Cast & Crew
Having been accused of arson by a local farmer, Ben Quick, the brassy, conman son of an infamous barn burner, is banished from a rural Mississippi county and told never to return. Quick takes a barge down river to Frenchmen's Bend, the town owned lock, stock and barrel by the blustery Will Varner. While hitching a ride along the roadside, Quick meets Eula Varner, the sexy Southern belle married to Varner's weak-willed son Jody, and Clara, Varner's prim schoolteacher daughter. Later, Quick comes to the Varner mansion to speak to the man of the house about renting a farm, and in her father's absence, Clara directs him to Jody. Soon after, Varner returns to town following a three-month stay in the hospital and is greeted by his longtime mistress, Minnie Littlejohn. Upon reaching home, Varner humiliates Jody for incompetently managing the family's general store in his absence and then nags Clara about getting married. Upon learning that Jody has rented a farm to Quick, the barn burner, Varner speeds out to the property, where the two men size each other up. After Quick tries to wheedle a job from Varner, Varner offers him a deal to sell a herd of untamable wild horses. Soon after, Clara visits her beau, Alan Stewart, the mama's boy son of a decaying old Southern family, to invite him for dinner. In town meanwhile, Quick successfully auctions the horses to some unsuspecting farmers while Minnie badgers Varner about getting married. Impressed by Quick's prowess, Varner invites him to dinner that night. At the table, Varner insults Alan by questioning his relationship with his mother, and then taunts Jody with the news that he has appointed Quick co-manager of the general store. Varner and Quick play cards late into the night, and afterward, Quick flirts with Clara, who verbally jousts with him. Impatient for Clara to marry and bear him grandchildren, Varner informs his daughter that if she is unable to persuade Alan to propose, he will arrange a match with Quick, a "prize stud bull." Simmering with resentment over Quick's promotion to store manager, the pathetic Jody stays home and pesters his wife for sex. After class one day, Clara drops by the store to see Quick, who chides her for letting the world pass her by. Clara responds with a slap, but when he kisses her, she returns his embrace, then retaliates by calling him a barn burner and running out of the store. Varner overhears the altercation and offers Quick money to wed Clara. At first stunned, Quick consents and asks Varner to compensate him with the plantation known as Frenchman's Ruin, where a fortune in Civil War gold is allegedly buried. When Quick moves into the Varner mansion, Clara admonishes her resentful brother to fight back. Later, at the local fair, Minnie informs Varner that she has arranged their wedding, and after she refuses Varner's bribe of a new car, he reluctantly capitulates and agrees to marry her. Quick launches his courtship of Clara by outbidding Alan for her box supper, but after Clara and Quick argue, Alan comes to her rescue and she screws up her courage to inquire about his matrimonial intentions. Clara is crushed when Alan replies that he cannot love her as a man loves a woman. Driven to desperation, Jody threatens Quick with a gun, but the sly Quick shows him a gold coin and tricks him into believing that there is buried treasure on Frenchman's Ruin. When Jody digs up a bag of gold, Quick sells him the property for $1,000. Later that night, Varner comes to the plantation and finds Jody burrowing in the dirt. When Jody shows him the bag of gold, Varner humiliates him once again by observing that the coins were minted in 1910, and then labels him a sucker. When Alan walks Clara home that evening, Varner assumes that they are engaged and tenderly recalls the love he felt for Clara's mother. The next morning, Varner drives to the Stewart house to make arrangements for the wedding, and when Alan informs him that there will be no wedding, Varner explodes, speeds into town and orders Quick to buy a new suit because he is getting married. Upon returning home, Varner goes to the barn to see a newborn foal, and Jody locks him in and sets the barn on fire. When Jody relents and unbars the doors, Varner praises him for his newfound gumption. Seeing smoke, the townsfolk assume that Quick is responsible and prepare to lynch him. Hurrying to the general store, Clara collects Quick and drives him to the safety of the Varner home. The flames and smoke stir up unpleasant memories, and Quick recalls the horror of growing up as the son of a barn burner and being forever branded as an outsider. Clara is touched by Quick's sudden show of tenderness, and he decides to cancel the wedding in exchange for her saving his life. After Varner disperses the angry crowd by accepting responsibility for the fire, Quick lectures him about respecting his daughter's wishes and then announces that he is leaving. As Quick goes upstairs to pack, Jody and Eula reconcile, and Clara runs after him and declares he will never get away from her. Finally pleased with his children, Varner ushers Minnie into the house.
J. Pat O'malley
I. Stanford Jolley
L. B. Abbott
Harriet Frank Jr.
Joseph La Shelle
Harry M. Leonard
Louis R Loeffler
Walter M. Scott
E. Clayton Ward
All right then, run, lady, and you keep on running. Buy yourself a bus ticket and disappear. Change your name, dye your hair, get lost--and then maybe, just maybe, you're gonna be safe from me.- Ben
Get out of character, lady. Come on, get way out.- Ben
You're too much like my father to suit me, and I'm an authority on him.- Clara
He's a wonderful old man.- Ben
One wolf recognizes another.- Clara
Tame us. Make pets out of us. You could.- Ben
Miss Clara, you slam the door at a man's face before he even knocks on it.- Ben
I respect him. I admire his manners and I admire the speeches he makes and I admire the big house he lives in. But if you're saving it all for him honey, you've got your account in the wrong bank.- Ben
It took five days to film the barn-burning scene because the sky, winds, or amount of sunlight were not acceptable to the director.
The director, 'Martin Ritt' , was forever known after this movie as the man who tamed Orson Welles. During filming Ritt drove Wells into the middle of a swamp, kicked him out of the car and forced him to find his own way back.
Orson Welles always wore a fake nose when he worked, so when he would sweat on this film, his fake nose would slip. Make-up people had to keep applying material to keep the fake nose from falling.
Released in USA March 1958.
Released in USA on video.
Shown the Cannes Film Festival May 1958.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best American Films by The 1958 National Board of Review.
Winner of the Best Actor Prize (Newman) at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival.