Walk on the Wild Side (film)
|Walk on the Wild Side (film)|
Theatrical release poster inspired by Saul Bass's opening title sequence
|Directed by||Edward Dmytryk|
|Produced by||Charles K. Feldman|
|Written by||John Fante
Ben Hecht (uncredited)
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Release date(s)||February 21, 1962|
|Running time||114 minutes|
Walk on the Wild Side is a 1962 film directed by Edward Dmytryk, adapted from the 1956 novel A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren. The film had a star-studded cast, including Laurence Harvey, Capucine, Jane Fonda, Anne Baxter, and Barbara Stanwyck, and was scripted by John Fante. Nonetheless, it was not well received at the time. When it premiered, Bosley Crowther of the New York Times called it a "lurid, tawdry, and sleazy melodrama."
The film's plot is quite different from the book. Set during the Great Depression, it starts with Dove and Kitty meeting on the road in Texas as they each make their way to New Orleans. They decide to travel together, hitchhiking and hopping freight trains. Dove is hoping to find his lost love Hallie, and is uninterested when Kitty comes on to him sexually.
After Kitty steals from the New Orleans-area café where she and Dove stop for a meal, Dove leaves Kitty and makes things right with the owner, Teresina, who gives him a job and lets him stay while he searches for Hallie. He finds Hallie at the Doll House, an upscale bordello in the French Quarter, where Jo is the madam.
We learn later that Jo's husband had lost his legs in an accident, after which Jo lost interest in him. It is subtly implied that there is a lesbian relationship between Jo and Hallie, because Hallie enjoys the support of Jo to pursue her interest in sculpting, but it is clear that Hallie works for Jo as a prostitute like the others. Their relationship is not loving, more possessive. Hallie is unhappy with her life at Jo's, but is unwilling to give up the comforts of that life and marry Dove.
Meanwhile, Kitty gladly goes to work in the bordello after Jo bails her out of jail, where she had been languishing under a vagrancy charge. When Jo sees that Kitty and Dove apparently know each other, she questions Kitty about her past with Dove, taking a special interest in the fact that they had traveled together from Texas to Louisiana. She threatens Dove with arrest for transporting the underage Kitty across state lines for immoral purposes and for statutory rape, unless he leaves New Orleans without Hallie. As Dove leaves the bordello, the bouncer, a second bordello employee, and Jo's husband beat Dove viciously, as a horrified Kitty watches from upstairs. Kitty helps Dove get back to the café, where Teresina takes care of him, and goes back to the bordello to get Hallie. Kitty helps Hallie escape from the bordello without being seen and takes her to the café, but comes under suspicion later when Hallie can't be found. The fearful Kitty brings Jo and the three men who assaulted Dove to the café. During the ensuing struggle between Dove and one of the men, Hallie is shot and killed by a stray bullet. At the end of the film, we see from a front-page newspaper story that Jo and several others were sent to prison largely because of Kitty's testimony.
- Laurence Harvey as Dove Linkhorn
- Capucine as Hallie Gerard
- Jane Fonda as Kitty Twist
- Anne Baxter as Teresina
- Barbara Stanwyck as Jo Courtney
- Joanna Moore as Miss Precious
- John Anderson as Preacher
It is said neither Harvey nor Capucine found the other at all appealing. IMDB reports that "Capucine objected to filming kissing scenes with Laurence Harvey, feeling that he was not manly enough for her. Harvey reportedly replied, 'Perhaps if you were more of a woman, I would be more of a man. Honey, kissing you is like kissing the side of a beer bottle.'"
Lawrence Harvey was backed by actress Joan Perry, the widow of studio head Harry Cohn (Harvey and Perry later married in 1968), while the film's producer, Charles Feldman, was trying to make a star out of Capucine. Harvey said Capucine couldn't act, who then sulked for a week. This and other incidents added to tensions on set, including Jane Fonda's insistence on changing dialogue. The director resigned and the film took longer to shoot than expected, which caused difficulties for co-star Anne Baxter, who was six months pregnant by the time production ended. These incidents were published in Baxter's autobiography, Intermission.
Tom cat title sequences 
The opening credit sequence directed by Saul Bass is perhaps the most famous part of the film, where a black tom cat, shown at shoulder height, prowls an urban landscape and picks a fight with another white cat. At the end of the film the same black tom cat walks over the headline of a newspaper, stating that the people who ran the bordello were arrested and sentenced to many years in prison.
The title song "Walk on the Wild Side" was nominated for an Academy Award in the category Best Music, Original Song. The nomination went to Elmer Bernstein, who did the music, and Mack David, who was the lyricist.