director Don Siegel
There’s a reason you don’t let the fox into the henhouse. In Don Siegel’s The Beguiled, Clint Eastwood is the foxy fox in the henhouse is the Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies. These ladies, old and young aren’t worried about getting eaten alive, but rather to fear and desire the Mr. Eastwood.
Eastwood at the time was probably at the top of his acting career, but he was already forty years old. Still, he’s the exact kind of lure that has all of the ladies aflush and aquiver. Heck, he’s even got the literal hens laying eggs again.
It’s amazing how good this movie is, especially considering Siegel and Eastwood’s prior Western Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970), which was nothing by comparison. It’s rich material, I suppose, and like others can see why Sofia Coppola took her swing at it (which I have yet to see but have as a high priority now).
The setting is gorgeous, the Ashland-Belle Helene Plantation near Baton-Rouge and the trees all languorous hung heavy with Spanish moss. And the period of the story, the tail end of the American Civil War, the enemy brought literally inside the gates as the wounded soldier is a Yankee, who, according to Doris, want to “rape all the women”.
Everyone is beguiled, including Eastwood himself. He’s got them all from 12 years of age to the fifty-something Miss Martha herself (a terrific Geraldine Page) all so hot and bothered.
Some consider this one of Eastwood’s best performances, but I though Eastwood was stiff as a board. Everyone else is terrific, including Mae Mercer and Pamelyn Ferdin. But very much so Jo Ann Harris. This is, after all, much more about the ladies, who dominate the picture and narrative. The film and story are ripe for interpretation in a number of ways.