Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama - Natalie Wood - 1966 Hollywood Foreign Press Association
This was the last of the big Hollywood movies of Tennessee Williams plays, a series of masterpieces which started with 'The Glass Menagerie' (1950) and went on for 16 unforgettable years. And this is certainly one of the best. It is simply packed with talent in every department, directed by Sydney Pollack, script by Francis Ford Coppola, and Oscar-level performances from at least four members of the cast: Natalie Wood, Robert Redford, Kate Reid, and Mary Badham. It is such a tragedy that Mary Badham gave up acting after this, as she was pure magic. Of all Natalie Wood's performances, this is probably the best. What an entrancing and magical creature! I never knew her but I had the great treat of sitting across from her at an adjoining dinner table in the Oak Room of the Plaza one night, and was just as dazzled as could be, and against all protocol and etiquette, simply could not take my eyes off her. She was dining with Lauren Bacall, whom I barely noticed in the penumbra of Natalie Wood's supernatural glow, and as a Bacall admirer that really does say something. Robert Redford has to portray a very quiet, contained character, so has little opportunity for 'big acting' in this film, but he triumphs at understatement, which was always one of his strengths. Another of the knockouts is Kate Reid as the most ravening, selfish, exploitative mother you can imagine. Well, I can, as I have met some like that, and believe me, she is spot on, to make your skin crawl. The Natalie Wood character is a revisiting of the girl in 'The Glass Menagerie', someone trapped, taking refuge in her dreams. She throws herself around, from man to man, basking in admiration because there seems to be nothing else. The motif of the cruelty and violence of a gang of men recurs here, reminding us of 'Suddenly, Last Summer'. This setting is a nowhere town in Mississippi, where the railroad is about to close. These are classic Tennessee Williams themes, but deeply felt and genuine, from the heart. By this time, Tennessee himself was as trapped as Natalie Wood, not in the state of Mississippi, but in another state, one of the mind. Seeing him bleary-eyed at a bar in the 1960s was a sad sight, and his gentle but tragic smalltalk as he sipped whiskey lacked focus. He was in what he knew was His Decline. But he must have been thrilled that this whopping realisation of one of his shorter plays came out just when he most needed a boost to his sagging morale. What a pity that after that, there was only television, what Newton Minnow at the time aptly called 'the Vast Wasteland'. The sadness in the Williams plays, and in the play which he himself lived, called his Life, are truly unbearable. Tennessee was a Great Soul. This film deserves to be on the list of everybody's classics, as it has something that will never die about it.
CRITICA EN EL PERIÓDICO "LA VANGUARDIA" (19-3-1967)
Si el espectador tiene en cuenta que esta película es la versión filmada de una obra dramática de Tennessee Williams, se lo explicara todo. El discurso y también por el seguro celebrado escritor neorrealista, hurga siempre en la escoria social para extraer los argumentos de sus obras. "Propiedad Condenada" se encuentra, por consiguiente, en la linea de "Un tranvía llamado Deseo" "La rosa Tatuada" etc. Se aleja totalmente de la única obra realmente poética de Tennessee Williams "El zoo de Cristal". En esta nueva historia, transportada al cine, se ha abandonado todo intento de potenciar la trama y ha quedado sólo, en lo que hay en esta, de sensualidad sórdida y miseria moral. Todos los personajes permanecen sin una sola excepción, a esa infrahumanidad cuya vida se configuran por los turbios impulsos del egoísmo y el sexo. La acción transcurre primeramente en una pequeña y miserable población de la Luisiana, y más tarde en Nueva Orleans. De ambos ambientes sólo se nos muestra el lado repelente. Vienen a ser una especie de jungla de asfalto, en la que solo campan por sus fueros las miserias y el vicio. El realizador, Sydney Pollack, no ha echo ningún esfuerzo por elevar la tenebrosa condición del film. Pudo haberse dado un poco respiro, suavizandolo o poetizandolo. Ha optado, sin embargo, por mantenerse fiel al estilo y la temática del autor de la trama. Presenta las cosas con extrema dureza. Una mujer fea y madura, que fue abandonada por su esposo, y