The long-running rumors of a planned remake of William Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury" lend a certain urgency to this particular post.
By all means, check out Martin Ritt's splendid 1959 version of the material - that's if you can locate it, of course.
"The Sound and the Fury" was Ritt's second excursion into Faulkner territory. The year before, in 1958, he made the hugely entertaining and hugely popular "The Long, Hot Summer," Fox's hothouse title for Faulkner's "The Hamlet." Both films were adapted by Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch and starred Joanne Woodward.
"The Sound and the Fury" paired Woodward with Yul Brynner (sporting a wig for the performance) and featured searing supporting work by the great Margaret Leighton, Jack Warden in his best screen performance ever, the singular character actor with that imposing voice, Albert Dekker, a young Stuart Whitman and the invaluable Ethel Waters.
The inspiration for any number of dysfunctional Southern-family films, Faulkner's work revolves around the troubled Compson clan, headed by the cruel Jason (Brynner), who is not actually a Compson by birth and who has a contentious relationship with his "niece" Quentin (Woodward), feeling rebellious and unloved after being abandoned by her mother Caddy (Leighton). Ritt's film is not entirely faithful to Faulkner's troubling and troublesome book but it fairly drips with decaying-south ambience and with first-rate performances. (Ritt was always wonderful with actors.)
Leighton and Warden, as the backwards Benjy, take the acting honors here, even though Brynner and Woodward are the emotional center of this fine work, and few scenes are as aching as Caddy's return home after a 17-year absence, with Leighton reaching out to Warden, both made affectingly mute by the stirring occasion.
One is tempted to look away from its raw intimacy.
Ritt's is a complex version of a complex book, long overdue for a DVD release by Fox.