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Published: Tuesday March 6, 2012 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday August 5, 2013 MYT 4:29:08 PM

This property is condemned

SUGGESTED by a Tennessee Williams one-act play, the 1966 movie This Property Is Condemned is a story of lust and romance in the fictional town of Dodson, Mississippi, during the Great Depression.

The story is related by a young girl, Willie Starr (Mary Badham), to a boy, Tom (Jon Provost), while they sit on an abandoned railway track.

Willie and her older sister, Alva (Natalie Wood), live with their manipulative mother, Hazel (Kate Reid), who is the proprietress of a boarding house (and who apparently uses Alva to attract men to the place). Alva is popular because she is beautiful and flirtatious, but she yearns to leave Dodson. The suffocation that she feels, occasioned by her humdrum existence in the small town and her mother’s control, dramatically parallels her lung problems. (“Sometimes I have trouble catching my breath. Maybe when God breathed the breath of life into all of us, He didn’t breathe enough into me.”)

Hazel wants Alva to be nice to the wealthy Mr Johnson (John Harding), an elderly man whose wife is an invalid. However, Alva falls for Owen Legate (Robert Redford), a handsome stranger from New Orleans. He is in Dodson to lay off many of the railway workers, who provide much of the business of the boarding house.

Owen finds himself in the doghouse with Hazel, who puts her foot down and tells Alva straight from the shoulder that the Starr family is moving to Memphis to start afresh on a small loan from Mr Johnson.

On the eve of his departure from Dodson, Owen is beaten up by several railway workers. He decides to invite Alva to New Orleans. But Hazel tricks him into believing that Alva is highly excited about moving to Memphis, where Mr Johnson will be able to see her frequently. Owen accuses Alva of lying to him, and leaves Dodson in high dudgeon. Hazel is relieved that he will never darken her door again.

Alva takes revenge on her mother by marrying J.J. (Charles Bronson), Hazel’s uncouth lover. The next day, she quietly leaves J.J. and travels to New Orleans.

Alas, Hazel soon arrives in New Orleans and upsets the young lovers’ apple cart.

Superbly directed by Sydney Pollack (The Way We Were, Tootsie, The Firm), This Property Is Condemned sizzles with irrepressible passion and intense emotion – a gripping tale about people whose lives are inevitably shaped by their circumstances.

Fall for: (i) To feel love for. (ii) To be deceived or swindled by. (The old woman fell for the con artist’s scheme and lost a big sum of money.)

Lay off: (i) To stop employing a worker temporarily or permanently because of a shortage of work. (ii) To stop doing something. (He decided to lay off drinking.)

In the doghouse: In disfavour.

Put one’s foot down: To stand firm on a particular matter.

Straight from the shoulder: In a forthright manner, without trying to avoid unpleasantness.

In high dudgeon: Furiously.

Darken someone’s door: To come unwanted to someone’s house.

Upset the/someone’s apple cart: To spoil someone’s plans.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle

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