**WARNING** – Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t seen this film yet, don’t read on!
Well, I had no idea Eli Wallach was so interesting! I’ve only known him from The Magnificent Seven and How to Steal A Million and never thought much of him. But, I finally watched Baby Doll (1956) for the first time this weekend and was blown away by his performance. I found the beginning of his relationship with Carroll Baker slightly odd, but as the film progressed, I was drawn in by his charms. In the end, I found him remarkably appealing! The turning point for me was when his character defends Carroll Baker’s aunt when Karl Malden is needlessly picking on her. I just love a guy who sticks up for the underdog.
And while we’re on the subject of Karl Malden, what a conflicted character he played! Even though the film paints him in a dreadful light, I found it hard to hate him. Instead, he was quite sympathetic. I thought his only flaw was being weak and allowing his weakness to overtake him. His greatest mistake was resorting to arson. That was plain dumb. Oh and of course, he allowed himself to become addicted to the bottle. Never helpful to getting your life back on track.
All in all I enjoyed the film a lot. My favorite scene is where Eli Wallach jumps up into the tree to hide from Karl Malden and then helps Carroll Baker up too. It’s almost like the two of them share something so special, nothing Karl Malden can do will effect them in any way. They just sit up in their tree, safe – high above him and his depravity. Quite fascinating.
(Many thanks to Raquelle for making it impossible for me to avoid this film any longer. I’m so glad you prodded me!)
**11/9/09 edit**On DVD links (thanks to judith for reminding me!): Amazon US, Amazon UK, Half.com — These all seem to be Region 1 encoded. It looks like this is the only format Baby Doll has been released in. :(