A funny one, this! One can't help but feeling that it's nobody involved's best work and it doesn't quite add up to being a completely satisfying experience, but there's so much great stuff going on in there you can't ignore it either.
It's about a New Orleans musician / gigolo named Val Xavier (Brando) who turns 30 and decides to quit the nightlife and try to settle down in a small southern town. He gets a job in a general store owned by a dying, cancer ridden old bigot and run by his love starved Italian wife, Lady (Anna Magnani). Of course Val, sick to his stomach of playing loverboy, soon finds himself pursued by Lady and local outcast wild child rich girl Carol (Joanne Woodward) and every other horny teenage girl in town. It's all bound to end in tragedy of course...
The script was seen as being one of Tennessee Williams lesser works ( it was his first produced play and had previously flopped twice on Broadway under different names) and there are times when I thought to myself "Geez, Tennessee Williams sure does like laying on this Tennessee Williams shit doesn't he", but as Sideny Lumet says, "i'd rather work on Tennessee Williams weakest script than somebody else's strongest...", and I tend to agree. It gets a bit florid at times but it's really very good writing and miles ahead of just about every other film you watch in terms of depth and sensitivity and characterization.
It's shot really beautifully too, and the acting is uniformly excellent. I've heard other people saying Joanne Woodward is overdoing it and letting down the side in her desperate tramp role, but personally I thought she was brilliant and just about the best thing in the whole movie.
Special mention should also be made of the excellent soundtrack by Kenyon Hopkins. There's a great scene where brando is working in the store and trying to avoid some teenage girls treating him like piece of meat so he puts on this old blues record with this evil groove and turns it right up. I thought it must have been a pre-existing record but it turns out it was another piece of Kenyon Hopkins music. I dunno if it's him singing, but what a record!
It also led me to a great website done by a DJ in Texas where he's put up a hundred 45's that fit into that film-noir kind of groove under the banner "The Lonely Beat - 100 themes from The Naked City". He's also down a similar thing of 100 Exotica 45's. Dig it!