Baby Doll [1956]

An earlier Elia Kazan film, the 1949 Pinky, now seems dated because its "scandalous" subject, miscegenation, has become a social nonissue. If anything, the reputation of this legendary 1956 romp about a child bride in the Deep South has shifted the other way; the ripe image of Carol Baker as a mentally challenged nymphet who sucks her thumb as she lures grown men into her crib (an actual crib!) would probably be hounded off the screen today. When it was originally released the film won a "condemned" rating from the Catholic Legion of Decency, but it isn't as explicit as that might suggest. Current audiences are likely to be shocked not by what's actually shown, but by the mere fact that the movie is a comedy, in effect a sex farce, adapted by Tennessee Williams from a couple of his raunchier one-act plays. Karl Malden is the divine cream puff's sad-sack husband, who has agreed to keep hands off until she turns 19; Eli Wallach is a high-stepping rival in the cotton business who harbors no such scruples. --David Chute

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