Summer and Smoke

Watch Summer and Smoke

"In the heat of summer... the smoke of desire..."
  • Passed
  • 1961
  • 1 hr 58 min
  • 6.9  (2,052)

Summer and Smoke, released in 1961, directed by Peter Glenville, is a perfect adaptation of the 1948 Tennessee Williams play of the same name. The movie portrays the relationship between Alma Winemiller (Geraldine Page) and John Buchanan Jr. (Laurence Harvey). Alma is a highly sensitive and repressed minister’s daughter, who longs for love, affection, and sensual pleasure, but feels guilty for her desires. John, her opposite, is a carefree and promiscuous young man who rejects the social norms and pursues his passions at his pleasure. The film takes place in Glorious Hill, Mississippi, a small town in the early 1900s that exemplifies the rigidity of class, morality, and religion.

The film has some exceptional performances by its lead actors, and they bring to life the complex and nuanced personalities of their characters. Geraldine Page’s Alma is a multi-dimensional character, who is conflicted about her identity and struggles with her desires. She portrays Alma’s journey from repression to liberation with stunning grace and empathy. Laurence Harvey also steals the show with his portrayal of John, showcasing his character's complicated and layered nature, torn between his ability to feel and pursue his desires and his obligation to his family.

The film explores the themes of love, desire, and the human condition, with a focus on how social norms, religion, and morality can impact them. Alma’s longing for love is plagued by the judgmental attitudes of her peers and family, who expect her to live a life of chastity and religious dedication. The restrictions placed upon her cause her to experience an internal conflict that she is unable to resolve. John’s lack of restraint and disregard for social norms generate a conflict with Alma’s values, but also make him fascinating and attractive to her. However, Alma recognizes how destructive John’s lifestyle is, and her internal conflict deepens even further as she becomes more and more infatuated with him.

Peter Glenville does an excellent job with the film's cinematography, infusing it with a nostalgic and dreamlike quality that suits the romantic and idealized nature of the narrative. The use of light and shadow, and soft focus lend an ethereal and poetic quality to the film that perfectly encapsulates the mood of the era in which the story is set. The color palette of the costumes, the sets, and the countryside is vibrant and in keeping with the time, even though the film itself was shot in black and white. The music is also a highlight of the film, with its authentic and whimsical score, and the timeless jazz track "Willow Weep For Me," hauntingly played by the great vibraphonist Milt Jackson.

The film only suffers from a few issues. Chief among them is that some of the themes and ideas explored are not fully developed. Subplots are introduced but don’t reach a satisfying conclusion. Supporting characters are not adequately fleshed out, which makes it challenging to care about some of their actions and decisions. Another issue is that some of the scenes with Harvey and Page feel contrived and melodramatic, which detract from the overall beauty of the movie. Also, the film's ending feels contrived and somewhat at odds with the rest of the story, feeling more like a “Hollywood” resolution than something that is true to the Alabama townspeople.

Overall, Summer and Smoke is a captivating movie that provides an exceptional example of how classic literature is given life on the silver screen. The film is undeniably a first-rate production, with its stunning visuals, its well-realized characters, and its poetically poignant narrative. If you’re a fan of classical plays, romance, and the beauty in the relationship between sound and image that define the seventh art, then Summer and Smoke is a must-see.

Summer and Smoke is a 1961 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 58 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.9.

Summer and Smoke
Where to Watch Summer and Smoke
Summer and Smoke is available to watch free on Kanopy. It's also available to stream, download and buy on demand at Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube VOD and Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent Summer and Smoke for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 58 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.9  (2,052)