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Picnic : Restored
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It's Labor Day weekend, and fresh off a freight train is Hal Carter (William Holden), a happy-go-lucky drifter who's looking for a brand new start in life. A robust, handsome show-off, Hal has come to Kansas to seek gainful employment in his old fraternity brother Alan's family granary. But despite his high hopes and expectations, Hal's ambitious plans soon go away when his sexual magnetism attracts every woman in town, including 19-year-old Madge Owens (Kim Novak) -- the alluring young beauty queen who also happens to be Alan's girlfriend. Also starring Rosalind Russell, Arthur O'Connell, Susan Strasberg, Nick Adams and Cliff Robertson, Picnic was nominated for six 1955 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Joshua Logan), Best Supporting Actor (O'Connell), Best Music, Best Color Art Direction and Best Editing. "A down-to-earth, throbbing drama of average, small-town Americans" (Boxoffice), Picnic is an "excellent film. ***-1/2" (Leonard Maltin).
William Holden is the hunky drifter who rides the rails into a small Midwest town with dreams of landing a "respectable" job with his rich college buddy (Cliff Robertson). Kim Novak is the small-town beauty queen engaged to Robertson who falls for the cocky dreamer, as do repressed schoolmarm spinster Rosalind Russell and Novak's tomboyish kid sister Susan Strasberg. Their unleashed passions reach a crescendo at the Labor Day picnic.
Joshua Logan directed William Inge's play on Broadway and carried it to Hollywood, earning Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Director in his screen-directing debut. Holden is years too old for the role but oozes sex appeal and makes a swoony stud when he takes his shirt off (or when, better yet, it's ripped from his back by a boozing Russell), and Novak is a lovely lost girl yearning for something she can't quite grasp. Arthur O'Connell earned an Oscar nomination as Russell's tippling boyfriend. The film was a huge popular and critical hit, but Logan's stiff and strident direction hasn't dated well. He makes his points in big capital letters--subtlety was never his strong point--and loses the natural beauty of the Kansas locations when he takes the climactic picnic scenes into an obviously artificial soundstage. Picnic remains a loved American classic, largely for Holden's tough-guy vulnerability and James Wong Howe's brilliant widescreen color photography. --Sean Axmaker
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I think most everyone can find a piece of themselves in Hal (the drifter who boasts to conceal his shyness and feelings of worthlessness), Millie (the brainy younger sister of Madge who feels overshadowed by her beautiful sister), Mrs. Potts (who no doubt wished for romance and family as a young woman but found herself tied to an invalid mother), Miss Sydney (the old maid school teacher whose clock is ticking and who is growing more desparately lonely with each new school year). Even Madge's mother, who finds herself a bit flattered on her first introduction to Hal, is somewhat sympathetic. She, herself, fell for a charasmatic charmer, only to be left behind by his drinking and womanizing. She's allowed herself to harden through the years, seeing young Mr. Benson and his wealth as a way out for her daughter, Madge. I admit, I've seen this movie so many times, I mouth the dialogue along with the characters. When Madge's mother is consoling her, explaining her protectiveness towards Millie, I fairly scream, "Don't you see...I'm trying to make up for all those golden years you had that she didn't." So...spread out a blanket, gather up the tissues and prepare for a sweet and bittersweet summer Picnic.
Most reviewers of this film might begin with the leads but I must start of with the wonderful Verna Felton as Helen Potts the sweet old lady who is caretaker of her aged mother and lives next door to the Owens family. This gifted and now forgotten character actress sets the tone of the picture as she welcomes drifter Hal Carter (William Holden) into her house. At the end of the film she glows in tender counterpoint to the dramatic ending. She is the only person who understands Hal, even more than Madge (Kim Novak). Her speech about having a man in the house is pure joy to watch. It is a small but important performance that frames the entire story with warmth and understanding.
Betty Field turns in a sterling performance as Flo Owens, Mother of Madge and Millie. She is disapproving of Millie's rebellious teen and smothering of her Kansas hothouse rose Madge. A single Mom trying in desperation to keep Madge from making the same mistakes she did. She becomes so wrapped up in Madge's potential for marriage to the richest boy in town she completely ignores the budding greatness that is bursting to get out in her real treasure. Millie.
Susan Strasberg creates in her Millie a sweet comic oddball.Read more ›
The casting is excellent. Rosalind Russell as the spinstery school teacher is flawless, and her hen-pecked boyfriend (Arthur O'Connell) is great too. As another reviewer noted, Verna Felton, who plays "Mrs. Potts", allows us to put everything into a peaceful perspective......even the "chaos" that ultimately ensues is a normal part of life, as her stable persona continually demonstrates. Cliff Robertson is fine as Alan Benson - he does not allow his role to overtake that of Holden and Novak....a lesser-known actor may have worked better for his role.
Holden (and I must admit to being a huge William Holden fan) is superb. Just enough cockiness and false-bravado contrasting with a genuine naiveté of the real world around him (he's "experienced" with football and women, inexperienced with just about everything else). So many of his scenes are gems - his first confrontation with "Bomber", his "women" stories to Alan, and my personal favorite, the scene where he and Millie (his "unofficial date" for the picnic) are driving to the fairgrounds. After singing a rendition of "Old McDonald" together, Holden turns to Millie and says "Hey kid, here's one my old man taught me".Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
A William Holden classic along with "Sunset Boulevard" and "Born Yesterday" also worth watching and owning don't pass them up!Published 17 months ago by Greg B.
Such a nice movie from 1955. William Holden shines as always. Susan Straberg was so good in this too! I fun movie of a different time.Published 20 months ago by Sara
A gritty movie about a braggard drifter who rolls into town and meets the belle of the fair.
The dance entrance by Kim Novak caused quite a stir in Winnipeg and elsewhere to... Read more
Everything was great. It took a little longer to get it than I expected but the quality of the movie was perfect and it was in perfect condition.
Thank you. Read more
I loved this movie the first time I saw it on T.V. and have been hoping I could find it on DVD.
This movie is real nostalgia, acting isn't the greatest but the walk down... Read more
I saw PICNIC during its release in 1956 in India when I was in
school. I was crazy about English films and never missed a good
film. Read more