Paul Newman recreates his Broadway role in the 1962 film version of Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth. Newman plays handsome hustler Chance Wayne, who romances fading film star Alexandra Del Lago (Geraldine Page) in hopes of winning a movie contract for himself. The mercenary Wayne and the self-destructive Alexandra find themselves in Chance's home town, where corrupt politician Boss Finley (Oscar-winner Ed Begley) rules the roost. Finley's daughter Heavenly (Shirley Knight), impregnated by Chance during his last visit, dreams of a reunion with her old beau, but Finley and his brutish son Tom Jr. (Rip Torn) make certain that no such reunion occurs. Even the well-intentioned interventions of Heavenly's Aunt Nonny (Mildred Dunnock) fail to move the stubborn Finley. Warned to leave town or risk a broken skull, Chance is dumped by Alexandra, whose recent "comeback" film has proven a success and who thus no longer needs a gigolo to feed her ego. From this point on, Richard Brooks' screenplay departs so radically from the Tennessee Williams original that to elucidate the differences would require a book in itself. Suffice to say that the play's Chance Wayne is rendered "less than a man" by the vengeful Finley, whereas the film's Wayne emerges with all his working parts intact. A second version Sweet Bird of Youth (1989), purportedly based on Williams' own rewrite of his earlier material, was filmed for television in 1989, with Elizabeth Taylor and Mark Harmon in the leads, and with Rip Torn, Tom Finley Jr. in the original, stepping into the role of Boss Finley.
by Hal Erickson synopsis