Filmsite Movie Review
Baby Doll (1956)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

In one of the many clever scenes between Vacarro and the unsuspecting Baby Doll as he gradually begins to seduce her, they play "show-fer" (chauffeur) in an old, wheel-less Pierce-Arrow limousine in the side yard. He guides her into the back seat, and then instead of driving her from the front seat "along the river with all the windows open to cool me off," he joins her in the back. Vacarro blocks her exit one way by propping his boots up against the back of the front seat, and the door on the other side is blocked by the trunk of a pecan tree. When he pulls her down by the wrist to be next to him, he begins to finger the many charms that hang on a charm bracelet from her arm. From their conversation, he learns about her past and her fourth-grade education:

Baby Doll: My Daddy gave it to me. Them's the ten commandments.
Silva: And these here?
Baby Doll: My birthdays.
Silva: How many charming birthdays have you had?
Baby: Doll: As many as there are charms on the bracelet.
Silva: How many?
Baby Doll: Count 'em.
Silva: Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, and ...(She giggles as he gets closer to twenty)
Baby Doll: That's all. I'll be twenty tomorrow. Tomorrow is Election Day and my birthday and the day that Mr. Frank Delano Roosevelt was elected for his first term.
Silva: It's a great day for the country for both reasons.
Baby Doll: Oh, he was a man to respect.
Silva: And you're a lady to respect, Mrs. Meighan.
Baby Doll (sadly and touchingly): Me? Oh, no - I never got past the fourth grade.
Silva: Why'd you quit?
Baby Doll (soberly): Well, I had a great deal of trouble with long division...The teacher would send me up to the blackboard to work on a problem in long division and I would go up to the blackboard and lean my head against it and just cry and cry and cry... (After he asks him to move his legs, she gets out of the car) Well, finally I left school. A girl without education is - a girl without education.

Vacarro disappears behind the car where a pecan tree stands. He suddenly appears, cracking one of the pecans in his mouth. Unlike Archie, he treats her like a young woman. He offers her the kernels in his hand, but she demurely turns him down:

Baby Doll: ...Excuse me, Mr. Vacarro, but I wouldn't dream of eatin' a nut that a man had cracked in his mouth.
Silva: You've got many refinements.
Baby Doll (sincerely flattered): Thank you.
Silva: Now, I don't think you need worry about your failure at long division. After all, you got through short division. Short division's all a lady ought to be called upon to cope with...

When she steps up to the porch, the rotting, wooden step crumbles, and she falls backward into his arms. As Silva's domineering seduction and crafty questioning unfold, he learns that she sleeps in the nursery in the house (Archie treats her like a child), and that Archie Lee had not been home until long after the gin fire:

Silva: You have a child in the nursery?
Baby Doll: Me? No! I sleep in the nursery myself. I let the slats down on the crib...
Silva: Why do you sleep in the nursery?
Baby Doll (pretending to be embarrassed): Mr. Vacarro, that's a personal question. (Pause) Well, I ought to be goin' in now. But you know, there are rooms in that house that I've never been in. Like for instance, the attic. You know that most of the time, I'm scared to go in that house by myself. Like last night when the fire broke out. I sat here for hours and hours and hours waitin' for Archie Lee to come home. Because I was scared to enter this old place by myself.
Silva: It musta been scary here without your husband to look after you.
Baby Doll: I'm tellin' you! The fire broke out and lit up the whole sky with crazy shadows and we didn't have a Coke in the house - I was mad at Archie Lee.
Silva: Mad at Mr. Meighan? What about?
Baby Doll: He went off and left me without a Coke in the house.
Silva: Went off and left without a Coke, did he??!!
Baby Doll: Yes he did, he certainly did. And he didn't get back until way after the fire'd already broke out.

By this time, they have casually wandered over to an old decepit double-swing on the property. This is the start of one of the most notorious and powerfully sizzling scenes of the film, due to the sexual reactions that an overcome, writhing Baby Doll exhibits on the swing. Vacarro continues his cat-and-mouse, teasing interrogation about the arson, slapping sharply with his riding crop and advancing closer. She becomes aware that she has indiscreetly revealed too much to him, alternating between moods of attraction and repulsion:

Silva: So, Mr. Meighan - you say - disappeared after supper.
Baby Doll: Huh?
Silva: You say Mr. Meighan left the house for a while after supper?
Baby Doll: Oh - yeah - for a moment.
Silva: Just for a moment, huh? How long a moment?
Baby Doll: What are you driving at, Mr. Vacarro?
Silva: Driving at?
Baby Doll: You're lookin' at me so funny.
Silva: How long a moment did he disappear for? Can you remember, Mrs. Meighan?
Baby Doll: Well, what difference does it make? I mean. What does it matter to you?
Silva: Why should you mind my asking?
Baby Doll: You make it sound like I'm on trial for somethin'.

After staring straight at her and asking intimidating, taunting questions, she becomes agitated and nervously fingers her hair ribbon. Then, he abruptly suggests with an evil grin that they drop the subject: "There's no use cryin' over a burnt-down gin. And besides, like your husband says - this world is built on the principle of tit for tat." She is ignorant of what he means by that, although it is obvious that he has decided to exchange his burned-down gin for her seduction.

