The Long, Hot Summer is a mish-mash of three William Faulkner stories and a picnic basket auction from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Oklahoma! in which the winner gets the basket and the “girl.”
Billed as a story of the “Modern South!”, Martin Ritt and his screenwriters concocted yet another traditional Hollywood love story mixing male chauvinism, misogyny and homophobia. The romantic chattel, this time, is Clara Varner, a seemingly independent woman, who is vied for at the auction by Alan Stewart (her gay fiancé, a Mama’s boy) and Ben Quick (virile and ill-mannered).
The outcome is no contest, and when Quick wins, Clara does not hide her disdainful feelings. But is she trapped. Clara’s father and planation patriarch Will Varner, prefers Quick and says as much: “This is gonna be about the most expensive chicken supper you ever et, boy . . .but worth every cent of it . . . considerin’ the charmin’ company you’re gonna be eatin’ it in. I, uh. . . I hope you’re gonna give him dessert for that price, Clara?” (We get the innuendo, wink, wink.)
Featured Image: Martin Ritt. “Picnic Basket Auction” from The Long Hot Summer (1958). Screenplay by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr. based on William Faulkner’s “Spotted Horses “ (1931) “Burning Barn”(1939) and The Hamlet (1940). Twentieth Century Fox Corp. Ben Quick (Paul Newman) and Clara Varner (Joanne Woodward) stare at each other over the picnic table.