Lumet at 100: Centennial Celebration of Seminal, Quintessential New York Director

Complete Retrospective: Detailed reviews of each of his 44 features

After a brilliant directing debut, Twelve Angry Men in 1957, Sidney Lumet made several weak films, including That Kind of Woman, a tedious, predictable romantic melodrama, starring Italian sex goddess Sophia Loren and the all-American heartthrob Tab Hunter.

Grade: C

That Kind of Woman

The screenplay by Walter Bernstein, based on a short story by Robert Lowry (“Layover in El Paso”), bears some resemblance to the 1938 The Shopworn Angel, a much better picture.

Set in New York City in June 1944, during World War II, the tale centers on Kay, a sexy Italian woman who’s a kept woman as the mistress of a Manhattan millionaire industrialist known as The Man.  Her sponsor is using her good looks to help him secure greater influence at The Pentagon.

The film’s first half takes place on a train, en route from Miami to New York City, where Kate and her friend Jane meet American paratrooper named Red (Hunter) and his sergeant George Kelly (Jack Warden).

Predictably, Kay falls for the naive and good-hearted boy, who refuses to see her for what she is.  Initially, she treats him as a boy (“Go back to your mother”) and rejects his advances.

However, in due time, she is torn between a lucrative upscale life in a Sutton Place apartment owned by George Sanders, and the prospects of true love with the young and sincere but poor GI.

The issue is: Will Kay join the soldier, who has never been in love before, that night when he leaves town by train?

The black and white film was shot on location in New York City and Long Beach, New York.

Realizing the weaknesses of the source material, Lumet relies heavily on close-ups of Loren and Hunter, who are stuck with unbearably banal dialogue.

But there is no chemistry between the two stars.  At that tie, Tab Hunter was living double life, trying to conceal his homosexuality.

A critical and commercial flop, That Kind of Woman did not do anything to promote the Hollywood career of the newcomer Loren. The beautiful and talented Italian would go back to Italy the following year to make De Sica’s grim neo-realistic drama, Two Women, for which she would receive the Best Actress Oscar.

With two critically and commercially disappointing films, Lumet’s career seems in trouble. However, not for too long. His Next film, The Fugitive Kind, would provide him the opportunity to work with two of world cinema’s best actors: Brando and Italian Anna Magnani.

Cast
Sophia Loren as Kay
Tab Hunter as Red
Jack Warden as George Kelly
Barbara Nichols as Jane
Keenan Wynn as Harry Corwin

Credits:

Directed by Sidney Lumet
Produced by Marcello Girosi and Carlo Ponti
Written by Robert Lowry Walter Bernstein, based on “Layover in El Paso” (1944 story) by Robert Lowry
Music by Daniele Amfitheatrof
Cinematography by Boris Kaufman
Edited by Howard A. Smith
Art Direction by Hal Pereira, Roland Anderson
Costume Design by Edith Head
Makeup by Wally Westmore

Distributed by Paramount Pictures

Release dates: June 1959 (Berlin) Sept 11, 1959 (U.S.)

Running time: 92 minutes
Budget $2.5million
Box office $1 million

 

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