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Sweet Bird of Youth has the Tennessee Williams penchant for provocation and Southern depravity--although at this point, the bloom is somewhat off the hothouse flower. Paul Newman is a cad who dreams of glory; he's returned to his hometown towing a dissolute, over-the-hill Hollywood star (Geraldine Page re-creates her Broadway role), certain she'll be his meal ticket. He's ruined the only girl he really loved (day-dreamy Shirley Knight), who just happens to be the daughter of the town's boss (Ed Begley, in an Oscar®-winning role). The play's more shocking elements have been euphemized, in the custom of the era's Williams movie adaptations. Director Richard Brooks handles it with intensity, and Rip Torn (who was married to Page) has some wicked moments, but the movie is bound to its theatrical roots and its inability to mention racism, syphilis, or castration. And that's Tennessee Williams without the hot sauce. --Robert Horton
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