• R, 1 hr. 54 min.
  • Classics, Comedy
  • Directed By:
    Elia Kazan
    In Theaters:
    Dec 18, 1956 Wide
    On DVD:
    Jul 9, 2003


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Baby Doll Reviews

Page 1 of 8

Super Reviewer

September 5, 2010
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.
Mr Awesome
Mr Awesome

Super Reviewer

August 11, 2010
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.
Conner R

Super Reviewer

July 13, 2010
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.

Super Reviewer

August 25, 2008
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.

Super Reviewer

December 28, 2008
Say what you want about it's controversial subject matter or it's questionable place in cinematic history, Baby Doll is just one Marlon Brando away from being a top 100 film. As it is, I wouldn't classify it as anything less than a minor masterpiece.

All the elements are here, Elia Kazan's direction, Tennessee Williams' screenplay, Karl Malden's performance. Were it not for a couple of serious lapses in marketing judgment we might be talking about this film the way we talk about A Streetcar Named Desire or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. You just don't put a provocatively posed adolescent girl on the poster and then release the film at Christmas! Especially not in 1956. It's as if they were daring the Catholic League of Decency to denounce the film (which they did).

I'm not saying that this picture is as good as Streetcar, but it's oh-so-close.

Super Reviewer

June 12, 2008
Lurid, overheated Tennessee Williams. Good performances but the ick factor is high.

Super Reviewer

March 18, 2008
A campy (and slightly disturbing) story of a young girl (Baby Doll) who is married off to an older man (Archie Lee)by her family, with the promise that he would provide for her and would not 'touch' her until she is 19 years old.

Well 'Baby Doll' is living up to her name and grasping on to her childhood (and he virginity) by living her life as a much younger girl would. She even sucks her thumb and sleeps in a little daybed that is very much like a baby crib.

As her husband struggles (by any means possible) to make a decent life for her and to finally lay claim to what is "rightfully his", things get compliocated by the arrival of another man into their life.

Ironically this other man is a business competitor who Archie Lee has sabotaged and who threby looks to Archir Lee for help. And in doing so discovers the treachery involved.

So this 'new man' would have never been thrust into their lives had Archie Lee been a more scrupulous s businessman (or human being for that matter).

All hell breaks loose as when this strange triangle is formed and Archie Lee fears someone might actually get their hands on his Baby Doll before he does.

Sounds a littel strange right? But it is a great character drama.

Who knew, Tennessee Williams and Elia Kazan would make such a great team?
John B

Super Reviewer

July 15, 2013
Oh what a subversive film for its time. Karl Malden and Eli Wallach are tremendous as the plot unfolds to an uncertain ending. Tremendous.
Mike T

Super Reviewer

January 20, 2008
Vintage Kazan. By handling risque material in a faithful, mature way, Elia Kazan creates a film that is truly memorable. Excellent acting as well.
Audrey L

Super Reviewer

June 8, 2008
Williams and Kazan ~ technicolor CHEKOV in black and white....Oh the humanity and the horror...the horror. Still reeling from seeing this for the first time today.
January 7, 2008
Never heard of this one before but caught it on TV....and I never thought of Eli Wallach as the loverboy type but he's pretty young here and does well at it. When I think of him I think of a scroungy dude in The Good The Bad and the Ugly yelling "BLONDIE!!" Well he and Carroll Baker get pretty steamy in this...no nudity of course, I mean it's 1956 and it says this is R rated...I don't think so, not by today's standards anyway....I guess it was shocking back then...shows how filthy movies have gotten. I enjoyed watching this Tennessee Williams story...I usually do like his stuff, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar Named Desire.......DRAMA...gotta love it...you never know what the characters are gonna do.
March 10, 2009
Great movie, very amusing and the girl a cutie...and about the censorship, what is worng with american?
September 23, 2008
Tennessee Williams play, directed by Kazan. Overlooked near masterpiece. You won't believe that this film even exists! Eli Wallach & Karl Malden as a romantic leads? You bet!
January 21, 2008
A little-known Tennesse Williams classic that was considered wildly racy when it first came out and was condemned by the Catholic League of Decency, making it a sin to see this movie.

It's actually more of a comedy, in my opinion (or perhaps I just have a strange sense of humor), than any other of Tennesse Williams tales. The story goes like so; Baby Doll Meighan is the lawful wife of Archie Lee Meighan, but not in any other way. They formed an agreement that Archie Lee would not share the same bed with his wife until her 20th birthday and if Archie Lee made all the money he promised Baby Doll's father he would make. Archie Lee was in the cotton ginning business until Silva Vacarro came in with his monopoly and put everyone in the town out of business. Archie Lee decides to burn down Vacarro's gin. He does so and everyone knows it was him, but no one wants to help Vacarro as he impoverished the locals. Vacarro decides to make his own revenge--in the form of seducing Baby Doll. Indeed, for its time (and even for today, to some extent), the scenes between Baby Doll and Vacarro are rather...electrifying.

Fans of Tennesse Williams or whoever's just curious to see what racy was considered back in 1956 should enjoy this.
July 15, 2008
Wild! Unbelievable that this was made in 1956! I'm sure it was quite controversial. It's very tame by today's standards, but it really holds up well. Great performances by Karl Malden, Eli Wallach and Carroll Baker.
June 22, 2007
The dialog is a bit repetitive, but this chick practically has an orgasm on screen, brought about by Eli Wallach no less. You really can't go wrong with a collaboration of Tennesse Williams and Elia Kazan.
February 12, 2007
A bit of a twisted movie for it's time. It was filmed a couple of miles down the road from me... the house still stands.
March 13, 2013
Certainly no longer scandalous (because of the implicit sexual themes, the Catholic Church's Legion of Decency gave the movie a 'C' rating, standing for 'Condemned' - meaning a good Catholic commits a mortal sin if they see it... hehe, what morons), nor is it as funny, but overall, I think it's still a pretty good film. Three superb performances by Karl Malden, Carroll Baker and Eli Wallach, coupled with Elia Kazan's direction and the fact that it was based on a Tennessee Williams play make it worth having a peak into.
March 12, 2013
Wow, this one really stood out there especially for it's time. It's nearly all dialog which is okay because it is all story! Brilliantly done with over-the-top acting at times adds to my liking!
July 7, 2012
the performances are good, but elia kazan's "baby doll" is so slow and doesn't really go anywhere when it's all said and done.
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