if I was, I’d give this one a five out of five.

Classic Movie Impression: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (with spoilers)

Erin of Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs and I have been trading classic movie suggestions this summer.

So far I have watched A Streetcar Named Desire and she has watched Double Indemnity.

Last time Erin suggested Streetcar and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (this came about when we were discussing our old movie star crushes. Erin’s is Marlon Brando and mine is Paul Newman), and I chose Streetcar first, so I watched Cat On A Hot Tin Roof for this time around because I thought I had never seen it.

However, as I watched it, I remembered I had seen part of it before, and like before I did not exactly enjoy it but didn’t hate it. I liked it, but I did not enjoy it. I’m not sure if that makes sense. Before I launch into my thoughts about the movie, I will warn you that I will be offering some spoilers, so if this is a movie you have never watched, you might want to skip this particular post. Also, Erin watched The Thin Man, the first of the Thin Man movie series with William Powell and Myrna Lloyd for her post today.

Going back to my comments on not enjoying the film: it isn’t that I didn’t like the acting or the masterful storytelling based on Tennessee William’s play. What I didn’t enjoy was just how awful all the people in the movie and play are. They are all liars and cheaters, with maybe the exception of Brick, played by Paul Newman. Brick is a sad, lost man throughout the movie and he’s the only one I have sympathy for. The only one Brick is lying to is himself, according to some reviews of the play, which say Brick was actually gay and couldn’t face it. The movie, however, doesn’t lean toward that subject being the reason behind Brick’s constant bad mood, which angered Williams, Newman, and fans of the original play.

There is a lot of debate online about what Brick is so broken about, but it appears the confusion comes from the fact that the movie was changed from the original play.

In the play, Brick is supposedly so upset because he’s suppressing his homosexuality. This, however, is not the issue in the movie. In the movie, he’s upset because he ignored the calls of his close friend who cared about Brick (in a more romantic way) when Brick didn’t feel that way toward him and he’s also upset because his wife slept with the friend to try to prove that the friend was as good of a guy as Brick thought. She thought by proving that she could get Brick to love her more. The plan backfires and he ends up hating his wife.

One commenter on a forum said that in the play Brick may have been gay, but in the movie he is not. Another commenter said they felt that Brick was struggling with the fact his father did not love him, he had a close friend who died who loved Brick, but Brick didn’t love him back, and that he was ashamed of his failure at anything his father wanted him to succeed at.

To me, (good or bad) Williams seemed to have an obsession with characters being closeted gay people, most likely because that was his story. It’s understandable because a lot of writers share parts of themselves in their works.

Aside from Brick’s issues about his sexuality, there is also an underlying theme of the idea of love being something that can’t be shown in material items (“All I wanted was for you to love me,” Brick tells Big Daddy in the climactic scene. “I wanted a father, not a boss.”), what is real masculinity (Brick’s brother has fathered six children, Brick none), the idea of the patriarchal rule of the American south and American society in the 1950s, and the idea of people who want money and power even though they don’t really deserve it because they’re vindictive and focused on appearances more than anything.

Also, in the end, (as far as the movie goes) I do think there is a part of Brick who feels horrible for how he lashes out at his father (called Big Daddy) and reveals a horrible secret in the process and also how he has treated Maggie. There is a suggestion by some who have watched the play and movie that Brick finally decides to sleep with Maggie to give her the baby she wants not because he loves her but because he feels, in a way, he owes it to her, and I think that may be the case. As angry as he is at her and at himself, he shows in the movie version that he does have compassion for her and guilt for how he has treated her. She, however, is liar and simply a pretty pathetic person — hence the reference to her as a cat on a hot tin roof — she hangs in there no matter how hot it gets because she digs her claws in.

Overall this was a good movie and I’m glad Erin reminded me of it. It isn’t a movie I would watch over and over because some of the characters are just so unlikeable (Mae, Brick’s sister-in-law makes me want to reach through the screen and slap her, probably because I’ve known more than one woman like her in my lifetime) and because the subjects are so heavy. The wonderful acting more than makes up for the difficult subjects and characters, however, which is always the case with any movie based on Williams’ work —even if the theme of his play was changed to sanitize topics for the time frame the movie was made in.

If you would like to read more about the various interpretations of the play and movie versions of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, you can read this article in The Guardian.

Sunday Bookends: Paul Newman movies and romantic comedy books dominate this week

Welcome to Sunday Bookends where I ramble about what I’ve been reading, doing, watching, writing and listening to.

What’s Been Occurring

Last week seemed busy even though we didn’t do as much as the week before. Sunday we spent the day at my parents again. Wednesday The Husband and I went out for dinner for our 20th anniversary. We went to a place we were familiar with and enjoyed a good meal and then came home and watched a show based on an Agatha Christie short story.

Friday it was my first time grocery shopping in person in several years. I hate grocery shopping, so we have been doing grocery pickups for years, even before it was a “thing”. Now that we live 45 minutes from any Walmart, and with the price of gas, doing grocery pick up has become too expensive, so Friday the kids and I drove 20 minutes to the new Aldi store. It looks like I will now be doing this every Friday or every other Friday for the foreseeable future. Wish me luck.

I did learn one thing — don’t take a young child with you because they try to fill the cart with extra food. Luckily most of that extra food was fruit, but still.

