Movie Review: Picnic (1955)

PicnicThumbby Brad Nelson
I watched a wonderful movie last night that I’m sure half of America will dislike. My only defense is that I’ve got a pretty healthy Kim Novak obsession going right now and I love my country.

William Holden plays a drifter who literally jumps off the train on Labor Day weekend to find a small midwestern country town making preparations for their annual “Neewollah” festival (aka “picnic”). Spell that  backwards…you’ll get it. I’ve since read that those festivals actually did occur in Middle America, although “Neewollah” certainly does sound made up for a movie.

But Holden didn’t just jump off that train at random. He was looking up an old college fraternity buddy, Cliff Robertson (a young Cliff Robertson…I didn’t recognize him at first). Cliff’s father manages a huge grain silo complex and Holden is looking for a job.

But before getting together with his old college buddy, Holden first lands grubby and hungry in the back yard of a neighborhood populated by single ladies, including a spinster or two. That also includes beautiful Kim Novak and her sister and mother.

Most criticism of this movie will likely fall on the fact that Holden may seem a little old for the girl (which one?) or is miscast. Other objections are bound to be that this movie is way too corny. And, at times, it is. This is an unabashed, unapologetic, warm, fuzzy, and sometimes funny look at Norman Rockwellesque America. This is the piece of America that the Left loves to say isn’t real.

But it is real, and it’s the kind of real that is filled with love, community, and simple living — as well as heartache, passion, disappointment, and conflict. Life is life. It’s just that creating the kind of gutter society that the Left typically does amplifies and complicates all these normal problems. We have enough as it is. We don’t need to create any more.

Did I mention how gorgeous Kim Novak is in this? No, perhaps this is not an Oscar performance, but she has her moments, particularly in the dance scene with Holden which radiates more love and sex than a thousand slutty dances by Miley Cyrus. Folks, there’s a reason that Middle America tended to downplay acting like a slut. And you see why, because if everyone jumps right from pigtails to slut, you jump right over all the wondrous stages and shades of romance.

Rosalind Russell and Arthur O'ConnellBut there is one Oscar-caliber performance in Picnic. It’s the one given by the spinster school teacher. Just when you think this movie might drown in schmaltz (and even if you like schmaltz, there’s such thing as too much of a good thing), Rosalind Russell, as the spinster school teacher, gives a riveting performance that injects some real grit into this movie. Her performance alone is worth the price of admission.

But most of this movie survives and thrives on the happy-go-lucky charm of William Holden as he makes himself at home in this sleepy little town. But he has a past and that past is something he is having trouble putting behind him. I’m a big Holden fan. He can do no wrong in my eyes. He’s got that old-style, old-school Hollywood charisma and screen presence — and even a bit of animal magnetism (and he has his shirt off more than Captain Kirk). There’s no metrosexual girly-man to be seen here.

I found this movie interesting and charming from start to finish…and it does have a finish. This really is a complete movie. I give it 3.3 mega grain silos out of 5.

But if you hate America or think “Married with Children” is the ideal and that “Leave it to Beaver” is a mere fantasy, then you’ll probably not like Picnic. But if the cynicism wrought by the Left hasn’t spoiled you on authentic and even innocent America, then I think you’ll be charmed by this picture. I certainly was. • (1508 views)

Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
This entry was posted in Movie Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Movie Review: Picnic (1955)

  1. Kung Fu Zu says:

    William Holder, a truly underrated “Star”. He was in many great movies.

    The soundtrack of the film is great, the movie is worth watching for that alone. Moonglow——–what a song!

  2. Kung Fu Zu says:

    “But it is real, and it’s the kind of real that is filled with love, community, and simple living — as well as heartache, passion, disappointment, and conflict. Life is life. It’s just that creating the kind of gutter society that the Left typically does amplifies and complicates all these normal problems. We have enough as it is. We don’t need to create any more.”

    As I have said, I believe a fair portion of Leftist philosophy is derived from resentment and envy. I don’t only mean resentment and envy of wealth. I mean something which goes deeper. It is hinted at in their meme “don’t judge people”. At it’s most basic, I believe this springs from an old fashioned inferiority complex. They don’t like to hold up the mirror of wholesomeness, modesty, firm morals and quiet confidence seen in Middle America as it reflects badly on them. They want to spread their misery and punish the high school football star and prom queen. Knock them off their pedestals.

    I was not a football star and didn’t date the prom queen. But neither fact bothered me too much. A normal person doesn’t dwell on such things and gets on with life. He doesn’t have time for such resentment/envy to take seed and grow through the years. Living i.e. doing and achieving things takes up too much time.

    Consider some of the standard themes commonly used in today’s media.

    1. Unfortunate victims of pervasive bullying
    2. Being an outsider and victim of society as a whole
    3. Feeling different and alienated from society. Society must be wrong.

    We (especially kids) are bombarded with these and other pathetic messages telling us we are all helpless and emotionally crippled. We cannot solve our own problems. And all of this because we were not accepted as we really are. It’s not our fault. Those who succeed and are successful are so because life is unfair. Life won’t be fair until we are all in the gutter, never living up to our potential with nobody else being to point out that we have sunk so low.

    And if you are successful in any way, it is because the government, in some form, was there for you. You know it takes a village.

    Of course, there is the chance that sheer laziness may have something to do with it as well.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Yeah, don’t judge people means “Don’t judge me” which ultimately means “I want a free pass to act like a scumbag.”

      And yes, you are so right. The Left wants to spread misery. I’ve always said that the Left is geared toward feeding off of man’s worst impulses. You couldn’t be part of a movement that slaughtered 100 million of its own citizens last century if this wasn’t so.

      we are all helpless and emotionally crippled

      Good god, yes. That’s what is being taught. The idea that life itself inherently comes with some hardship is unacceptable to these narcissistic prima donnas. (I deftly avoided using the word “libtard.”)

      Alienation is a cancer. And in conjunction with your recent article, it’s a cancer that metastasizes in political atheism. People need a little Jesus in their life, not ritualized bitterness, envy, hatred, and alienation itself.

      In order for people to advance beyond animals, they need to take that edge off. It makes all the difference in the world. People all need their “come to Jesus moment” or they are apt to stay hardened, bitter people who poison their surroundings rather than being a blessing to others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *