A few months ago I hosted my Duo Double Feature Blogthon and I chose Robert Redford and Natalie Wood. However, I had only watched one (Inside Daisy Clover 1965) of their two films together, promising I’d write about their other (This Property is Condemned) when I saw it. Well this may be a month late from when I saw it, but here it is- This Property is Condemned (1966)
Honestly this is not a movie you watch for plot, per-say but one you watch for performances and good chemistry; kind of like Paris when it Sizzles (1964).
With that being said- Yes, I agree when Robert Wagner cites this film as one of his favorite Natalie performances and I will say it does seem this is the better of the two Wood/Redford films. WARNING- This post contains spoilers- this is the type of movie that cannot be talked/ written about without spoiling certain scenes/plot points
Based on the one act play by Tennessee Williams, the story and plot is as follows: Told in a frame narrative by the character of Willie Starr (Mary Badham- Yes! that’s Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird) the movie is about Alva Starr (Natalie) – Mississippi small town girl longing for a big town life- she’s got a sister Willie and an embarrassing single Mother (Kate Reid) , who runs a boarding house. Redford plays Owen Legate- a drifter sort who works for the railroad- he and Alva meet when he comes to stay at the boarding house.
Naturally the two fall for each other and there is everything working against them. What follows after they meet is a bit of randomness not super relevant to plot- but again- it’s Natalie and Redford being ultra adorable with each other so- who cares what is happening.
The major thing worth mentioning in terms of the story is JJ- Mrs Starr’s boyfriend- a creep – and Mr Johnson a old, rich railroad worker who clearly wants to go out with Alva (Mrs Starr approves- as she claims he will ‘look out’ and ‘take care’ of Alva and the family)
The plot gets going when Mr Johnson wants to take the family to Memphis with Alva protesting, as she would rather join Owen in New Orleans.
LITE Spoilers- Quite possibly the weirdest part of this movie is when after Alva is denied going with Owen, and after going out to the bar with her family, JJ and Mr Johnson- she marries JJ. I think you, as the viewer, can guess after she marries, she runs away from JJ and joins Owen in NOLA.
MAJOR SPOILERS- AS IN THE ENDING OF THE MOVIE SPOILERS But it’s the ending that is the most crazy- Within the last ten-ish minutes of the movie, it is pure Natalie and Robert bliss- they are so happy and cute, they are in New Orleans- they are so wonderful- it’s everything you want between two characters who you are rooting to be together for- Owen even proposes marriage to Alva and offers they can send for Willie once they are settled in Chicago- H o w e v e r- in the classic twist, the bliss does not last, as Alva’s mother shows up, having tracked her down, and spills that Alva is married to JJ.
Now this is where the twist gets turned on its ear- The scene continues with Redford’s character doing the whole- “Alva, she’s lying; tell me she’s lying!” bit- and Alva does run off, into the rain crying- but we never see the aftermath of the fallout– it ends with Alva running off and Bam!!! cut straight back to Willie where the movie began- and we hear – not see the fate of Alva – that she caught tuberculosis and died.
Abrupt- yes- shocking- yes BUT in a weird sort of way- it’s oddly satisfying because you don’t have to deal with the angst of Alva and Owen’s breakup and probably eventual reconciliation, what you remember is the happiness they had- (yes she runs out on him but it’s so fast paced you don’t have time to think about it before the film ends)
Overall, my personal feeling is this film is not that bad; I thought it would be way worse- it’s watchable and given Natalie’s overall filmography- this one is one of her better films. If this movie was with other leads and a subpar director- I think it would have failed miserably- but with names like Wood, Redford and Pollack attached- it’s automatically better than average. My advice is to go in with an open mind, as I hesitated to believe people when they said this movie was actually good.
In terms of watching the performances (as I mentioned above) I simply adore Nat with Bob Redford and again I’ll say- I wish they made another movie together! Mr. Redford is soo handsome in this role and Natalie does a great job playing a southern bell (an unlikely role- given her Eastern European background).
I’m not sure when it will be on TCM next, or even when it will be out on DVD/ Blu-Ray- but if you can give this a chance- Especially if you like Natalie!