You know, melodrama just doesn’t work today the way it used to. With Tennessee Williams at the writing helm, adapting his own Orpheus Descending along with screenwriter Meade Roberts, The Fugitive Kind is certainly an old school southern Gothic melodrama with drunks, mad angry women, silk slips, money left on mattresses, desperate love affairs, and a town full of violent dirty secrets. Naturalistic it’s not, but entertaining it is.
Marlon Brando is deliberate and handsome as Snakeskin, a drifter musician and possible former hustler who is both slow and unwittingly skilled at manipulation. His nickname comes from his iconic jacket, which inspired a similar stylistic iconic choice in Wild at Heart.
The women surrounding him are played by Maureen Stapleton, who is heartbreaking as a gentle, naive artist surrounded by ugliness, Joanne Woodward as an almost animal like untamed drunken crazy socialite, and Ann Magnani who commands the screen as Lady “a real live one” with restrain that’s ready to boil over. She’s both a powerful diva and beaten down. She’s musky, dark and needful but softened by glimmer of hope that burns in her despite a life and face cracked with loss, horror and age.
Misfits and fugitive kinds, they are all the romanticized fringe, who are the only ones in an ugly world who dare to try to bring beauty to it – whether with a song, a confectionery or a painting.