The solid virtues of a well-made play transferred to film by a sympathetic director and a strong cast are here for all to see.
William Inge was a successful playwright of the 1950s whose hit plays all became hit movies (Come Back Little Sheba, Bus Stop, Picnic). He wrote a curious but effective mixture of poetic nostalgia and introspective melodrama along Tennessee Williams lines, and while they remain theatrical, they are always involving.
The setting here is Oklahoma in the 1920s and Robert Preston plays Rubin Flood, the head of a family in times of change.
Rubin loses his job as a travelling harness salesman when the company goes bankrupt. This adds to his woes at home where his wife Cora (Dorothy McGuire) is frigid because she’s worried about money; his painfully shy teenage daughter Reenie (Shirley Knight) is afraid of going out on dates – although she eventually makes friends with troubled Jewish army cadet, Sammy Golden (Lee Kinsolving) – and his son is a mama’s boy.
Trying to keep his job troubles a secret from his family, Rubin finally storms out of the house when Cora falsely accuses him of having an affair with widowed hairdresser Mavis Pruitt (Angela Lansbury, who shines in the role).
Cora calls her sister, Lottie (Eve Arden) to visit who brings her henpecked dentist-husband, Morris (Frank Overton) for support. Their arrival provides one of the most interesting developments of the story and sheds light on the Rubin-Cora battle.
Peg La Centra