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Kim Novak's small-town beauty queen is romanced by William Holden's sexy, frequently shirtless drifter in this salacious CinemaScope melodrama from the play by William Inge.
This recently restored Scope print of Joshua Logan's sultry fifties classic should assure a major case of dropped jaw. (The sublime widescreen cinematography is by James Wong Howe.) Picnic is based on a William Inge play, which of course means that its Americana Labour Day celebration of watermelon, beauty pageants, and Kansas corn has a mighty undercurrent of sexual desperation, barely repressed hysteria, and ruined dreams. (Never mind the Ingean homoerotic hunk parade: William Holden bares his chest every chance he gets.) Into a sleepy Midwest town drifts Hal Carter (Holden), whose manly magnetism excites a lot of dormant emotions: a middle-aged schoolteacher (Rosalind Russell), moldering in a relationship with a man who has long resisted marriage, cracks up spectacularly, while the local beauty queen (Kim Novak, here more cherry than strawberry blonde) suddenly finds oppressive her impending nuptials with the richest boy in town (Cliff Robertson). All the hidden unhappiness comes drunkenly raging to the surface at the town picnic, and leads, as it often does in Inge, to violence and then redemption. Nominated for Academy Awards® for Best Picture and Best Director, Picnic "remains a loved American classic" (Sean Axmaker).