Green Mansions (1959): Mel Ferrer Romantic Melodrama Starring Audrey Hepburn and Anthony Perkins

Misconceived from start to finish, “Green Mansions,” is a listless romantic melodrama, directed by actor Mel Ferrer, better known as the husband of the great Audrey Hepburn, who stars in the lead.

Set in the gorgeous and exotic Venezuelan jungle, this strange tale is based on a novel by W.H. Hudson about Rima, a mythical “bird-woman” (Audrey Hepburn) and her love for Abel (Anthony Perkins), a man running from political assassination.

In this adaptation, Rima is a real woman living in the jungle with her adopted grandfather Nuflo (Lee J. Cobb).  Escaping from his pursuers, Abel meets Rima when a local tribe takes him under their wing.

The unlikely couple fall in love, but Abel is haunted by his desire to go back to avenge his father’s murder at the hand of his political rivals. While Abel is struggling with his inner demons, the tribe begins to believe that Rima is an evil spirit that must be destroyed.

Hepburn, then at the height of her popularity—in the same year she also starred in Fred Zinnemann’s “The Nun’s Story,” for which she was Oscar-nominated—is miscast.  However, her weak performance is not entirely her fault, considering the poor (and pretentiously lyrical) lines of dialogue she is given.

Sporting long black hair, for a change, Hepburn looks lovely, despite the unflattering costumes.  Hubby-director Ferrer must have realized that for he grants her an unusual number of close-ups.

Perkins, too, is at his most handsome, but there is no chemisty between him and Hepburn in their romantic scenes.  In a year, Perkins would appear in Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” a film that would change forever his career and screen image.

Ferrer is not much of a director (he was also very limited as an actor), and the tale that he relates is slow, stale, and verbose, failing to take full advantage of the surrounding scenery.

He lets the actors recite their lines without any passion or compassion. And while Perkins and Hepburn underact, Lee J. Cobb, in long gray hair and beard, overacts and is angrier than the usual, as if he were appearing in a Greek tragedy.

For the record:

Perkins gets to sing a love song.



Running time: 101 Minutes.

Directed by Mel Ferrer.

Released: March 19, 1959.


Audrey Hepburn as Rima

Anthony Perkins as Abel

Lee J Cobb as Nuflo

Sessue Hayakawa as Runi

Henry Silva as Kua-Ko

Nehemiah Persoff as Don Panta