Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 1960
Directed by
Daniel Mann
109 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Butterfield 8

Loosely adapted from John O'Hara's 1935 pulp novel which was based on the life and death of a real-life call girl named Starr Faithfull it’s both coyly euphemistic (Taylor’s character, Gloria Wandrous, is re-invented as a “model”) and quite spicy, with overt references to Gloria’s predatory history, her promiscuity and the world of extra-marital sex and even child abuse.  Indeed the film opens with an unusually long 10 minute sequence establishing Gloria fallen state, a long way from the Audrey Hepburnish ideal that typified the public image of American woman of the time.  The story concerns her transformation when she falls for a wealthy married man (Laurence Harvey).

Coming out of the tradition of “issue” movies of the late 1950s that explored the pain that lay behind the façade of social probity such as Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, in which Taylor also starred, Butterfield 8 lowers the bar somewhat, which is both good and a bad thing depending on whether you have an appetite for sub-Sirkian soap opera. Taylor who was only 28 at the time won an Oscar for her performance and she does a splendid job as the tough, self-protective young woman willing to use sex to ensure her independence.  Less effective is Laurence Harvey as her dashing but weak lover, Weston Ligget, who married into money and even less effective is Eddie Fisher (Taylor’s real-life squeeze at the time) as her Jimminy-Cricket-pal-cum-shoulder-to-cry-on.  

With a typically 50s studio-bound look and gorgeous production design, art direction, wardrobe and so on Butterfield 8 is a retro-buffs' delight. The melodrama for the most part adds to the pleasure although many will find the film’s cheesy ending just a little too dated to swallow.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst