Hollywood’s Tennessee: The Williams

Films and Postwar America
R. Barton Palmer and William Robert Bray
University of Texas Press (
TennesseeThe cover of this relatively small (6×9 inches, 344 pages) and rather expensive ($60 hardcover) book reveals a bit of the advertising campaign used for the 1956 film Baby Doll, a film Tennessee Williams and Elia Kazan patched together from a couple of one-act Williams plays. The image, highly shocking then, depicted a very young Carroll Baker sucking her thumb while reclining in a crib. It’s maybe one of the more interesting recommendations for this meticulous, extremely well-researched, and, well, quite textbooky exploration of 15 or so films adapted from plays and stories by Williams, who was not merely one of the greatest American writers, but was also one of the great gay icons at a time when a spectacle on the order of RuPaul’s Drag Race was about as likely as the colonization of Saturn. Early on, the authors let us know that space limitations prevent them from including much back-lot gossip or trivia. Well, there’s always that shot of Carroll Baker on the cover.   — Review: Jack Varsi

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