que se consuela con un amante que de repelente, da asco verlo, empuja a su hija mayor, una muchacha bonita y ardiente, a aceptar los homenajes carnales de un viejo rico cuya esposa esta paralitica. Por rencor hacia su madre, la hija se casa con el amante de ésta, y el día siguiente, le roba el dinero y escapa a Nueva Orleans. Como puede verse, con lo relatado, no se trata ciertamente una novela rosa. Un leve giro sentimental toma la historia cuando la fugitiva, ya en Nueva Orleans, va a buscar a un joven que vivió como huésped en su casa y del que se ha enamorado. El final no es tampoco agradable. Por fortuna se nos cuenta, y no lo vemos desfilar por la pantalla. Nunca hemos sentido mayor atracción por los argumentos de Tennessee Williams. Hay que reconocer no obstante, que han dado ocasión para realizar con ellos excelentes películas. Casi siempre han tenido intérpretes de verdadera calidad, que han sabido elevarlos y dignificarlos. También los realizadores han estado generalmente afortunados. En "Propiedad Condenada" la realización es cambio mediocre, y la interpretación, sólo brillante por lo que afecta a Natalie Wood, la cual vuelve a ser la muchacha de fuego que hemos visto en tantos otros films. El resto de los interpretes no rebasan la linea discreta. A. MARTÍNEZ TOMAS.
Two kids (Badham and Provost) are sitting at a railway station. In flashback, Badham relates to her companion the sordid tale of her much admired, deceased sister. In a Depression-ravaged town in rural Mississippi, Reid runs a boarding house. Her daughter, Wood, is a beautiful young girl madly in love with Redford, a stranger from New Orleans staying at the house. He's in town to lay off some railroad workers but is beaten up by five of them. He plans to leave town after this and take Wood with him. However, Reid fools Redford into thinking that Wood is engaged to Harding, a wealthy middle-aged man Reid would prefer her daughter marry, and Redford leaves without the girl. When she hears why he left, she gets drunk and marries Bronson, her mother's violent, mean lover, out of spite. Realizing her mistake, Wood follows Redford to New Orleans the day after her wedding.
But her mother catches up with them and reveals to Redford that Wood has married Bronson, a disclosure that destroys her daughter's happiness and will to live. Wood ends up becoming the town slut, eventually dying from tuberculosis. Years later, as the film returns to the two 13-year-olds, all Badham can see is the romance behind her sister's life. THIS PROPERTY CONDEMNED is a film wracked by problems, but it somehow survived to become an interesting potboiler. The seamy sexual story is taken from a play by Tennessee Williams, a short one-act originally intended for Elizabeth Taylor with Richard Burton directing. This project fell through, however, and the property went through 12 different screenwriters until a script emerged from Coppola, Coe, and Sommer. Williams, disgusted with the final version, demanded that his name be removed from the project. This request was not granted, though his name was de-emphasized in the ad campaign. After a search for directors, Pollack was finally chosen. Wood, who had enjoyed working with Redford before (reportedly because of his reputation for not putting the make on actresses he worked with), demanded the fledgling star once more. Problems were plentiful on the set. As filming continued, Pollack's dissatisfaction with the script grew, forcing him to cut and change things quite often. Redford resented executive producer Stark's intrusions onto the set and changes to the script. Bronson felt his role should have been expanded and the triangle among him, Redford, and Wood given more emphasis. The director chose otherwise though, emphasizing Wood's character and leaving Bronson's confrontations with his co-star to be expressed mostly through silent looks. Problems also arose on the location shooting; the townspeople of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, didn't care for the filmmakers or their subject and tried to drive them out. All in all, the resulting film was a mixture of good and bad, with some wonderful cinematography by the great cameraman Howe. The script is riddled with obvious problems, but the acting is top-notch. Wood gives her trashy part a quality performance. Redford provides good support in what was his fourth film; he followed this with BAREFOOT IN THE PARK, which caused his career to take off.