4.12.2011

Closing in

A particularly tense close-up from the nearly hour-long seduction scene in the middle of Baby Doll (1956), directed by the great Elia Kazan and written by Tennessee Williams. Is it just me, or did close-ups get more extreme in the ’50s? I suppose one could make a case for George Stevens’ A Place in the Sun (1951) as having modernized the close-up—they just don’t feel this, well, close in films of the ’40s. Baby Doll is perhaps best known for having acquired a cult following after receiving a “Condemned” rating by the Catholic Legion of Decency upon release. Today it feels relatively tame…although, as this shot indicates, the dynamic between fragile, childlike Carroll Baker and oily Eli Wallach still generates heat.

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