Movie Review: Baby Doll (1956)

Synopsis: 19-year-old Baby Doll married the middle-aged cotton gin owner, Archie Lee, to appease her dying father. However, her husband is a down-on-his-luck drunk and Baby Doll would rather sleep in an old crib than share a bed with him. She had originally agreed to finally consumate their marriage on her 20th birthday but, when their furniture is reposessed and she threatens to leave him instead, Archie Lee burns down his rival's cotton gin.

Who's in it? The movie stars Carroll Baker, Karl Malden, Eli Wallach, Mildred Dunnock and Lonny Chapman.

Review: I had never seen this movie before but did know a little bit about the film and the uproar it caused when it was originally released. So, when I had an opportunity to watch it yesterday afternoon, I did. Overall, I enjoyed this film.

The movie, I think, was originally intended to be more of a comedy and some of the jokes don't carry over as well today but, as a drama, this film has a lot going for it. This is especially true of the main character, Baby Doll (Baker), who I found I really felt sorry for throughout the movie. She had a drunk and abusive husband who was almost obsessed with taking her virginity, even if it meant raping her to do it and, while she talked about leaving him, her lack of education did seem like something that would make it difficult for her to live on her own. 

On top of it, her other potential love interest, Silva (Wallach) honestly didn't seem much better. Yeah, he might have been the better choice when compared to Archie Lee (Malden) but he seemed to just be taking advantage of her innocence to get revenge on her husband and, at one point, he even puts her life in danger to get what he wanted. As a result, even though she seemed to be developing feelings for him, it made me wonder if those feelings were real or just the result of her being desperate and naive.

The secondary story involving arson at Silva's cotton mill was also an intriguing one because, while it was obvious to anyone Archie Lee was the culprit, the fact Silva was an outsider and a foreigner basically meant the town would most likely go out of its way to protect one of their own, even if he was a wife abusing drunk. This made the overall story a whole lot less predictable than I was expecting it to be.

Final Opinion: The movie isn't nearly as controversial by today's standards than it was when it first came out but still proved to be an interesting film. Just a  heads-up, there is some racist language scattered throughout (this was, after all, filmed in the 50s) but, even with that, it is worth taking the time to watch this film.

My Grade: A


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