Walk on the Wild Side (film)

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Walk on the Wild Side
Theatrical release poster inspired by Saul Bass's opening title sequence
Directed byEdward Dmytryk
Written byJohn Fante
Edmund Morris
Ben Hecht (uncredited)
Based onA Walk on the Wild Side
1956 novel
by Nelson Algren
Produced byCharles K. Feldman
StarringLaurence Harvey
Jane Fonda
Anne Baxter
Barbara Stanwyck
CinematographyJoseph MacDonald
Edited byHarry Gerstad
Music byElmer Bernstein
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • February 21, 1962 (1962-02-21)
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million[1] or $4.5 million[2]
Box office$3 million (US/Canada)[3]

Walk on the Wild Side is a 1962 American drama film directed by Edward Dmytryk, and starring Laurence Harvey, Capucine, Jane Fonda, Anne Baxter and Barbara Stanwyck. It was adapted from the 1956 novel A Walk on the Wild Side by American author Nelson Algren. The film was scripted by John Fante.

While it passed its censors, it was an adult film noir with explicit overtones and subject matter. It walks its audience through the lives and relationships between adults (mostly women) engaged in the "business" of commercial prostitution at a stylish New Orleans brothel. The "boss" is Madam Jo (Stanwyck), who combines toughness with a motherly tenderness toward her "girls."

Life wrote "Jane Fonda portrays a grubby, footloose prostitute...just arrived in New Orleans to live in a fancy house where much of the action takes place...to get approval by the Code Authority and Legion of Decency, the movie changes some of the most evil characters into good ones, and at the end justice triumphs, not Jane."[4]


In the Great Depression, Dove Linkhorn and Kitty Tristram meet on the road in Texas as each travels separately to New Orleans. They decide to travel together, hitchhiking and hopping freight trains. Dove is hoping to find his lost love Hallie Gerard, and he is uninterested when Kitty comes on to him. After Kitty steals from the New Orleans-area café where she and Dove stop for a meal, he leaves her and makes things right with the owner Teresina Vidaverri. She gives Dove a job at the café and a place to stay while he searches for Hallie. He finds her working at the Doll House, an upscale French Quarter bordello, where Jo Courtney is the madam.

Later it is revealed that, after Jo's husband lost his legs in an accident, she lost interest in him. A lesbian relationship is suggested between Jo and Hallie, who is supported by the owner in pursuing her interest in sculpting on the side. However, Hallie still works for Jo as a prostitute like the other women. Hallie is unhappy with her life at Jo's, but she does not want to give up her comforts to risk married life when Dove proposes.

Meanwhile, Kitty starts working at the bordello after Jo bails her out of jail, where she had been confined for vagrancy. Because Kitty and Dove appear to know each other, Jo questions Kitty about her past and learns that she traveled with Dove from Texas to Louisiana. Jo 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, another employee, and Jo's husband beat him viciously. Kitty watches from upstairs.

Kitty helps Dove return to the café, where Teresina cares for him. Kitty returns to the bordello to get Hallie, helping her reach the café. When Hallie can't be found at the bordello, Kitty is suspected and put under pressure; frightened, she brings Jo and her three henchmen to the café. During the ensuing struggle among the men, Hallie is shot and killed by a stray bullet. On the front-page of a newspaper about Kitty's testimony, Jo and several others are arrested.



Tensions among the actors and director caused problems on the set. After Harvey told Capucine she couldn't act, she sulked for a week.[citation needed] His opinion was seconded by actress Joan Perry, widow of studio head Harry Cohn, but the film's producer Charles Feldman continued to promote Capucine, his live-in girlfriend.[5] This incident and others, including Jane Fonda's insistence on changing dialogue, eventually resulted in the director resigning. The film's schedule slipped, causing difficulties for co-star Anne Baxter, six months pregnant when the production wrapped. Baxter described these events in her autobiography Intermission (1976).[6]

Although largely filmed in New Orleans, it features scenes from the Thousand Oaks Meat Locker on what is now Thousand Oaks Boulevard in Thousand Oaks, California.[7]

Tom cat title sequences[edit]

The opening titles and closing sequence were designed by Saul Bass, probably in collaboration with Elaine Makatura Bass. Film reviewers universally praised the Bass titles, but generally condemned the film. Even director Edward Dmytryk acknowledged that the titles were a masterpiece.[8] The titles feature a black tom cat, filmed at ground level, prowling an urban landscape and picking a fight with a white cat. Bass claimed the cat's journey was a metaphor for the environment of poverty and despair experienced by the film's characters. At film's end, Bass filmed the same black tom cat walking over a newspaper headline, with a front-page story reporting that the people who ran the bordello were arrested and sentenced to many years in prison, an ending demanded by the Motion Picture Production Code to appease those offended by the film's subject matter.[9]


Bosley Crowther of the New York Times wrote: "Everything in this sluggish picture...smacks of sentimentality and social naiveté. It is incredible that anything as foolish would be made in this day and age...There is ever so slight a suggestion that the prostitute portrayed by Capucine is admired by the madam of the bordello, played by Barbara Stanwyck. But that this is any more than the admiration of the employer for a highly productive employe is a thing that only the most susceptible to press-agentry might suspect."[10]

Awards and honors[edit]

The film's title song "Walk on the Wild Side" was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Music, Original Song. Elmer Bernstein, composer, and Mack David, lyricist, shared the nomination.

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. ^ JANET MASLIN, Screen: "Five Anecdotes About Puerto Rico," New York Times, 19 Mar 1983: 11
  2. ^ "Serene Capucine: Photog's Delight", Los Angeles Times, 30 July 1961: O10.
  3. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1962". Variety. 9 Jan 1963. p. 13. Please note these are rentals and not gross figures
  4. ^ "Walk on the Wild Side." LIFE, 23 February 1962, 101.
  5. ^ p.148 Schochet, Stephen Hollywood Stories: Short, Entertaining Anecdotes about the Stars and Legends of the Movies! BCH Fulfillment & Distribution; 1st edition (June 28, 2010)
  6. ^ Anne Baxter (1976). Intermission: A True Tale (Hardback). G.P.Putnam's Sons, New York. pp. 272–274. ISBN 0-399-11577-3.
  7. ^ O’Brien, Tricia (2017). Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village. Arcadia Publishing. Page 50. ISBN 9781439661956.
  8. ^ Horak, Jan-Christopher (2014). Saul Bass : Anatomy of Film Design. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-4720-8. OCLC 892799673.
  9. ^ Horak, Jan-Christopher (2014). Saul Bass : Anatomy of Film Design. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-4720-8. OCLC 892799673.
  10. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "Laurence Harvey and Capucine Head Cast." New York Times, 22 February 1962.
  11. ^ "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-06.

External links[edit]