Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Tennessee Williams' Broadway play Summer and Smoke (expanded from his one-act piece Eccentricities of a Nightingale) was brought to the screen by adaptors James Poe and Meade Roberts and director Peter Glenville. Geraldine Page repeats her stage role as minister's daughter Alma Winemiller, who lives a spinsterish existence in her WWI-era Mississippi home town. Though her hateful mother (Una Merkel) has nothing but nasty things to say about men, Alma carries a torch for her handsome next-door neighbor and lifelong friend, Dr. John Buchanan (Laurence Harvey). The doctor prefers the companionship of Rosa (Rita Moreno), a "wrong side of the tracks" girl who is as open and freewheeling as Alma is shy and repressed. Desperate for Buchanan's attention, Alma begins behaving with uncharacteristic affection towards him. He misreads her signals and attempts to seduce her. Already on the edge, Alma goes ballistic, literally running out of Buchanan's life. When the doctor throws an engagement party for himself and Rosa, the neurotic Alma tells Buchanan's father (John McIntire) that a wantonly immoral get-together is taking place in the doctor's home--an act of vengeance that has long-range tragic consequences. By film's end, the previously strait-laced Alma, unhinged by previous events, has become as misguidedly passionate as her spiritual sister, A Streetcar Named Desire's Blanche DuBois. Summer and Smoke earned Academy Award nominations for both Geraldine Page and Una Merkel; while Merkel would never win an Oscar, Ms. Page finally collected her statuette for 1985's A Trip to Bountiful.
spinster, neurotic, repression, small-town, crush, neighbor, unrequited, engagement, romance