- LULU / PANDORA'S BOX
- DAPHNIS AND CHLOE
- FEDRA
- THE FUGITIVE KIND
- THE TESTAMENT OF ORPHEUS
- PHAEDRA
- HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS
- YOUNG APHRODITES
- CONTEMPT
- PROMETHEUS FROM THE VISEVICE ISLAND
- SANDRA OF A THOUSAND DELIGHTS
- THE GOLDEN THING
- THE TRAVELLING PLAYERS
- EURIDICE BA 2037
- IPHIGENIA
- A DREAM OF PASSION
- CLASH OF THE TITANS
- THE YEARS OF THE BIG HEAT
- ENIOCHUS - THE CHARIOTEER
- ANTIGONE
- EDIPO ALCADE
- THAT'S LIFE
- BLADE RUNNER
- VERTIGO
- MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA
- ORPHEUS
- PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN
- ULYSSES
- HERACLES AND THE QUEEN OF LYDIA
- BLACK ORPHEUS
- ANTIGONE
- ELECTRA
- JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS
- ‘«Ň GORGON
- OEDIPUS REX
- ‘«Ň ILLIAC PASSION
- THE CANNIBALS
- ŐEDEA
- NOTES FOR AN AFRICAN ORESTEIA
- FOR ELECTRA
- PROMETHEUS IN THE SECOND PERSON
- VOYAGE TO CYTHERA
- ULYSSES' GAZE
- ‘«Ň MATRIX
- O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?

THE FUGITIVE KIND
U.S.A., 1959


Directed by: Sidney Lumet. Screenplay: Meade Roberts, Tennessee Williams, from the latter's play Orpheus Descending. Director of Photography: Boris Kaufman. Art direction: Richard Sylbert, Set design: Gene Callahan. Costume design: Frank L. Thompson. Original music: Kenyon Hopkins. Film editing: Carl Lerner. Cast: Marlon Brando (Val), Anna Magnani (Lady), Joanne Woodward (Carol), Maureen Stapleton (Mrs Talbot), Victor Jory (Jabe Torrance), R.G. Armstrong (Sheriff Talbott), Virgilia Chew (Nurse Porter), John Baragrey (David Cutrere). Produced by Martin Jurow, George Justin, Richard Shepherd. 121 min. Black and white.

Val Xavier, known by the nickname ęSnakeskinĽ because of the snakeskin jacket he wears, is forced to flee New Orleans and end his career as a club singer, due to troubles with the law. One night, wandering around, he arrives at a remote town in Mississippi, where he gets a job as a helper at Lady Torrence's dime store. Lady Torrence, a middle-aged woman, is enraged at those who burnt down her father's vineyard (because he was selling booze to the blacks) and embittered over an unfortunate love affair with David Cutrere. She tolerates the antics of her despotic husband Jabe, who was recently discharged from hospital and is lying on his deathbed on the upper floor of the store. Lady Torrence, however, dreams of expanding her commercial activities and so hires Val, who uses his charm to attract women clients. Amongst those who pursue him insistently is Carol Cutrere, David's sister, an alcoholic nymphomaniac, whose car Val volunteered to fix when he first came to town. In the end, Lady is the one to win him over and she goes ahead with her plan to set up a refreshment bar. On the opening day, her husband, mad with jealousy, lets slip that he was one of the ones who torched her father's vineyard. The sheriff, a friend of Jabe's, threatens to kill Val unless he leaves the town immediately. Val is ready to say goodbye to Lady, when he finds out that she is pregnant, which makes him change his mind. Jabe sets the bar on fire and, blinded by his jealousy, shoots Lady. The sheriff and his men enter the scene, but instead of putting out the fire, they throw Val into the flames. Carol, who happens to witness the scene, finds the snakeskin jacket in the ashes and takes it with her.

Closed spaces...
by Babis Aktsoglou

The Fugitive Kind is an enriched version of Tennessee Williams' play Orpheus Descending, that was specially written for Marlon Brando and Anna Magnani, but was never staged on Broadway, because of Brando's refusal to play side by side with such an accomplished actress as Magnani, who might upstage him. However, this is not the case on the screen, where the allocation of time and space – basically through close-ups – grants the actor his autonomy. If anything, The Fugitive Kind is remembered mainly for the close-ups and the evocative, almost expressionistic, black-and-white cinematography by Boris Kaufman (Dziga Vertov's brother), who transforms the realistic setting of a small town in the American South into something mythical, a gateway to Hades.
Contrary to those who argue that Tennessee William's plays are not suitable for cinematographic adaptation, I would agree with Christian Viviani that "his dialogues, almost rhythmically repeated, are never tiring and they reveal numerous images that the cinema knows perfectly well how to exploit. Visualisation gives Tennessee Williams's neurotic, decadent world a poetic dimension which is often lost on the stage". 1 This is absolutely true of the screen adaptation of Orpheus Descending. With the exception of a fire scene at the end, the original play lacks spectacular action; everything is said or implied inside closed spaces: a courtroom at first, Lady's storehouse, a pub, the sheriff's house-prison. These are places that impose a sense of confinement and make us wonder how it is possible for Val, a modern version of Orpheus, who in the end will be torn to pieces by the modern Erinyes, the racist groups of the American South, to be kept imprisoned.
Lumet retains the theatricality of the play, starting his film with a monologue that Brando renders facing the camera, which is identified with the eyes of an unseen judge. Even in the scenes that take place inside Carol's car, what is important is what the two heroes say and do and not where they are going (although this was perhaps the only chance the film had to overcome its theatrical limitations). Fidelity to the original text, however dangerous it may be, promotes the actor's performance: 'If Magnani gives another wonderful performance in the role of a kind-hearted Italian woman, who is always ready to shed a tear, Brando is uniquely resourceful, adding a half-hidden meaning to his every movement and word: when he takes the woman's hand in order to kiss it, you think he wants to break it; and when he kisses it, you get the feeling of a son paying respect to his mother." 2
Despite Brando and Magnani's presence in the film, without ignoring Joanne Woodward, a rising star at the time, who steals the show as the alcoholic Carol, The Fugitive Kind was not a success when it first came out, and is actually a film that has to be rediscovered. It should be noted, however, that in 1990, Peter Hall adapted the same play for cable television, starring Kevin Anderson and Vanessa Redgrave. Redgrave had already successfully played Lady in London and New York.

1. Dictionnaire du Cinéma, Librairie Larousse, Paris 1986
2. Hervé Guilbert, "Le Monde", 28-29/3/1982