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USA 1963
Directed by
George Roy Hill
97 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Toys In The Attic

This rather odd film was based on a stage play by Lillian Hellman whose adapted  play The Little Foxes had been a hit for Bette Davis and William Wyler in 1941. It is a melodrama in the manner of Tennessee Williams, a mix of sexual frustration, moral corruption and fine manners set in the Deep South (New Orleans to be precise).  Geraldine Page and Wendy Hiller play two spinster sisters whose beloved brother, Julian (Dean Martin), a wannabe entrepreneur returns to the Crescent City and the family home with a new wife (Yvette Mimieux) and a pocket full of money and upsets the emotional apple cart as everyone wants to know how a fool such as he got the loot.

Why anyone thought it a good idea for Dean Martin, who is better known for his singing and lightweight comedic roles, to play the part of the shiftless brother, or for that matter why Martin took the part, is a mystery.  Certainly Julian is a good-natured, bluff sort of a chap but he needed to be a lot more than that and Martin really only can do charming.  And why British actress Wendy Hiller as a Southern old maid? Not that she is not very good but there were any number of American actresses who surely could have filled her shoes. And even though the play was first  staged in 1960 it feels as if from the 1940s (Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire which this recalls was staged in 1947).

Hill keeps a quite stagy feel to the proceedings, only occasionally using real exteriors, something which gives the film a musty aroma that must have seemed incongruous even in 1963. Toys In The Attic is more interesting for its failures than successes but nevertheless is worth a look to see why it fails.

FYI: The film was the penultimate big screen appearance for 1940s starlet, Gene Tierney




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