Sweet Bird of Youth  (1989 - TV) from Tuna

Sweet Bird of Youth is a 1989 TV remake of a 1962 theatrical film which was based on a Tennessee Williams play of the same name. Elizabeth Taylor is horribly miscast in the lead, playing an aging show business legend who is facing the end of her career. Mark Harmon, who was supposed to be the next Clark Gable, played the male lead, a never-was who brings Taylor home to impress the small town. He hopes to bring his old flame, Heavenly, to Hollywood with him. The locals are decidedly not impressed, and try to run him out of town. He must also face the fact that his "sweet bird of youth" is flying the coop.

Stage play adaptations are tricky. With a live performance, the cast can read the audience, and adapt their performance. They are playing every part large, so those in the cheap seats can enjoy the play. And, of course, they are talky. In this case, Taylor could not pull off the role of proud screen legend, Harmon had nowhere near the charisma required for the role, and they butchered Williams's words, robbing the film of much of the meaning of the play. Valerie Perrine did give a good performance as bar owner/mistress of Boss Finley.


Fortunately for us, the lovely TV actress Cheryl Paris played Heavenly Finley, and showed breasts and buns in a flashback sex scene with Harmon.

Scoop's notes:

What in the world made someone think that a remake was necessary? In 1962 Geraldine Page and Paul Newman got about all the mileage this play had to offer. In the remake, they cut out a lot of the play, starred Mark Harmon and Liz Taylor, and got the soporific Nick Roeg to direct. If everyone owned a copy of this, Nytol would be out of business.

Why not just remake Casablanca? I know how to do it. Keanu Reeves as Rick, and Buffy as Ilsa.

What am I thinking of with this irony? I apologize. We now live in a post-ironic world. They already made Hamlet with Ethan Hawke in a Fargo hat.

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There is one interesting thing about the remake. Rip Torn, one of America's great character actors, played Tom Finley Junior in the original, then played Tom Finley Senior in the remake, 27 years later. The symmetry would have been perfect if Ed Begley Jr had played Tom Jr in the remake, because Ed Begley Sr played Tom Sr in the original.

The Critics Vote

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The People Vote ...

IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, E+. This is decidedly not a film I recommend.

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