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Cinema: No Better Than It Should Be

2 minute read

Walk on the Wild Side (Columbia). “I want to sit and drink with a man,” snarls the high-fashion New Orleans harlot (Capucine) to the lesbian madam (Barbara Stanwyck), “not with you!” The madam gasps: “You’re being perverse!” She doesn’t know the half of it. Suddenly the shameless hussy runs off to marry a “po’ buckra” boy (Laurence Harvey) from the backblocks of Texas who can’t possibly provide as nice a house as the one she has been living in. Indignant, the madam collects her bullyboys and gives chase. The pigeon refuses to fly back to the coop. Bang! Dead pigeon.

It doesn’t really matter. As played by Capucine, the heroine has looked dead all along. By contrast, the other members of the cast (notably Anne Baxter and Jane Fonda) positively seethe with vitality. The script, which owes almost nothing but its title and its setting to the novel by Nelson (The Man with the Golden Arm) Algren, was written by five writers in succession, and it reads like a round-robin, fold-over-and-add-a-line letter: “You certainly are an unusual girl to find in this sort of place . . . Darling, I love enough for two . . . My father used to say that love comes on silent feet . . . It’s all so foolish, all so unreal.” And that’s a fact.

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