WALK ON THE WILD SIDE
(director: Edward Dmytryk; screenwriters: Ben Hecht/Clifford Odets/John Fante/Edmund Morris/based on the novel by Nelson Algren; cinematographer: Joseph MacDonald; editor: Harry Gerstad; music: Elmer Bernstein; cast: Laurence Harvey (Dove Linkhorn), Capucine (Hallie Gerard), Jane Fonda (Kitty Twist), Anne Baxter (Teresina Vidaverri), Barbara Stanwyck (Jo Courtney), Joanna Moore (Miss Precious), Juanita Moore (Mama), Richard Rust (Oliver), Karl Swenson (Schmidt), Donald “Red” Barry (Dockery), John Anderson (Preacher); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Charles K. Feldman; Columbia Pictures; 1962)
“best known for that marvelous opening credit sequence created by Saul Bass.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The film is best known for that marvelous opening credit sequence created by Saul Bass, that has a black cat taking ‘a walk on the wild side.’ Edward Dmytryk was talked into directing this flick, based on the novel by Nelson Algren, by agent-turned-producer Charles K. Feldman. The script never seemed right as a team of writers worked on it, including an uncredited Clifford Odets and Ben Hecht, constantly changing the script on the insistence of Charles K. Feldman, who tried to get a soft porn version (prostitution and lesbianism) past the censors. Feldman was the agent for Laurence Harvey, Anne Baxter, and his lover at the time Capucine. All three were miscast and helped bring the pic down. The film was marred by trouble on the set and production delays over financing (Columbia wouldn’t come on board until Feldman came up with a script that could pass muster with the newly formed Production Code). Surprisingly, it made some money even though it was a rather feeble effort.
Set in the 1930s, drifter ex-farmer Texan Dove Linkhorn (Laurence Harvey) hitches to New Orleans to hook up with his lost love Hallie Gerard (Capucine), an aspiring artist. On the road he meets the feisty under-aged tramp Kitty Twist (Jane Fonda) and later meets desperate sex-starved Mexican widow Teresina Vidaverri (Anne Baxter), who runs a cafe. Dove finds Hallie working as a high-class prostitute in a bordello in the French Quarter of New Orleans and that she’s being kept by Jo Courtney (Barbara Stanwyck), the lesbian madame of the Doll’s House, who no longer loves her amputee hubby Schmidt (Karl Swenson) and seeks comfort with Hallie. Still in love with Hallie, the dull Dove tries to sweet talk her into coming back to him and after being rejected at first finds success by his square approach. When Dove rejects the jealous Jo’s proposal to leave town without Hallie, she hires thugs to work him over and they leave him unconscious; Kitty rescues him and brings him to Teresina’s cafe. When Hallie finds out, she’s followed to the cafe by Jo’s bodyguard Oliver. It leads to an overbaked climax, where Oliver mistakenly shoots Hallie when trying to get Dove. The head bandaged Dove crawls to Hallie’s aid, where she dies in his arms.
The steamy melodrama gets by with a few passable titillating moments of campy entertainment (Stanwyck turns in her usual good performance), but the acting by the attractive Capucine and the Brit Harvey trying to pass for a Texan are not effective and the muddled script never gives us much reason to care about either the ill-fated hooker or the moralizing dim-witted male lead.
REVIEWED ON 8/3/2006 GRADE: C+