Picnic – 1955 – English
Film directed in 1955 by Joshua Logan, and starring William Holden, Kim Novak, Rosalind Russell, Susan Strasberg, Arthur O’Connell, Cliff Robertson, Betty Field, Verna Felton, Phyllis Newman…
Synopsis: The morning of a small town Labor Day picnic, a drifter (Hal Carter) blows into town to visit an old fraternity buddy (Alan Benson) who also happens to be the son of the richest man in town. Hal is an egocentric braggart – all potential and no accomplishment. He meets up with Madge Owens, the town beauty queen and girlfriend of Alan Benson.
Review: William Inge, I mean. His kind of story telling has pretty much gone out of style, more’s the pity for it. This is one of my favorites (along with Bus Stop) – I used to say “guilty pleasure” but after reading the play and viewing the movie again, I hold my head high as an Inge admirer. Picnic taps into something universal that Inge manages to evoke from small town, middle America.
The cast is a work of art all its own – a credit to the plethora of talent available in the two decades following WW2. William Holden had better roles, but not many, certainly The Country Girl and Network. In my opinion this is Kim Novak’s finest work and Susan Strasberg displays the promise that she, alas, didn’t quite fulfill – not for lack of talent or on-screen charisma. Rosalind Russell proved her versatility by taking on a part that was not much like what she had been known for. And once again I pause to consider that stalwart character actor, Arthur O’Connell and what he brought again and again to such memorable supporting roles.
This is one of those films where the theme music, heard on its own, can evoke not only memories of the film itself and the story, but also of where and when one first saw it. Brought together again with the movie it is even more powerfully evocative. When I hear the theme I cannot help but think of that final aerial shot with the theme coming up and over and relive the powerful emotions that shot brings to the fore. That is from an era when scores were written for films, to bring another out another dimension of the story, rather than as a form of product placement. We are not better for that loss.