Andrew HamiltonEssays

Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll (1956)

The 1956 premiere of playwright Tennessee Williams’ anti-Southern film Baby Doll.

by Andrew Hamilton

SOUTHERN playwright Tennessee Williams, “a descendant of hardy East Tennessee pioneer stock,” is considered, together with Irish American Eugene O’Neill, and Jewish Arthur Miller, to be one of the “three foremost playwrights of 20th-century American drama.”

Of English, Welsh, and French Huguenot descent, he was an alcoholic and homosexual. Wilmot Robertson observed in The Dispossessed Majority that mid-century Broadway was dominated by Jews and homosexuals: “The chief dramatic contribution of the homosexual playwright has been the sensitive heroine in an insensitive society and the bitchy heroine in a depraved society, the former representing how the author feels, the latter how he acts.”

I haven’t actually seen Williams’ plays or movies, with the exception of most of Baby Doll (1956), a film I stopped watching before it finished.

Baby Doll was based on a one-act play by Williams, who also wrote the film’s original screenplay. Blacks exist as furniture, but there isn’t a major subplot involving them. The racism lies in the movie’s utter contempt for Southern Whites.

Karl Malden stars as a bigoted arsonist reminiscent of Abner Snopes in William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” (1939).

His wife Baby Doll is played by Carroll Baker, whose reputation was made by this sleazy film. Baker’s husband at the time was a Jewish movie director. The actress converted to Judaism and had her only two children by him.

The husband and wife live — not exactly together — in a decaying mansion. Baby Doll’s senile Aunt Rose is their permanent house guest.

Faded glory: the crumbling mansion home of Baby Doll, her husband, and senile Aunt Rose.

Contrasted with this trash is the “hero,” a Sicilian American outsider who is more intelligent, enterprising, and capable than the natives. Played by Jewish actor Eli Wallach, he steals and then beds his rival’s wife.

The movie was helmed by Greek American director Elia Kazan, who resented Whites of American stock as much as Tennessee Williams did. Born in Turkey when it was still part of the Ottoman Empire, Kazan was a member of the Communist Party who clawed his way to the top of the Hollywood heap by making anti-White “message films.”

Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) was based on a Jewish novel depicting (the proper word is really “defaming”) White Americans in mid-century New York City and adjacent Connecticut suburbs as anti-Semites who discriminated against Jews at every turn! (Talk about relying upon a willing suspension of disbelief!) Unsurprisingly, Kazan’s blatant pandering was rewarded with eight Oscar nominations and three wins, including Best Director for the ambitious immigrant filmmaker.

Pinky (1949), likewise highly acclaimed, was an interracial film about a White man paired with a pretty mulatto female who passes as White. The novel upon which it was based was written by a Mississippi-born White woman; the book made her reputation and fortune.

I wondered what Williams’ motive or psychology was in selecting a Sicilian as a racial outsider superior to his own native Southern stock. (Because that’s how Williams and Kazan depicted the character. Both men saw themselves in, and identified with, the slick, capable newcomer.)

Jewish actor Eli Wallach, left, being lavishly praised by a Senator.

It has been noted, “The importance of Italy on Tennessee Williams’ life and literary aesthetic is unfathomable. And yet, strangely enough, not until now [2016] has that influence ever been discussed to any great length in Williams studies.” (Alessandro Clericuzio, Tennessee Williams and Italy: A Transcultural Perspective, Palgrave Macmillan.)

An Italian gigolo featured in Williams’ novel The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, and the heroine of The Rose Tattoo, set on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, was Sicilian American. (“Tennessee Williams’s The Rose Tattoo: Sicilian Migration and the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” The Southern Literary Journal, Spring 2014.)

An underlying sexual element was also present. Williams spent 1948 in Rome with a teenage Italian boy. The longest and most intense homosexual relationship of his life was with a Sicilian American from New Jersey who’d served in WWII.

I didn’t know any of that when I saw the movie, however. Nevertheless, Italians appear to have been sexually desirable to Williams, who viewed them as “not Southerners” (hence good, and superior to his own ethnic group — not uncommon among Nordics).

