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Baby Doll (1956)


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Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 4
Fresh: 4 | Rotten: 0



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Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 2,400

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Movie Info

Tennessee Williams' 27 Wagons Full of Cotton was the basis for this steamy sex seriocomedy. Karl Malden stars as the doltish owner of a Southern cotton gin. He is married to luscious teenager Carroll Baker, who steadfastly refuses to sleep with her husband until she reaches the age of 20. Her nickname is "Baby Doll", a cognomen she does her best to live up to by lying in a crib-like bed and sucking her thumb. Enter crafty Sicilian Eli Wallach (who, like supporting actor Rip Torn, makes his film


Classics, Comedy

Jul 9, 2003


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All Critics (14) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (14) | Rotten (0) | DVD (1)

Wallach as the vengeful Vacarro plays it to the hilt. Malden is cast to perfection and turns in a socko performance.

October 6, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

One of Elia Kazan's most underrated movies is his only pure comedy.

November 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The grotesquely caricatured performances and the evocation of the baking, dusty, indolent homestead make for witty and compelling viewing.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Mr. Kazan keeps the courtship bouncing between the emotional and the ludicrous.

August 3, 2005 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Wickedly funny salacious black comedy.

November 20, 2007 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

An explosive, provocative black comedy from Tennessee Williams and Elia Kazan.

November 1, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Tennessee Williams adapted his play in this provocative black comedy, directed with intensity by Kazan, and starring Carroll Baker in her Oscar-nominate performance as the child-bride.

January 4, 2007 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

The movie hasn't aged a day in fifty years.

May 29, 2006 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

I love this stuff; it's remarkably silly, yet the actors play it so straight you'd think it was Hamlet.

May 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

an impressively steamy story for its day with some moments of true greatness

April 25, 2006 Full Review Source:

Regarded as scandalous when it was first released, Baby Doll has lost its shock value but retains a strong, sweaty Deep South sensuality.

August 3, 2005 Full Review Source: Film4

Baby Doll (1956) has been called notorious, salacious, revolting, dirty, steamy, lewd, suggestive, morally repellent and provocative.

August 23, 2001 Full Review Source: Tim Dirks' The Greatest Films
Tim Dirks' The Greatest Films

Audience Reviews for Baby Doll

Another great Tennessee Williams play directed by Kazan, and starring three great actors. I loved this movie it has everything, drama, romance, comedy, and excitement.
November 11, 2010

Super Reviewer

Archie Lee (Karl Malden) is kind of a pathetic figure. He's a loser in life, his business, a cotton gin, is a failure, and his house is a broken down old mansion. The only thing he values is his wife, Baby Doll. He lured her away from her father (while he was on his deathbed) under false promises that he has yet to live up to. Meanwhile Baby Doll can't stand her husband. He's a good deal older than her, and constantly leers and paws at her. Despite her revulsion, on her 20th birthday she's agreed to fulfill her marriage contract and sleep with him. On the eve of her 20th birthday, their furniture gets re-possessed, and Baby Doll threatens to withhold sex from him yet again, or worse, she will move into a hotel. "There's no torture on earth to equal the torture a cold woman inflicts on a man", laments Archie Lee. "What you done is bit off more than you can chew", comes Baby Doll's somewhat prophetic reply. Archie Lee is so frantic and pent-up in his sexual frustration (he peeps through a hole in the wall at her sleeping- and she sleeps in a baby crib no less), he burns down his [competetor's] cotton gin. Up til now, we're led to believe Archie Lee is the hero of the story, and we try to find a means of sympathizing with him and his problems. But then, after the fire, we're introduced to Silva Vacarro, a cicilian plantation owner who built his own gin rather than deal with the shoddy equipment of Archie Lee. When Silva sees the racist, old establishment sheriff's department won't do anything about his burned down cotton gin, his eyes tear up with rage as he swears he belongs to an ancient race of proud people who, when corruption stands in the way of justice, they go out and get their own. Eli Wallach delivers a standout performance as Silva, he plays his part with the intensity of a young Robert DeNiro, and he also reminds one of a young Harvey Keitel. The Silva character, oddly enough, is quite similar to that of Daniel Plainview from "There Will Be Blood": he's a very intense business man with an intense sense of justice. He comes not for Archie Lee's business, but for his heart. It's an absolutely ruthless sense of justice he pursues. But Archie Lee has the good old boy network on his side, and it's a battle of wills to see who will win. It's strange that near the end, when all the cards have been cast, and just when you think Silva should be at his most triumphant, he seems sympathetic to old Archie Lee. There's a moment of ackward mutual sadness between the characters while sitting on the staircase in that old broken down old home that manages to be quite touching. Still, Silva's contempt for Archie Lee and his broken down life isn't masked in the least bit. In fact, it's all he can do to keep from spitting in the man's face. With all it's references to the deep south, (the locals have colorful names like "Bo Weevil" and "Uncle Cousin") both in the screenplay by Tennessee Williams and in the actual production itself (the opening credits list the stars of the movie as Karl Malden, Carroll Baker, Eli Wallach, "and some of the people of Benoit, Mississippi"), Baby Doll gives us a glimpse into a world that may not exist anymore, and much like the aforementioned "There Will Be Blood", plays with our notions of good and bad guys.
August 11, 2010
Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

I wouldn't exactly call it a masterpiece, especially considering it was written by Tennessee Williams and directed by Elia Kazan. It's got good performances, but Carroll Baker is really the only one that stands out as great. I think certain elements of the story are repetitive, almost unusual for Williams. It's as good as it can be, it's just not something you can fall in love with like Streetcar or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I would only recommend it to hardcore fans.
July 13, 2010

Super Reviewer

tennessee williams meets tobacco road in this notorious southern grotesque, all about sex but with no nudity, this being the '50's. of course that didn't keep it from being condemned and banned in many countries. the so-called 'child-bride' is almost 20, tho she seems to be delaying maturity as long as possible, sleeping in a crib, sucking her thumb and wearing the original 'babydoll' nightgown. with a trio of great method actors, the standout being eli wallach in a fiery debut, playing a sicilian! the ending is a bit of a letdown but it's definitely worth a watch.
January 18, 2010
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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