THE FUGITIVE KIND is classic early Marlon Brando, who received a million dollar paycheck for his participation in this picture. The problem is that, watching this renowned actor at the height of his popularity, one can't help but feel that he is "doing a Marlon Brando cliché," rather than making the character of Valentine Xavier live and breathe.
Part of the trouble is the script, which was freely adapted by Tennessee Williams and Meade Roberts from Williams' BATTLE OF ANGELS and its rewrite, ORPHEUS DESCENDING. Both versions of the play were unsuccessful during their New York engagements.
This is not one of Williams' better plays. It contains no unforgettable characters like Blanche DuBois, Stanley Kowalski or "Big Daddy," and its ending is a downer. Actually. most of Williams' plays have unhappy conclusions, but in most cases, when Hollywood brought them to the big screen, the endings were, arguably, more upbeat. That is not the case with this independent 1960 production.
On the other hand, even a less than superb Tennessee Williams play has it's poetic moments that mesmerize, such as Brando's scene in which he tells about the little bird that flies on the wind and only touches earth when it dies.
Masterfully directed (within the confines of the script) by Sidney Lumet, THE FUGITIVE KIND is a morose drama that crackles with several fine performances, in particular those of Woodward as a lost soul crying for help and Magnani as a woman who has been forced to keep her strong emotions pent up inside for all of her life.
© Michael B. Druxman