Walk on the Wild Side (film)

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Walk on the Wild Side
Walk on the Wild Side poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster inspired by Saul Bass's opening title sequence
Directed byEdward Dmytryk
Written byJohn Fante
Edmund Morris
Ben Hecht (uncredited)
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]

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.

It was not well received at the time; Bosley Crowther of The New York Times described it as a "lurid, tawdry, and sleazy melodrama".[citation needed] While it passed its censors, it was an adult film noir with quite 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.[citation needed] The "boss" is Madam Jo (Stanwyck), who combines toughness with a motherly tenderness toward her "girls."[citation needed]


During 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 is not interested when Kitty comes on to him sexually.

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. But Hallie still works for Jo as a prostitute like the other women. Hallie is unhappy with her life at Jo's, but does not want to give up her comforts to risk married life with Dove.

Meanwhile, Kitty starts working at the bordello after Jo bails her out of jail, where she had been confined for vagrancy. Since 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. The younger woman goes back 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 is a story reporting that Kitty's testimony sent Jo and several others from the bordello to prison.



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.[3] This and other incidents, including Jane Fonda's insistence on changing dialogue, eventually resulted in the director's 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).[4]

Although largely filmed in New Orleans,[5] it features scenes from the Thousand Oaks Meat Locker on what is now Thousand Oaks Boulevard in Thousand Oaks, California.[6]

Tom cat title sequences[edit]

The opening and closing sequences, directed by Saul Bass in collaboration with Elaine Makatura Bass, have become a famous element of the film.[citation needed] In the beginning, a black tom cat, shown at shoulder height, prowls an urban landscape and picks a fight with a white cat, as credits are shown. At the end of the film, the same black tom cat is featured walking over the headline of a newspaper, which has a front-page story reporting that the people who ran the bordello were arrested and sentenced to many years in prison.[citation needed]

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:

See also[edit]


  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. ^ 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)
  4. ^ Anne Baxter (1976). Intermission: A True Tale (Hardback). G.P.Putnam's Sons, New York. pp. 272–274. ISBN 0-399-11577-3.
  5. ^ Filming & Production of Walk on the Wild Side on IMDb.
  6. ^ O’Brien, Tricia (2017). Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village. Arcadia Publishing. Page 50. ISBN 9781439661956.
  7. ^ "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-06.

External links[edit]