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3— If Looks Could Kill
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Other Selected Highlights of 1957

January 4: Jonny sees The Killing , after discussing it with Beulah that afternoon and before checking up with Stanley. January 21: Eisenhower is inaugurated for his second term. February 22: Jonny attends a Louis Armstrong concert at the Sheffield Community Center with his girlfriend Jean McIntosh (the 7 P.M. show for whites, not the 9:30 one for colored). March 3: Jonny sees The Girl Can't Help It , and Stanley's Sunday column ends with this paragraph:

Family note: My son Jonny is often critical of my handling of this column. So the other day I asked him, "Would you like to try it?" It turned out that he would, so Jonny will be guest columnist next Sunday.

March 7–8:Lust for Life at the Shoals. March 23: David Rosenbaum shoots a hole-in-one at the Florence Golf and Country Club, earning him the nickname "Ace." March 24: Jonny sees Julie with Mimi at the Shoals. March 31: He sees The Wages of Fear , another suspense ordeal, at the Princess. (Is it possible that Grandma's aggrieved claim that I actually hit her while we were watching High Noon together at the Shoals in mid-October 1952 was true, despite my faulty memory, because the relentless throb of the suspense, driven home by those tilted camera angles of various clocks, exacerbated my impatience when she made some querulous remark to herself right in the middle of a crucial line of dialogue? Not a very nice way to act toward one's grandmother. But I was a loyal slave of the Conquistador, a dutiful, touchy thug who belonged to the Big Boss and wouldn't let anybody treat him with disrespect .)

April 9–11:The Wrong Man at the Shoals. April 16: Jonny is given a scratch test at the Florence Clinic, leading to four allergy shots a week for seventeen months.


May 5: Stanley's all-time best Sunday column appears in the Florence Times . Here are a few excerpts:

This is my 25th year in working for the local theatres, and in that entire period I have not known a picture to provoke as much discussion and controversy as "Baby Doll." . . . 

I had to make the decision whether to show it or not myself; my father was abroad at the time. I had several of my friends see it. Some were enthusiastic; some were lukewarm; and there were a few who frankly detested it. I didn't buy it until I had seen it and read all the principal comments about it. And when I bought it, it was under the condition that I would not admit children under 16, I would not play it on a Sunday, and I would not show it until May.

The reasons I held it back until May were as follows: 1. I thought it would give time for the dust to settle and for the whole matter to be seen more clearly. 2. I didn't want it to play during Lent. 3. May is the month in which children and teen-agers are the busiest at school and go to the movies the least.

It has been our practice in the past to judge each such controversial case on its merits, as we saw them. For instance, there have been several pictures in the past which we refused to show in their original uncensored form because it was obvious that the only excuse for them was that the producer was after a fast duck [sic ]. In a couple of such cases we were the only towns of comparable size in the state that didn't show them.

I cannot regard "Baby Doll" as being in this category. Tennessee Williams, who wrote it, has won two Pulitzer Prizes and three New York Drama Critics Awards. Some regard him as the greatest living American playwright. I know of drama critics who do not like him; I know of none who do not regard him as important  . . . 

The industry, as almost everyone knows, is self-censoring. There is a Production Code and a board which decides whether each picture should get the board's seal of approval. There have been two or three cases in the past where they refused the seal but we played the picture anyway, because we thought the board was wrong. "The Moon is Blue" is one of these cases.

However, "Baby Doll" did pass the board and received the seal of approval. It must be said, on the other hand, that the board has recently been concerned about the straitjacket which the thinking of all-pictures-should-be-suitable-for-children was putting on production, and that their approval of "Baby Doll" does represent an expansion of the principles by which other pictures have been judged in the past.

Catholic organizations have been fairly consistent in their opposition to the picture. The Legion of Decency condemned it. Catholics in Alabama were asked to deny their future patronage to theatres which showed it. This boycott, however, has since been removed . . . 

"Baby Doll" has been passed without objection by every single state censorship board in the United States. It has not been banned in any city or town in Alabama, and has in fact, already played in every community in the state of a size comparable to us or larger. There were four places in other states in which it was banned: Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, and Jackson, Miss. In the three


largest of these, however—Atlanta, Memphis and Nashville—the censor boards voted to reconsider, and in all three they have now passed the picture. They prescribed a few cuts, and labelled it for adults only . . . 

The prints used here will not be cut . . . 

A number of Southerners have objected to the picture on another ground. It takes place in the ramshackle remains of an old Southern mansion in a small Mississippi town. The characters in the picture are of a low cultural and intellectual level, and some object to this as a slur on the South.

I would like to point out in this regard that William Faulkner, our neighbor in Oxford, Miss., winner of the Nobel Prize and often named as America's greatest living novelist, is just as uninhibited in his portrayal of Mississippi. In fact, many of the greatest novelists of all countries have described the seamier side of life. Think of Dickens, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Flaubert, Hugo, Dreiser, De Maupassant, Zola, Hardy. The fact is that human nature is most completely revealed when the amenities and superficialities of civilized living are stripped away as they sometimes are in the lower levels of society . . . 

What is "Baby Doll" about? I'll tell you, as briefly and boldly as possible. Carroll Baker has been married for some time to Karl Malden, a cotton-ginner who is having a hard time. He is much older than she. Carroll still clings to her childhood. She sleeps in a crib, and has retained her virginity. Malden is anxious to end this state of affairs. This is the situation at the beginning of the picture. Eli Wallach, a rival cotton-ginner with a just grudge against Malden, senses the situation and attempts to awaken Carroll's slumbering womanhood. I'll let the picture take it from there.

May 7–10:Baby Doll at the Shoals. May 15: Great Britain sets off its first hydrogen bomb in a test in the Pacific. May 18: Mimi, Stanley, David, Jonny, Alvin, and Michael see Giant at the Shoals.

June 9: Ad for The Little Hut appears in the Florence Times . In the same issue there is a small item about the use of the Sheffield Ritz as a recording studio by Tune Records. June 16–18 : Boy on a Dolphin at the Shoals. June 20: Mimi picks Jonny up after band practice at Coffee High School (where Jonny will be starting as a freshman in September) and tells him about Elmo's being found wounded near the Princess. (When Jonny sees Elmo again, he seems quite different: his hair is cropped closely, and he speaks shyly, in a curiously quiet and high-pitched voice, almost a wheezy whisper. )

July 17 or 18: Jonny sees One Summer Of Happiness in Swedish, with subtitles and no cuts, at the Princess; he doesn't see Written On The Wind at the Shoals. July 21–24:Loving You , with Elvis Presley, at the Shoals. July 24 or 25: 2¢ Worth Of Hope and Rome 11 O'clock , both subtitled, at the Princess; Jonny sees the latter. July 28: Jonny sees Bernadine at the Shoals; free photos of Pat Boone are handed out with each admission.

August 4: He sees This Could Be The Night at the Shoals; David Darby can't come along because his mother finds the title too risqué. August 7:The


Ten Commandments begins projected three-week run at the Princess. August 22: The Florence Times reports, "The Princess Theatre, located at 213 East Tennessee Street in Florence, will be closed for an indefinite period as a result of an early morning fire which caused considerable damage to the ceiling and balcony in addition to smoke and water damage to the entire structure." (When it reopens in spring 1958, it will be called the Cinema.)

September 1: Jonny sees Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? twice at the Shoals. September 2–3: Bart A. Floyd, thirty-one, proves his worthiness as a new member of the Ku Klux Klan of the Confederacy in Zion City, Alabama, just outside of Birmingham, by picking out a Negro male at random—Judge Edward Aaron, thirty-four—and, with the help of five other Klan members, kidnapping, beating, torturing, and then castrating him. September 4: Governor Orval Faubus orders National Guardsmen to prevent nine Negro students from entering Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas (birthplace of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes ). September 19: First underground nuclear explosion set off by Atomic Energy Commission in Nevada; Jet Pilot starts ten-day run at the Norwood. September 29: Jonny sees An Affair To Remember at the Shoals and almost cries.

October 4: Sputnik I, first man-made satellite, is launched by Soviet scientists. October 6: Jonny hears about Elmo Johnson's body being found in the Tennessee River.

November 3: Sputnik II, carrying a live dog, Laika, is launched by Soviet scientists. November 10:Jailhouse Rock begins five-day run at the Shoals; Soviet authorities announce Laika's death. November 15 or 16: Jonny sees Dino, with Sal Mineo, at the Shoals. (Dino is an expansion of a Studio One teleplay that Jonny saw and liked on January 2, 1956. At 1:12 A.M., May 11, 1979, on Channel 5, Sal Mineo, a juvenile delinquent named Dino, wakes from a nightmare in his T-shirt, experiencing a psychodramatic torture session that sounds and feels like an avalanche performed by Stan Kenton's brass section, the trumpets cackling ghoulish torment. All that energy waiting to be released, I imagine the ads for the picture saying. Suffering is so glamorous, comforting, romantic, exotic, dramatic, sexy, exciting, even aesthetic at the movies: Like Dino, in this James Dean spinoff, being slugged again and again by his old man, his mouth bloodied, screaming for his dad to slug him again, again, again. Fifteen minutes later he points a loaded revolver at his father's sleeping head, and that demonic chorus of west coast trumpets again starts to cackle, with the same false promise of release.)

December 29: Stanley discusses The James Dean Story in his Sunday column:

"The James Dean Story" is a most interesting, unusual and well-made movie, but the ads on it annoy me. They all say: James Dean Plays Himself in


"The James Dean Story." That seems somewhat misleading. Since James Dean died before the picture was made, he is not in it in the ordinary sense.

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