At any rate, the film drips with anti-White — and anti-Southern — venom. My visceral dislike for it is so intense I would be hard-pressed to explain it.

The movie caused controversy among conservatives and Roman Catholics because of its dissolute sexual themes. Reading approving feminist accounts of the film today shows that these objections were well-founded. Baby Doll was an attack on White American sexual mores, marriage, and the family.

Nevertheless, it was the unconcealed racial contempt that brought me to a slow boil. I can’t imagine that A Streetcar Named Desire or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, also set in the South, are fundamentally any different in that regard. Williams played to his audience, the hostile American elite — and particularly the Jews at its core.

Shooting script for Baby Doll. The Southern cotton gin owner surreptitiously carves a peephole in the decaying wall of his house to spy on his young blonde wife asleep in a baby crib in the next room. Dressed in an alluring nighty, she is innocently sucking her thumb. Williams: “Unshaven, black jowled, in sweaty pajamas. On the bed table behind him is a half-empty bottle of liquor, an old alarm clock, a magazine called SPICY FICTION, and a tube of ointment.”

Critics showered Baby Doll with praise. The New York Times applauded its “amusingly picturesque assortment of white-trash protagonists, ranging from moronic to dim-witted, except for a brash, alert ‘foreigner,’ Eli Wallach,” who seduces the Southern businessman’s “bird-brained fluff of a wife, Baby Doll.”

Powerful people nominated the movie for numerous prestigious awards, but White American audiences in 1956 did not embrace it, and it was a box office dud.

* * *

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Humble braggart
Humble braggart
9 November, 2021 1:07 am

Arthur Miller sucks and when was the last time anyone performed a play by Eugene O’neil? Just like the short story writer John O’hara he was huge in his day but faded into obscurity. Interestingl y Caroll Baker (thats two ls) was thought to be a Polish American but was later found out to be Irish and English ethnically. She was raised Catholic but converted to Judaism. Personally I think she is a crypto Jew. Many Hollywood actors backgrounds are made u p out of whole cloth. When her Hollywood career faded she had a second wind as the blonde lust object in Italian Cinema b movies many of which can be found on youtube. Cat on a hot tin roof and streetcar named desire are meant to be quite… Read more »

9 November, 2021 2:46 am

Perhaps you may take a small measure of comfort in knowing that this 51 year old American White female never heard of the film “Baby Doll” until reading this article. I am quite familiar with tons of older stuff in the way of film, but this tends to fall along the kind of things my parents watched and still watch. My parents are both alive and well at 80 and I will assume it’s a testament to my parents’ taste that I’ve gone 51 years without meeting the acquaintance of this film. Even without this powerful critique, I’d have no interest in watching something like this. Just seeing this woman with that horrible platinum dye-job, sucking her thumb, well, I know this is a movie no lady would care to… Read more »

Reply to  Danielle
9 November, 2021 4:25 pm

Danielle, did you notice Jans site no longer has comments?

Rommel 41
Rommel 41
Reply to  Danielle
10 November, 2021 12:00 am

Well Danielle, unfortunately we can’t take any comfort, small or otherwise in how
much worse the ‘product’ of Hollywood has become in the intervening decades.
It is far more blatant and degraded than even I think previous critics would have
warned us about. To call it a swamp, sewer, and steaming pile of filth would be
to demean those poor abused terms. As so many have said throughout history,
they ruin everything they touch. All they can do is corrupt and destroy.

9 November, 2021 4:51 am

I know of this movie only because Benny Hill did a spoof on it. Perhaps it attracted more attention in Britain than in the USA.

9 November, 2021 4:10 pm

Karl Malden?…((Malden Sekulovich))…patronises George C.Scott as loudmouth renegade Patton, who in real life had a similar deadly ‘accident’ as TE Lawrence had before him for just that, offending the kehilla…

Suddenly last Summer, gross gay cannibalism theme with real gay, Clift, and convert Germanophobe, Taylor…Juden have had their poisonous fangs in the Anglo conscience for centuries.

