This Property Is Condemned

This Property Is Condemned is a 1966 American drama film directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Natalie Wood, Robert Redford, Kate Reid, Charles Bronson, Robert Blake, and Mary Badham. The screenplay, inspired by the 1946 one-act play of the same name by Tennessee Williams, was written by Francis Ford Coppola, Fred Coe, and Edith Sommer. The film was released by Paramount Pictures.

This Property Is Condemned
Theatrical Release Poster by Frank McCarthy
Directed bySydney Pollack
Produced byJohn Houseman
Ray Stark
Written byFrancis Ford Coppola
Fred Coe
Edith Sommer
StarringNatalie Wood
Robert Redford
Charles Bronson
Kate Reid
Mary Badham
Music byKenyon Hopkins
CinematographyJames Wong Howe
Edited byAdrienne Fazan
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • August 3, 1966 (1966-08-03)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$4.62 million[1]
Box office$2.6 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)[2]

The Depression-era story takes place in the fictional Mississippi town of Dodson. Owen Legate (Robert Redford), working for the railroad which provides much of the economic base for the town, comes to town on an unpopular errand. Natalie Wood plays Alva Starr, a pretty town flirt who finds herself stuck in this small town and very much attracted to the handsome stranger.

For her performance, Natalie Wood received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama.


The film is a frame story in which an unkempt girl, Willie Starr (Mary Badham), tells the story of her dead sister Alva (Natalie Wood) to Tom, a boy whom she meets on the abandoned railroad tracks of Dodson, Mississippi in the 1930s. The viewer sees this story in flashback.

A stranger, Owen Legate (Redford), arrives in the small town of Dodson, and makes his way to the Starr Boarding House, where a loud birthday party is in progress for the landlady, Mrs. "Mama" Starr (Kate Reid). He meets Willie, the youngest daughter of the house, and rents a room for the week, while remaining mysterious about his motives for being in town. It soon emerges that the eldest daughter, Alva, is the "main attraction" at the party. Mr. Johnson, the oldest and richest worker for the railroad station, is anxiously waiting for her to show up. When she finally arrives, many men greet her and try to attract her attention or dance with her, including Mama's boyfriend, J.J. (Bronson). Alva and Owen first meet in the kitchen, where the girl tells a fanciful story about one of the workers taking her dancing at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. Willie is entranced, but Owen suspects the story to be make-believe. It becomes obvious that Alva is anxious to leave Dodson, and dreams of going to New Orleans, where Owen has come from. Later, Alva enters Owen's room on a false pretense and begins confiding in him. He discourages her, suggesting that she is no more than a prostitute, and the girl leaves in tears. Mama explains to Alva she must be kind to Mr Johnson, who has promised to look after her.

The next day Willie, who is skipping Vacation Bible School, sees Owen on his way to work. He has in fact come to town to lay off several railroad employees due to cutbacks made necessary by the Depression. In the evening, Mr. Johnson is waiting again for Alva to get ready for their date, but she is avoiding it. She makes an excuse to get him to go inside, then leads Owen into the garden to show him her father's red-headed scarecrow. Owen confronts Alva about her arrangement with her Mama, which Alva doesn't want to face and won't admit to. She runs back angrily to Mr. Johnson and invites everyone in the house to go skinny-dipping. J.J. manages to get Alva alone and comes on to her. He tells her Owen has come to lay off most of the town. The workers grow increasingly hostile towards Legate, but Owen and Alva become closer. They visit an abandoned train car decorated by Alva's father and the girl tells once again of her dreams of departure. When Owen is beaten up by the laid-off men she takes care of him and the two spend the night together. Meanwhile, Mama has arranged for the family to accompany Mr. Johnson to Memphis, where he will take care of them. She won't let Alva go to New Orleans with Owen. When the girl protests, she gets Owen to believe he has been deceived, and Alva was planning to go to Memphis all along. Mama, J.J., Alva, and Mr. Johnson go out to "celebrate" their new arrangement. Drunk and angered, Alva confronts J.J. and gets him to admit that he stays with Mrs Starr to be with her. That night Alva marries J.J., but the next morning she steals his money and their marriage license and runs away to New Orleans.

In New Orleans, Alva eventually finds Owen, and they share happy days together. When Owen is offered a job in Chicago, he proposes to Alva to marry him and to send for Willie. But one day the two come home to find Mama, who wants to take Alva back, and involve her in some new scheme. She reveals to Owen that Alva had married J.J., something that Owen finds hard to believe. Alva runs out into the rain, crying.

The film cuts back to Willie and Tom on the railroad tracks. Willie, who now wears her sister's clothes and jewelry, explains that Alva died of the "lung affliction" (probably tuberculosis), which has been alluded to several times earlier in the film. Mama has gone away with some man and Willie lives on her own in the abandoned boarding house.



Natalie Wood

See also


  1. Dick, Bernard F. "Engulfed: the death of Paramount Pictures and the birth of corporate Hollywood" (p. 105). The University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY (2001). ISBN 0-8131-2202-3.
  2. "Big Rental Pictures of 1966", Variety, 4 January 1967 p 8
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