Period of Adjustment (1962): George Roy Hill’s Adaptation of Tennessee Williams Play, Starring Jane Fonda (Christmas)

Period of Adjustment bears the dubious distinction of being Tennessee Williams’s only conscious effort to write a straight comedy, one without manifest or latent gay overtones.

The rather stiff play was first done on Broadway in 1960, before it became a mediocre Hollywood film, and potential star vehicle for the fast-rising actress Jane Fonda.

Grade: C (**1/2 out of *****)

Period of Adjustment
Periodadjustment.jpg

Theatrical film poster

Set on Christmas eve, the literal film deals with the adjustment (or maladjustment) of two couples, the first newly-wed, and the other on the verge of separation after six years of marriage, due to his sexual malfunctioning.

Specifically, newlyweds Isabel (Jane Fonda) and George Haverstick (Jim Hutton) are having a problem because George goes through issues of “performance anxiety.”

The second couple, Ralph (Anthony Franciosa) and Dorothea Baitz (Lois Nettleton), has problems based on the fact that he married her for her money—and she and her family know it.

Additionally, Fonda’s Isabel seems to have a “daddy problem.” In the climactic scene, she calls her father, presumably to tell him how happy she is, but breaks down crying.

The fact that Williams wrote about the trials and mores of more or less ordinary characters caught the critics by surprise, as the Time’s reviewer noted at the time: “Shock merchant Tennessee Williams shocked everyone by writing a play about normal people.”

In his feature directing debut, George Roy Hill helms in a modest yet perfunctory manner, failing to bring out the play’s sense of irony or comedy, though the acting of the four leads is generally good.

There is nothing in this picture to suggest the brighter future of Roy Hill as a mainstream Hollywood director of star-driven blockbuster, such as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” with Paul Newman and Redford in 1969, and the 1973 Oscar-winner, “The Sting,” also starring Newman and Redford.

Jane Fonda, in her fourth film appearance, was praised by the critics for her “gift of timing,” noting that “her comic touch is as sure as her serious one.”

The cast of this rather verbose theatrical piece also includes pro actors John McGiver and Jack Albertson.

Period of Adjustment is a trifle based on a slight play, which was disliked by both critics and audiences on Broadway, and performed only moderately well at the box-office

Made on a budget of $1.9 million and shot in black and white, the film was inexplicably nominated for an Oscar.

With a running time of 112 minutes, the movie overextends its welcome by at least 20 minutes.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Art Direction-Set Decoration (b/w): George W. Davis and Edward Garfagno; Henry Grace and Dick Peffrle

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The Art Direction Oscar went to the excellent drama, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

 

Cast

Anthony Franciosa as Ralph Baitz

Jane Fonda as Isabel Haverstick

Jim Hutton as George Haverstick

Lois Nettleton as Dorothea Baitz

John McGiver as Stewart P. McGill

Mabel Albertson as Mrs. Alice McGill

Jack Albertson as Desk Sergeant

 

Credits:

MGM (Marten Productions) 

Directed by George Roy Hill
Produced by Lawrence Weingarten
Screenplay by Isobel Lennart, based on “Period of Adjustment,” Tennessee Williams’ play
Music by Lyn Murray
Cinematography Paul Vogel
Edited by Fredric Steinkamp
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Release date: October 31, 1962
Running time: 112 minutes
Budget $1.9 million