Excellent article.

Walt Hampton
Walt Hampton
11 November, 2021 11:53 am

If you simply walked out on
“Baby Doll,” I have little doubt
you would have torched the
theater showing “Black Snake

21 November, 2021 1:29 pm

Excellent article Mr. Hamilton. By the way, I would like to make a point about how Italians have been (and still are) portrayed by Holly-Jew. First of all, they are usually criminals/gangsters. I am not going to deny the existence of powerful criminal organisations made up mostly, if not completely, by men of Italian descent; but, according to Hollywood it seems that the only criminal organisations in the USA were/are run by Italians Another aspect, and perhaps as insidious as the first one, is the racial stereotype or archetype that the Jews have chosen to portray “typical” Italians (of course, there is no such a thing). You will notice that most of the Italians are rather ugly, short and stocky with black hair and eyes and, many times, clearly Semitic… Read more »

Andrew Hamilton
Andrew Hamilton
Reply to  Angelicus
22 November, 2021 1:41 am

Hollywood never intended to do Whites any favors, and today it’s openly anti-White. You may recall, or if you’re young have read about, Marlon Brando’s comments on Hollywood’s ethnic stereotyping that he made to the Jew Larry King in 1996, which is pertinent. He was correct, though when you read the entire exchange it’s horribly muddled because Brando kept hemming and hawing and was a complete Leftist besides. But the one sentence the Jews extracted was correct. (Brando of course was not Italian.) An interesting movie with respect to Italian phenotypes is an old, low-budget film starring Vincent Price called The Last Man on Earth (1964). It’s been criticized, but Price was fond of it and thought it was better than the remake with Charlton Heston, The Omega Man (1971).… Read more »

Reply to  Andrew Hamilton
22 November, 2021 11:39 am

Mr. Hamitlon: Thank you for your feedback, Yes, of course, Holly-Jew was from the beginning a platform of Jewish propaganda, which means anti-White/Aryan to the core. Regarding the Italian actor Mario Girotti (aka “Terence Hill”) you are 100% correct, however, I would like to point out to the non-Italian/European readers that, since the XIV century Venice was the seat of the most important and powerful German community in Italy. Venice was the recipient of all German goods coming into Italy. So important was the German community in Venice that in the early XIV century the German merchants commissioned or bought a very large building known as the “Fondaco dei Tedeschi” (The Germans’ Warehouse) to house their products and offices. I have digressed a bit, but my point was that… Read more »

Andrew Hamilton
Andrew Hamilton
Reply to  Angelicus
23 November, 2021 1:58 pm

That was it! Will Smith in I Am Legend. I thought there was a third version but couldn’t remember it. But I would never watch that one. I didn’t know about Smith’s Wild Wild West movie, but I, too, remember Robert Conrad and his sidekick Artemis Gordon from the TV show. I did know Ross Martin was a Jew. They’re everywhere! Conrad starred as a fitness guru in a pretty good episode of Columbo. I don’t know if you live in Italy (I’m not asking), but noticed the link you supplied and the British spelling of organization (which is perfectly correct). If you are a native Italian speaker your ability to write English is exceptional. Perhaps I said that to you before in another comment long ago, otherwise it was… Read more »

Reply to  Andrew Hamilton
23 November, 2021 3:26 pm

Mr Hamilton: Thank you very much for your compliments. The truth is, although I am ethnically 100% Italian, I am not a fluent Italian speaker (far from that!). I was born in Argentina, therefore my first language is Spanish. My grandparents arrived in Argentina on the eve of WW1. Although I can read and understand Italian rather well I cannot speak fluently because of the lack of opportunities to do so. Luckily I have a gift for languages (unfortunately, the only one I have! LOL) and I started learning English at a very young age (15) because at that time I was a great admirer of Napoleon as a military commander and the only books available about that subject were in English. What improved my English enormously was my long… Read more »