This week I have to take Little Miss to gymnastics and take some photos at dress rehearsal for the play my husband is in and that, thank goodness, is about it.

What I’m Reading

I am still reading The Do Over by Bethany Turner, but will probably finish it this week.

For those who are curious about what it is about, here is a description:

A witty, romantic comedy of errors as former high school rivals McKenna and Henry inadvertently reunite in their hometown.

Hot-shot lawyer McKenna Keaton finds herself in hot water with her own law firm when she’s (falsely!) accused of embezzlement. Placed on unpaid leave, she suddenly finds herself with the free time to return home and attend her youngest sister’s wedding activities.

But it’s not all fun and games. Waiting back home is shy, nerdy Henry Blumenthal—McKenna’s high school rival for valedictorian who once took three hours to beat her at chess. Scratch that. He’s Hank Blume now, the famed documentarian, Durham, North Carolina’s, darling son, who has attained all his dreams and more. He also happens to look like he stepped out of an Eddie Bauer catalog.

Whereas McKenna is a disgraced workaholic from New York on unpaid leave, accused of a white-collar crime she would never commit, succumbing to panic attacks, and watching her dreams unravel. At age thirty-eight—and destined by the family curse to die before she turns forty, apparently—it’s absolutely the wrong time to have a major crush on a man. Especially one who treasures his memories of McKenna as the Girl Most Likely to Succeed.

On some days I am also reading a chapter or two of Anne of the Island but I’m trying to be more careful with the paperback copy of it I have because it’s starting to look very beat up since I have been carrying it everywhere with me. I’ve decided to only read it at home from now on. I’m not very gentle with hard copies of books, which is why I hate to get books out at the library. The Husband, on the other hand, somehow keeps even paperback copies of books pristine and I don’t know how he does it. I refuse to read his paperbacks because I am always paranoid that I will mess it up.

How about you? Do you keep your books in good shape or do they get a bit bent up and scuffed?

The Husband is reading Don’t Know by Tough by Eli Cantor (it’s the author’s debut novel).

The Boy is reading War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

Little Miss and I are reading Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary.

What I/We Watched/Are Watching

I call Paul Newman my favorite actor but this past week I realized, rather sadly, that I have not watched very many of his movies, so I decided to remedy that by watching more of his movies this summer. Then I found a list that suggested 15 of his movies to watch so I decided to work through those for fun for the rest of the summer and maybe beyond.

­­­Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs, had already suggested A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as a movie for me to watch and I’ll have a blog post on that later this week. She and I are trading movie suggestions this week.

From there I watched The Long Hot Summer, which I have wanted to watch for a long time. That was one of the eleven movies he did with his wife, Joanne Woodward. I really enjoyed it, even though I thought Paul’s character was a little bit of a jerk for most of the movie. A sexy jerk but a jerk nonetheless. I also didn’t recognize Orson Welles at all in the movie and it took the credits at the end for me to realize it was him.

This weekend I also checked off Paris Blues, another Newman/Woodward movie, that also starred Sidney Poitier, Diahan Carroll, and Louis Armstrong.

A description of the movie, if you, like me had never seen it:

During the 1960s, two American expatriate jazz musicians living in Paris meet and fall in love with two American tourist girls. During the 1960s, two American expatriate jazz musicians living in Paris meet and fall in love with two American tourist girls.

A couple interesting things about the movie, which was made in the 60s, was that it was Woodward who pursued Newman and not just pursued him, but jumped right into bed with him. Newman also started to flirt with Carroll’s character in the movie, hinting at an interracial relationship, but that relationship doesn’t happen as Newman and Poitier switch partners, so to speak.

According to the above article I mentioned, the book that the movie was based on featured an interracial relationship, but movie producers felt that that would be too progressive and offend audiences (insert eye roll here). There was, however, a conversation about civil rights in the movie between Poitier and Carroll when he asks her if she wants to have fun or “do you want to discuss the race thing?” Sounds a lot like conversations we could have today.

The on-screen chemistry between Newman and Woodward is amazing, of course, but that’s to be expected since they had married three years earlier.

Once again, Newman was a bit of a jerk at times during the movie, but there is one scene where he and Woodward break into laughter and I don’t think it was scripted. I think they naturally started to laugh at each other.

As I mentioned above, The Husband and I also watched an episode of The Agatha Christie Hour through AcornTV, which is a series based on Agatha Christie’s short stories.

Yesterday I rewatched North by Northwest with Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint because I couldn’t remember most of the movie. It was better the second time around but I still don’t like Eva Marie Saint, who I saw in Exodus with Paul Newman years ago, as an actress. Something about her just grates on my nerves, but more so in Exodus where she was a seriously arrogant American.

North by Northwest is one of Hitchcock’s best and this is one of the most famous scenes:

Upcoming this week: Blue Hawaii with Elvis at the suggestion of Erin, The Rack with Paul Newman and maybe another Paul movie.

What I’m Listening To

I’ve been listening to a lot of Christian music and finding some new artists on Apple Music, including Jon Reddick.

Last night I listened to some songs from Fiddler on the Roof, including my favorite, which I used to dance to in our living room, and made my parents think I was going to be in musicals someday (ha!)

What I’m Writing

This week on the blog I shared:

Now It’s Your Turn

What have you been watching, reading, listening to, writing, or doing? Let me know in the comments.