In a small Georgia town, twelve year old tomboy Frankie Addams feels unconnected to the world, a fact troubling to her. Her unconventional views for a twelve year old girl make her an outcast among her peers, which she in turn blames for her situation rather than anything of her own doing. Her only real friend is John Henry, her younger next door neighbor, although she doesn't see him as a friend since she doesn't consider him a peer. As her widowed father is all consumed with running his small business, Frankie is largely left to the care of their housekeeper, Berenice. Berenice tries to provide as much true guidance to Frankie and what Frankie considers her problems, although Berenice has her own troubles looking after her wild foster brother, Honey Camden, her only surviving family. In addition, Frankie largely sees Berenice's advice as the rantings of a large, crazy black woman. Frankie believes that she has finally found her place in life upon the return to town and announcement ...Written by
Harry Cohn loathed this film -what greater recommendation could there be? In fact Columbia had no idea what to do with this masterpiece -just read the publicity department's tag-line (A Girl Becomes a Woman in the Middle of a Kiss !)and see their original poster with a mature woman with a Louise Brooks hair style fending off the drunken soldier who in the movie attempts to kiss 12 year old Frankie when she runs away. Stanley Kramer makes up for every lousy movie he directed (i.e. his complete oeuvre) by PRODUCING this masterpiece. It is director Fred Zinneman's favorites of all his films -and no wonder! It doesn't put a foot wrong. It has two of the most remarkable female performances put on celluloid; Julie Harris (in her late twenties as a twelve year old trying to understand and come to terms with her feelings of alienation "(she) was a member of nothing in the World.....and she was afraid") and Ethel Waters as Berenice, only too aware of the reasons for her sense of aloneness, settling her need to love on two white children and a black youth,all three of whom she loses. There are three main characters in this Kitchen Piece. It would be wrong to ignore the contribution of a child actor of genius: Brandon de Wilde as Frankie's grave little cousin John Henry West.It is impossible to imagine a more perfect cast to bring this most difficult of novels and play to the screen. It looks as if this movie is at last available on video( in the States at least ) I already have a copy taped from the Box. For me it is the ONE essential film to own -when a DVD is available I shall be first in the queue to buy it- surely a CD of Alex North's beautiful score cannot be far behind!
This film is the litmus by which I judge the taste of all new acquaintances -if they haven't watched it with a shock of recognition and don't connect with Carson McCuller's genius and profound humanity, then I don't want to be a member of any club they might belong to!!
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