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A Tennessee Williams comedy? It seems highly unlikely, yet Period of Adjustment (1962) is a light romantic farce with some genuinely touching moments. Who would have expected that from one of the most provocative Southern playwrights of the 20th century? And who would have expected it to deal with a relatively normal couple instead of Williams' usual array of psychologically damaged characters? In this case, the couple in question is a pair of newlyweds who quickly discover they both have very different expectations of their marriage. George (Jim Hutton) is a Korean War veteran who has just quit his job and is pondering his future while his new bride Isabel (Jane Fonda) is struggling to become the perfect housewife. Their shaky relationship is further challenged when they visit George's friends, Ralph and Lois Baitz, a married couple who seem headed for divorce.
Jane Fonda often cites Period of Adjustment as one of her favorite movie experiences and said, "It was an enormous challenge for me, especially because with my two previous films (Walk on the Wild Side, The Chapman Report, both 1962) I felt I'd tried but not gotten a good grasp on the characters I was playing...I became an actress because I needed love and support from a lot of people, but at the beginning I never dreamed I'd end up in the movies. A stage career is what I wanted. But somehow making movies gets to you. It's ego-battering and it's much tougher work, because it's harder to create a performance. When I did get Period of Adjustment, I finally began to feel like an experienced film actress, and I decided movies were for me."
It wasn't always a piece of cake. One thing Fonda wasn't crazy about was her studio makeover for this role which included bleach blonde hair, artificial eyelashes, and falsies. But she ultimately overcame the sex object stereotyping by giving a delightful comic performance which was duly noted by several renown critics at the time like Stanley Kauffman of The New Republic.
Period of Adjustment marked the film debut of director George Roy Hill, a former actor and stage director who would soon become one of Hollywood's hottest directors (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). The Sting, 1973). The art direction/set decoration was nominated for an Oscar but lost to To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).
Director: George Roy Hill
Producer: Lawrence Weingarten
Screenplay: Isobel Lennart, based on the play by Tennessee Williams
Cinematography: Paul Vogel
Editor: Fredric Steinkamp
Music: Lyn Murray
Cast: Anthony Franciosa (Ralph Baitz), Jane Fonda (Isabel Haverstick), Jim Hutton (George Haverstick), Lois Nettleton (Dorothea Baitz), John McGiver (Stewart P. McGill)
BW-112m. Close captioning. Letterboxed.
by Jeff Stafford