He has her shift over slightly on the swing to make room for him on the other side, and then he proposes letting the swing's motion ease her tensions:

Silva: You seem all tense. Motion relaxes people. It's like a cradle. A cradle relaxes a baby. They call you 'Baby,' don't they?
Baby Doll: Oh, that's sort of a nickname.
Silva: Well, in a swing, you can relax just like in a cradle...
Baby Doll: Well, I don't like to swing. It shakes me up. Besides, I'm relaxed enough. As much as necessary.
Silva: Oh no you're not. Your nerves are all tied up.
Baby Doll: You make me nervous.
Silva: Just swingin' with you?
Baby Doll: No, not just that.
Silva: What else then?
Baby Doll: All them questions you asked me about the fire.

When she tenses up again, he suggests that they "just relax," and then joins her on her side of the swing, putting his arm around her. Then he reminds her, after inching closer to her, of her husband's remark about his good neighbor policy, underscoring his words with sexual innuendo: "You do me a good turn and I'll do you one. That was the way he put it."

After noticing a small piece of cotton lint fiber on the front bodice of her dress, he delicately removes it and blows it away, and then inches closer and closer to her and presses on her - the camera captures the intimacy of the scene in a closeup, as he purrs tenderly at her:

Silva: There's a lot of fine cotton lint floating around in the air.
Baby Doll: I know there is. It bothers my sinus.
Silva: Well, you're a very delicate woman, Mrs. Meighan.
Baby Doll: Delicate? Me?
Silva: There isn't much of you, but what there is is choice. Delectable, I might say... You're fine-fibered. Soft and smooth.
Baby Doll: Mr. Vacarro, our conversation certainly is taking a personal turn.
Silva (he caresses her, moving his hand lightly over her skin and neck): You make me think of cotton. No! No fabric or cloth, not even satin or silk cloth, and no kind of fiber, not even cotton fiber has the ab-so-lute delicacy of your skin.
Baby Doll: Well what should I say, thanks or somethin'?
Silva: Well, you just smile, Mrs. Meighan. You've got an attractive smile, dimples, oh yes you do. (Baby Doll smiles helplessly and he strokes one of the dimples in her cheek) Come on, now. Smile, Mrs. Meighan! There you see? You do. You do have 'em!
Baby Doll: Don't touch me. Please don't touch me. I don't like to be touched.
Silva: Then why do you giggle?
Baby Doll: Because you make me feel kind of hysterical, Mr. Vacarro.
Silva: I do?
Baby Doll: Mr. Vacarro?
Silva: Yes.
Baby Doll: I-I think I'll go and make us some lemonade. (She starts to get up, but he pulls her down) What did you do that for?
Silva: I don't want to be deprived of the pleasure of your company. Not yet.
Baby Doll: Oh, Mr. Vacarro, you certainly are getting familiar.
Silva: Don't you have any fun-lovin' spirit about you?
Baby Doll: Well, this isn't fun.
Silva: Then why do you giggle then?
Baby Doll: Because I'm ticklish!
Silva: Ticklish. Don't be so skittish.
Baby Doll: All right, I'll get up then.
Silva: Go on.
Baby Doll (aroused, weakened and moaning, almost orgiastic): I feel so weak. (She staggers away) Oh, my head is buzzy.
Silva: Fuzzy?
Baby Doll: Hmm. Fuzzy and buzzy. My head is swingin' round. Must have been that swingin' that done it.

He pursues her up to the house, following close behind her, and brushing on her arm with his riding crop. Still breathless, she requests that he stop his playful use of the whip: "Cut it out. Feels funny...Feels funny, all up and down. Quit switchin' me, will ya?...Cut it out or I'm gonna call." When she calls for the boy on the road, her voice is faint and weak.

Baby Doll: Boy!
Silva: Can't you call any louder?...
Baby Doll: I feel so funny. What's the matter with me?
Silva: You're just relaxed. Just give in. Now stop fightin' it.
Baby Doll: No, I'm not fightin' it, but it's you and your suspicion - about, about my husband's suspicions...
Silva: Suspicions such as...
Baby Doll: That he burned down your gin.
Silva: Well?
Baby Doll: But he didn't.
Silva: Didn't he?
Baby Doll: No, he didn't. He-he didn't. I'm goin' in the house now.
Silva: Do you believe in ghosts, Mrs. Meighan? I do. I believe in the presence of evil spirits.
Baby Doll: What evil spirits are you talkin' about?
Silva: Spirits of violence - cunning - malevolence - cruelty - treachery - destruction...
Baby Doll: Them's just human characteristics.
Silva: They're evil spirits that haunt the human heart and take possession of it, and spread from one human heart to another human heart the way a fire goes springin' from leaf to leaf and branch to branch in a tree till a forest is all aflame.
Baby Doll: You just got fire on the brain.
Silva: I see it as more than it seems to be on the surface. I saw it last night as an explosion of those evil spirits - I fought it! I ran into it, beatin' it, stampin' it, shoutin' the curse of God at it. They dragged me out, suffocatin'. I was defeated! When I came to, lyin' on the ground, the fire had won the battle and all around was a ring of human figures. I looked up. They were illuminated. Their eyes, their teeth were SHININ' LIKE THIS! Yeah. LIKE THIS! (He twists his face, grimacing at her by the door of the house)
Baby Doll: No don't, don't scare me. Please don't scare me.
Silva: The faces I saw were grinnin'. And then I knew. I knew the fire was not accidental. And you know it was not accidental too. It was an expression, a manifestation of the need to destroy. And so I say I believe in ghosts, in haunted places, in places haunted by the people that occupy them with hearts overrun by demons of hate and destruction. I believe his place, this house is haunted.

