Monday, June 29, 2009

"A goodlooking boy like you is always wanted," says the small town sheriff in 'The Fugitive Kind.'

Marlon Brando plays Val Xavier the tortured beauty in Sidney Lumet's groin-stirring stirring drama, 'The Fugitive Kind' (1960). Anna Magnani, Joanne Woodward, and Maureen Stapleton play the three small town women drawn to the guitar playing drifter like moths circling a light bulb on a hot summer night. Brando is the boy-man, young enough to exude an enticing vulnerability and old enough to display the scars of a boxer who has spent years in the ring.

The screenplay was adapted from a Tennessee Williams play penned in the 1930s. Val Xavier is the stranger who upsets the lives of the towns folk: the women who're attracted to him and the men who resent his intrusion. It's 'Sex in a Small Town" with the female leads as gay male stereotypes who've pinned their hopes on a stranger. There's the gay married man trapped in a sexless marriage (Magnani), the pretty young twink (Woodward) who has already done everyone and is desperate to get away, and the brow-beaten gentle soul (Stapleton) who wants to help and has settled for an insentive clunk of a husband.

Both the character Val and the real life actor, Brando, seemed totally self-aware of the sexual power they exerted over others. It seems to me that this power caused him some conflict: he didn't want to abuse it yet he always used it. A model and musician once admitted to me after several beers and bourbon shots that he didn't want to be an unreliable, undependable friend, but that he knew that he could always make new friends, so he'd just let the old ones slide away when they had served their purpose.

"To me a movie is about revelation and human behavior." Sidney Lumet

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