Cast & Crew
In the small Southern town of Jefferson, Mississippi, seventeen-year-old Quentin Compson has lived under the tyrannical rule of her step-brother Jason ever since her mother Caddy abandoned her at birth. Feeling unloved and unwanted, Quentin detests Jason, who assumed responsibility for the household after Jason's Cajun mother married Quentin's grandfather following the death of his first wife. Compson had squandered the family fortune and Caddy, with her promiscuity, had cost the family its good name, and now Jason toils to support the decrepit estate at a store owned by Earl Scopes, who delights in the family's degradation. Also living at the house is Howard, Quentin's alcoholic, worthless uncle; Ben, Howard's mute, mentally retarded brother; Dilsey, the family's motherly housekeeper who was watched them all grow up; and Mrs. Compson, Jason's despicable, demanding mother. Quentin, on the verge of womanhood, rebels at Jason's attempts to restore dignity to the family name by making her finish school and develop into a proper young adult. One day, the carnival comes to town, and the owner pays Luster, Dilsey's little grandson and Ben's constant companion, to parade Ben around the square wearing a sign advertising the freak show. Furious, Jason orders Luster to take Ben home and confine him within the gates of the estate. Meanwhile, Charles Busch, a brawny, handsome carnival worker, catches Quentin's eye. Charlie invites Quentin into his trailer, where he brashly tries to seduce her, but Quentin resists his advances. Soon after, Quentin's mother Caddy returns to town and meets with Jason. Feigning concern for the daughter she deserted, she asks to see Quentin and Jason reluctantly agrees to bring the girl to her. After a quarrelsome dinner, Jason tells Quentin to get into the car and then speeds past Caddy, who is waiting in the park. Although Quentin recognizes Caddy, Jason refuses to stop the car. Afterward, Jason paints Caddy's motherly concern as just a ploy for a meal ticket, but nevertheless, allows her to move into the house. After a poignant reunion with her mother, Quentin begs Caddy for her help in opposing Jason but Caddy, reliant on Jason's good will, refuses to intervene. One night, Charlie comes to the house and, after plying Quentin with alcohol, begins to make love to her. Quentin's ardor is cooled, however, when she spots Ben gaping at her from the porch. Soon after, while seated along the river bank, Howard, resentful of his sister's past lovers, upbraids Caddy for tarnishing the family name. Later, after a day of shopping, Caddy stops at Earl's store and begins to flirt with him. When Earl drives Caddy home that night, he infers that he has had sex with her, prompting Jason to pummel him for his disparaging remark. After Earl drives off, Jason hears giggling coming from the woods and finds Charlie and Quentin locked in a romantic embrace. When Charlie runs off, Quentin tells Jason that he made her feel like a woman. In response, Jason passionately kisses Quentin, and then pushes her away, cruelly observing that any man could make her feel like a woman. Although Jason orders Quentin locked in her room, she sneaks out and hurries to Charlie's trailer. There, she asks him if he loves her, and after he nods yes, she asks him to run away with him and confides that she can secure $3,000 to support them. When Quentin returns home, Ben tries to strangle her, prompting Jason to decide that the time has come to institutionalize him. Dilsey, opposed to Jason's decision, tearfully bids Ben farewell. As Jason drives Ben to the mental hospital, Quentin ransacks his room and steals a suitcase filled with money that Caddy had been sending her over the years. Upon discovering the theft, Jason rushes to the carnival and tells Charlie he must choose between Quentin or the money. When Charlie picks the money, Jason triumphantly drives off, and Charlie then tries to convince Quentin to turn over the money and leave with him. Finally realizing Charlie's true nature, Quentin spurns him and comes home with the cash-filled suitcase. After Jason tells Quentin that he has been saving the money for her future, she replies that she is now mature and deserves respect and affection. When Jason asserts that he has molded her into a self-sufficient woman, Quentin thinks to herself that she may have a future with him.
Robert B. Willliams
Charles G. Clarke
Paul S. Fox
Harriet Frank Jr.
Harry M. Leonard
Willie Mae Neal
Edward B. Powell
Walter M. Scott
Lyle R. Wheeler
The Sound and the Fury
At the same time, there are viewers who harbor fond memories of the picture, and on many cinema blog sites, you'll find claims for this as one of the favorite movies of those who post comments. In general, these fans, while acknowledging the near impossibility of adapting Faulkner's multi-generational stream-of-consciousness novel into film, appreciate the movie as a steamy melodrama of the Southern gothic school and as a kind of coming-of-age story about a rebellious teenage girl. Detractors, however, decry the fact that Hollywood has taken such a rich, complex modernist work about the decline of a family and turned it into....a steamy melodrama of the Southern gothic school and a kind of coming-of-age story.
The coming-of-age aspect is one of the major areas of contention regarding the film adaptation. For one thing, the character of Quentin, just one of several in Faulkner's novel, is put front and center here, in constant conflict with her stern tough-love step uncle Jason and the family's wise old black housekeeper (the legendary Ethel Waters in her final feature film role). As played by Yul Brynner in a wig, Jason's ethnicity is never quite clear, nor is his relationship with Quentin. The film also gives the story an almost happy ending, incongruously suggesting the girl and her "uncle" are the perfect match to redeem the wasted lineage. This willful teenager is played by the 29-year-old Joanne Woodward, a year after she won the Academy Award for portraying the housewife and mother with multiple personalities in The Three Faces of Eve (1957). To top it off, Woodward was well into a pregnancy during shooting, and various means had to be found to disguise that fact. But director Martin Ritt had a lot of faith in and respect for Woodward, who he had directed in two previous films, No Down Payment (1957) and The Long, Hot Summer (1958), another Faulkner adaptation and her first co-starring role with husband Paul Newman.
Martin Ritt was a Jewish New Yorker who became fascinated with the South while attending college in North Carolina. Ritt had an affinity for dark stories with social significance and was drawn to Faulkner's tales of the decay of the aristocratic South. His first foray into that territory was The Long, Hot Summer. He was brought to that project by producer Jerry Wald, who had once employed Faulkner at Warner Brothers during the writer's generally unhappy time in Hollywood. Now working at Fox, Wald persuaded the studio to pay $50,000 for the screen rights to Faulkner's The Hamlet and The Sound and the Fury, two ambitious projects he planned to shoot in color and Cinemascope, and he hired Ritt, who had made No Down Payment for him. Ritt collaborated with the writing team of Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr., and the result, a star-studded project taking in bits and pieces from several of Faulkner's stories, was in the eyes of many critics more Tennessee Williams than William Faulkner, and a transformation of the author's intentions into something of a social comedy, but The Long, Hot Summer was a commercial success nonetheless.
Wald was pleased enough with the success of this first adaptation (which earned Paul Newman a Best Actor nomination at Cannes) to claim it was merely a rehearsal for the follow-up. "The Sound and the Fury is a different kind of motion picture," he wrote to Fox executives during shooting. "It is daring and will appeal to our long lost audience who have come to regard Hollywood as a Western factory. ... The Long, Hot Summer was an experiment, and a very successful one. It was the first time the public had been given Faulkner in heroic doses--and they went for it."
Despite the enthusiasm for the project shared by producer and director, the odd choice was made to forego the location shooting (in Louisiana) that had given the first picture such an authentic feel for the South in favor of filming primarily on a Fox sound stage. Equally odd was the casting of Yul Brynner as Jason. He was, of course, a major star after winning the Oscar® for The King and I (1956), and it didn't seem to bother the filmmakers that this Russian actor would be playing a Southern character. "Temperamentally, Yul fit the role perfectly," Wald wrote in an article before the film opened. "Yet he has an undisguisable accent and a touch of exoticism about him that at first glance seemed out of place in the locale of our story. We made this acceptable by changing the nationality of Jason and his aging mother to French--from the bayou country of Louisiana."
Another choice made for the production was to jettison Faulkner's method of moving the story back and forth in time; instead it was set in the present and the novel's events unfolded in a chronological order. This brought about the decision to have a major character, Quentin's mother Caddy, return to the present day family home, although in the book, once she embarks on her life of promiscuity, she exists only as a memory, a kind of specter that haunts the other characters. Wald initially thought of Lana Turner for the role but eventually Margaret Leighton was cast. Both the decision to bring Caddy into the story and to have her played by Leighton, a British actress acclaimed for her classical roles and appearances in Tennessee Williams plays, was not well received by most critics. Although some thought Leighton had several effective and touching moments, the New York Times review said she played the part "as if she were the Blanche DuBois right out of a stranded road company of A Streetcar Named Desire."
Unfortunately, Fox executives viewed The Sound and the Fury much as the critics would and decided not to give it the prestige release originally intended for it. "I can't think of a better way to put a knife into the heart of this picture," Ritt remarked after hearing it would be dumped into general release in March 1959. "This picture represents a lot of sweat and hard work. I broke my back to help organize it and brought it in four days under schedule, apparently so that the brass could then use it as a cheap picture." Ritt rarely spoke of the film in the years to come, except to acknowledge that "I made some mistakes on that."
Not all the reviews were negative, however. Variety praised Woodward's "firm conviction" in the role of the girl and called Leighton's performance "remarkably realistic," concluding that The Sound and the Fury [is] a work of cinematic stature...mature, provocative and sensitively executed...."
The jazzy score is by Alex North. Although an item in the June 1958 Hollywood Reporter noted that North and Sammy Cahn would compose a title song for the movie, no such number exists.
An earlier adaptation of Faulkner's novel was presented on NBC television's Playwrights '56 series in 1955. It starred Franchot Tone as Jason, Janice Rule as Quentin, and Ethel Waters as Dilsey, the same role she played in the movie version.
Director: Martin Ritt
Producer: Jerry Wald
Screenplay: Irving Ravetch and Harriett Frank, Jr.
Cinematography: Charles G. Clarke
Editing: Stuart Gilmore
Art Direction: Maurice Ransford, Lyle R. Wheeler
Original Music: Alex North
Cast: Yul Brynner (Jason), Joanne Woodward (Quentin), Margaret Leighton (Caddy), Stuart Whitman (Charlie), Ethel Waters (Dilsey), Jack Warden (Ben).
by Rob Nixon
The Sound and the Fury
I just happen to be an eccentric.- Quentin Compson
The film's title card reads: "William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury." The film, unlike the novel, concentrates on "Quentin's" story rather than on the dynamics of the Compson family. Although a Hollywood Reporter production chart places Jean Carson in the cast, she was not in the released film. According to Filmfacts, Carson's scenes were cut from the final print. Although a June 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that Sammy Cahn and Alex North were hired to compose a title song for the picture, the released print contained no such song. Jerry Wald, Martin Ritt, Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr. had previously worked together on The Long, Hot Summer. The normally head-shaved Yul Brynner had hair in this picture. On December 6, 1955, NBC broadcast a televised version of Faulkner's novel, directed by Victor J. Donehue and starring Franchot Tone, Ethel Waters and Janice Rule.
Released in United States Spring March 1959
Released in United States Spring March 1959