Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Long, Hot Summer (1958)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Long, Hot Summer (1958)

In Martin Ritt's sultry southern romantic melodrama that adapted a melange of William Faulkner stories - a film that was made during the passionate courtship of the two main performers (in their first film together before their marriage in the same year as the film's release):

  • the opening scene, introducing the character of sexy, determined and virile drifter-sharecropper Ben Quick (Paul Newman), an arsonist suspect, who was hitchhiking when he was picked up in a convertible by Clara Varner (Joanne Woodward) and her sister-in-law Eula (Lee Remick), and taken to Frenchman's Bend, Mississippi; as he left their car, Eula mentioned to Ben how they were related to the town's influential patriarch Will Varner (Orson Welles): "We two girls most particularly belong to Varner"
  • after becoming a sharecropper on a vacant farm owned by the Varners, Ben met up again with Clara; he interpreted her coldness because he was "mean and dirty" ("You correct me if I'm wrong, but I have the feelin' I rile ya. I mean, me being so mean and dirty and all"); she told him off: "I've spent my whole life around men who push and shove and shout and think they can make anything happen just by bein' aggressive. And I'm not anxious to have another one around the place"
  • the scene of Ben's introduction to Varner, who owned all the town's businesses; Ben claimed he had a "reputation for being a dangerous man" as a disreputable, suspected barnburner; the domineering Varner replied: ("You're a young, dangerous man. I'm an old one. You don't know who I am. I better introduce myself. I'm the big landowner and chief moneylender in these parts. I'm commissioner of the elections and veterinarian. I own the store and the cotton gin and the grist mill, and the blacksmith shop, and it's considered unlucky for a man to do his tradin' or gin his cotton or grind his meal or shoe his stock anywhere else. Now, that's who I am"); Ben responded: "You talk a lot"; Varner threatened Ben, knowing of his father's reputation of being an arsonist: ("Well, yes, I do, son. But I'm done talkin' to you except for passing you on this piece of information. I built me a new jail in my courthouse this year, and if during the course of your stay here, something, anything at all should happen to catch fire, I think you oughta know that in my jail, we never heard of the words 'habeas corpus.' You'd rot"); Ben asked instead for a decent job: ("Well, a smart man, he'd give me a job...None of this weed-scratchin'. I'm talkin' about a job that'll give me a white shirt and a black tie and three squares. You've got a place in your store and several other spots where you could use me. And you'd be writing yourself a fire insurance policy into the bargain"); when Ben wanted a yes or no answer right away, Varner called him "mighty bushy-tailed for a beginner"
  • the sequences of the reckless Ben's many unsubtle advances toward 23 year-old old-maid schoolteacher Clara Varner, the daughter of Ben's rich boss Will, with Clara's repeated turn-downs and Ben's seductive come-ons; on the porch after dinner, she called herself "just plain skittish" - he suggested that she loosen up: ("Let's go get in that old Lincoln car of yours and we'll go and plow up the countryside. Let's go holler off a bridge good and loud") - or if she just wanted quiet: ("You want quiet? Let's go find us a needle in a haystack"); she demurely declined: ("Mr. Quick, those are all lovely, colorful suggestions, but I'm afraid if I started out to follow you, I would hear the starch in my petticoat begin to rustle and I'd know I was out of character"); he challenged her and then became impertinent about her genteel Southern beau Alan Stewart (Richard Anderson): ("Get out of character, lady. Come on. Get way out....You'll never know till you try...But if you're savin' it all for him, honey, you've got your account in the wrong bank")
  • in a department store after closing time, with lots of on-screen chemistry, Ben was able to successfully proposition Clara for a kiss: ("Aw, school is out, Miss Clara. Them blinds are drawn, night's fallen. Nobody here to see if you make a mistake. You put them things down, Miss Clara, 'cause I'm gonna kiss you. I'm gonna show you how simple it is. You please me, and I'll please you. (She slapped him) Oh, I know what's troublin' you. It's all those boys hollerin' for Eula every night. And Eula with her hair hangin' down and Jody with his shirt off, chasin' her. And your old man at 60 and he's callin' on his lady love"); she submitted to a kiss and a close hug
Department Store: Ben Propositioning Clara for a Kiss
  • after their kiss, she reluctantly admitted: ("All right. You proved it. I'm human"); he replied: ("Yes, ma'am, you're human all right"); and then he sarcastically talked about his bad reputation when she angrily accused him of being a barn burner: ("Well, you hit on it. I can see my white shirt and my black tie and my Sunday manners didn't fool you for a minute. Well, that's right, ma'am. I'm a menace to the countryside. All a man's gotta do is just look at me sideways, and his house goes up in fire. And here I am, livin' right here in the middle of your peaceable little town. Right in your backyard, you might say. Guess that oughta keep you awake at night"); she turned and ran out of the store
  • and slightly later, Ben's shirtless delivery of a speech to Clara from her porch, as she lay in bed within view: ("You look mighty pretty with them readin' glasses on. You look pretty with them off. You look mighty young there, Miss Clara all curled up in your bed like you just washed your hands and brushed your teeth and said your prayers like a little girl. I'll bet you was a mighty appealin' little girl. I'll bet your hair hung in a tangle down your back. I'll bet you knew where to look for robins' eggs and blackberries. I'll bet you had a doll with no head on it. There's a church bazaar comin' up next week. Now, you wear a white dress and a ribbon in your hair and I'll waltz you around under the moon. (She turned out her light) Clara? Clara. Clar-ar-ar-a")
  • the scene "in the woods" (at a picnic table away from the crowds) after the romantically-persistent and aggressive Ben bid on Clara's boxed chicken supper basket and won it for an exorbitant $50 dollars, after which she made a memorable speech to him about not wanting him for marriage: ("You got some foolish ideas about me, Mr. Quick. I am no tremblin' little rabbit full of smolderin', unsatisfied desires... I'm a woman, full-grown, very smart and not at all bad to look at... And I expect to live at the top of my bent with no help from you....You are barkin' up the wrong girl, Mr. Quick, because it will never be you.... I don't know what arrangement you think you have with my father, but you'll find you have no bargain with me.... You have been hoodwinked, Mr. Quick. For once in your crafty life, you have been had...You're too much like my father to suit me, and I'm an authority on him....I gave up on him when I was nine years old and I gave up on you the first time I ever looked into those cold blue eyes.... I've got everything right, Mr. Quick....Mr. Quick, I am a human being. Do you know what that means? It means I set a price on myself, a high, high price. You may be surprised to know it, but I've got quite a lot to give. I've got things I have been savin' up my whole life, things like love and understanding and, and jokes and good times and good cooking. I'm prepared to be the queen of Sheba for some lucky man or at the very least, the best wife that any man could hope for. Now, that's my human history, and it's not gonna be bought and sold and it's certainly not gonna be given away to any passin' stranger")
  • in response, he spitefully spoke back with some hostility: ("All right. Then run, lady. And you keep on runnin'! Buy yourself a bus ticket and disappear. Change your name, dye your hair, get lost! And then maybe, just maybe, you're gonna be safe from me"); by film's end, as Ben was about to leave town, Clara made it clear that she would join him

Suspected Arsonist and Hitchhiker Ben Quick (Paul Newman) with Clara and Eula

Clara Varner Telling Off Ben

Ben Threatened by Domineering Patriarch Will Varner

Ben with Schoolteacher-Spinster Clara Varner

Ben's Shirtless Speech Delivery to Clara

Winning Clara's Boxed Chicken Supper Basket

Clara to Ben: "You are barkin' up the wrong girl, Mr. Quick, because it will never be you..."

Ben to Clara: "All right. Then run, lady..."


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