Trying to deflect his attentions, Baby Doll avoids entering the front door and runs around the porch away from Silva, in the direction of the gin, calling out: "Archie Lee." Silva follows her across the road in his pickup truck. In the gin, she finds her desperate husband repairing the broken saw-cylinder machinery. After she calls him a "big slob," he slaps her hard for entering the prohibited work area: "What are you doin' here?...Didn't I tell you never to cross over to this gin when niggers are workin' here?" The camera reacts with a closeup of Silva, who has witnessed the vicious attack. Silva asks: "How's progress, Mr. Meighan?" The Sicilian lambasts Archie for his run-down equipment and threatens to haul his cotton elsewhere unless the machinery is promptly fixed. Archie swallows his humiliation and kowtows to Silva's threats.

Back at the house, Baby Doll is left alone and ignored when Archie drives away into town to obtain machine parts. Aunt Rose also deserts her - rushing past her on her way to see a sick friend at the county hospital. Baby Doll tells Vacarro that Aunt Rose peruses the newspapers like a hawk to see if anybody she knows is registered in the hospital. Because she has a passion for chocolate candy, she calls on her friends and eats up the candy that the patients' friends and relatives have sent to them. Baby Doll also tells Vacarro (after he asks another "personal question") about the circumstances of her wedding to Archie Lee, while she eats the pecan nuts that he has cracked. Time is running out - she has only one day until her 20th birthday to be "ready for marriage":

Baby Doll: I told my Daddy that I wasn't ready for marriage. My Daddy told Archie Lee that I wasn't ready for it and Archie Lee promised my Daddy that he would wait till I was ready.
Silva: Then the marriage was postponed?
Baby Doll: Oh no, not the weddin', we had the weddin', my Daddy gave me away.
Silva: But you said Archie Lee waited?
Baby Doll: Yeah, after the weddin'...he waited.
Silva: For what?
Baby Doll: For me to be ready for marriage.
Silva: How long did he have to wait?
Baby Doll: Oh he's still waitin'. We had an agreement though. I mean, I told him that on my twentieth birthday, I'd be ready.
Silva: That's tomorrow?
Baby Doll: Uh-huh.
Silva: Then uh, will you be ready?
Baby Doll: Well, that all depends.
Silva: What on?
Baby Doll: Whether or not the furniture comes back - I guess...
Silva: Your husband sweats more than any man I know, and now I can understand why.

Now that they are left alone in the house, they continue to play roles - she attempts ungraciously to be a Southern hostess preparing lemonade for a visitor in a kitchen where the drip pan under the ice-box has overflowed. To play on her fear of ghosts and make her think that the house is haunted, Vacarro swings the dusty chandelier in the dining room. While she changes her soiled dress in her upstairs bedroom, Vacarro cuts lemons and add chunks of ice and gin to the pitcher. He climbs the stairs and enters the room across the hall from Baby Doll's bedroom.

In the child's nursery where she usually sleeps, in a memorably lewd sight, he mounts and sits astride a small wooden hobby horse - rhythmically rocking back and forth on the tiny toy whose head is hardly visible between his legs. He playfully lashes its rump with his riding crop, and gyrates back and forth to the raunchy accompaniment of "Shame on You," a rock 'n' roll song. Then, he moves from room to room, playing a childhood game of hide-and-seek with Baby Doll - who is nearly undressed in a slip. At first, she is frightened during the chase, but gradually becomes excited when they have a childish romp in the hallway.

Eventually, she runs up into the rotting, dusty attic and bolts the door before he can get through. But she finds herself trapped on the creaky unsafe floor:

Silva: Open Sesame!
Baby Doll: The game's over. I've quit.
Silva: No, you've got to keep playing hide-and-seek till you're it.
Baby Doll: No, Mr. Vacarro, would you please go back downstairs so that I can unlock this door and come out. This attic is in awful weak condition.

He reveals his evil motives - he will help her only if she signs a statement with her signature attesting to the fact that her husband burned his gin and that Archie Lee lied about his alibi:

I'm gonna slip pencil and paper under this door and all I want is your signature on the affidavit legally statin' that Archie Lee Meighan burned down the Syndicate Gin...

Then, in one of his most lascivious, suggestive lines of dialogue, he terrorizes her with a threat:

Now, either you're gonna sign this piece of paper, or I'm gonna break this door down. Do you hear me? I gather you don't believe me.

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