Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Baby Doll (1956)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Baby Doll (1956)

In director Elia Kazan's scandalous, pot-boiling, harshly condemned and censored film (for its time) by the Catholic Legion of Decency for its depiction of older aged men pursuing an under-aged female:

  • in the story, a rural, middle-aged Mississipian, a deeply-indebted cotton gin operator named Archie Lee Meighan (Karl Malden) had just married thumb-sucking, white-trash, 19 year-old 'baby doll' child bride "Baby Doll" Meighan (Carroll Baker) with only a fourth grade education. He had married her as an uneducated, naive child bride two years previously. She continually repulsed him because union with him wouldn't be sexually-consummated until her 20th birthday - two days away as the film opened
  • Baby Doll slept in a small crib-bed in the nursery while sucking her thumb as the desperate, feverishly-horny and sexually-frustrated Archie peeked at her through a hole in the wall (and thrust with a penknife to make the hole wider - as her mouth opened and closed around her thumb). She caught him watching her, and confronted him: "Do you know what they call such people? Peepin' Toms!"
Archie Accused of Being a "Peeping Tom" by Baby Doll
  • shortly later, Archie barged in on Baby Doll who was in the bathtub, taunting and teasing Archie by bathing in front of him - and when he attacked her (off-screen), she yelled: "Get your hands off me...I'm movin' to the Kotton King Hotel the very next time you try to break our agreement. The very next time!"
  • during a visit to town, Archie was the local laughing-stock - everyone knew that he was sexually-unsatisfied and ruled by his stuck-up, spoiled, child bride. While she sat in the back seat of his open car in town, he brought her a single-dip ice cream cone which she pleasurably and childishly licked - another blatant sequence of teasing temptation. Baby Doll knew that she had him wrapped around her finger: "What you've done is bit off more than you can chew." When she realized that their furniture was being repossessed, she threatened to move to the Kotton King Hotel in town and get a job, since Archie Lee could no longer provide for her. Her stipulation with Archie Lee was that he had to provide a furnished home for her - or otherwise his rights to her as a wife would be forfeited.
  • Archie's vengeful and competitive business rival was a covetous, wily, sleek, beady-eyed and cocky Sicilian named Silva Vacarro (Eli Wallach). He was the manager of the up-and-coming Syndicate Plantation and Gin Company that had stolen away all of Archie's business in Tiger Tale County and had received recognition for his business success from a local Senator. Resentful and retaliatory, later that night, Archie took a kerosene can and set the Syndicate gin building on fire. Although some of the locals weren't sympathetic to the Sicilian outsider and refused to side with a foreigner against a local boy, Vacarro insisted on justice and carrying on his own investigation - he immediately suspected Archie. Vacarro announced that he would take twenty-seven wagon loads of his cotton for ginning to Archie Lee's gin, until his own gin could be rebuilt.
  • Archie Lee was elated with his newfound prospect for business, and wished to extend every bit of hospitality to Vacarro, including entertainment by his willful child bride virgin while he worked ginning the cotton ("I believe in the good neighbor policy. You do me a good turn and I'll do you a good turn, Mr. Vacarro. Tit for tat and tat for tit is the policy we live on...Honey, honey, honey...Now I want you to entertain this gentleman"). Ultimately, Vacarro's aim during his time at Archie's place was to pursue the truth and bring forth a confession from Baby Doll about Archie's guilt. At the house on a hot afternoon, the virile Vacarro went to use the old-fashioned pump in the yard at the side of the house to get a nice cool drink and vigorously pumped the well - a sexual symbol and contrast to Archie's thwarted and elderly masculinity.
  • there were numerous seduction scenes of Baby Doll by Vacarro to 'take' the virginity of Baby Doll and deflower her to get back at her husband for arson. He first tried when he played "chauffeur" in the back seat of a rusty, old wheel-less Pierce-Arrow limousine in the side yard, where he flattered her about her charm bracelet, and she admitted she was shy one day from being 20 years old.
  • when she stepped up to the porch, the rotting, wooden step crumbled and she fell backward into his arms. As they casually wandered over to an old decepit double-swing on the property, she admitted that Archie hadn't returned home until long after the gin fire.
  • the film's next most notorious, highly-sexual seduction scene was sizzling due to the sexual reactions that an overcome, writhing Baby Doll exhibited on a double-seated plantation swing in the yard. Vacarro continued his cat-and-mouse, teasing interrogation about the arson (and Archie Lee's complicity) as he advanced closer. She became agitated and nervously fingered her hair ribbon due to his taunting questions. He sat next to her on the swing and proposed letting the swing's motion ease her tensions, and then put his arm around her. During the course of their discussion, he decided to exchange his burned-down gin for her seduction - referring to Archie Lee's 'good neighbor policy': ("You do me a good turn and I'll do you one")
Seduction on Porch Swing
  • after noticing a small piece of cotton lint fiber on the front bodice of her dress, he delicately removed it and blew it away, and then inched closer and closer to her and pressed on her, as he complimented her on "the ab-so-lute delicacy of your skin." She actually realized that he was "getting familiar" and told him "I don't like to be touched" - claiming that she was ticklish. The seduction scene was severely criticized - but mostly for what was not shown just below the camera's frame - was he possibly reaching under her dress?
  • when she left the swing feeling weakened and began moaning and claimed she was dizzy, he pursued her up to the house, following close behind her as he brushed on her arm with his riding crop. Still breathless, she requested 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." Soon after as she felt scared about his suspicions about her husband, she basically conceded to his assertion that Archie was involved: "I knew the fire was not accidental. And you know it was not accidental too."

After the Swing Seduction: "I feel so weak!" -- Vacarro Followed Her to the House
  • Baby Doll was left alone when Archie drove away into town to obtain machine parts, after Vacarro demanded repairs to his outdated and run-down gin machinery. In the house with her after preparing lemonade, Vacarro joined her upstairs where she was changing her wet clothes. In a memorably lewd sight - Vaccaro mounted and sat astride a small wooden hobby horse in the child's nursery - rhythmically rocking back and forth on the tiny toy whose head was hardly visible between his legs - gyrating back and forth to the raunchy accompaniment of the rock song "Shame on You." Then, he moved from room to room, playing a childhood game of hide-and-seek with Baby Doll - who was nearly undressed in a slip although covered with a blanket.
  • eventually, he was able to trap her in the upper attic (with rotting timbers) where she had fled and locked the door. There, he threatened to cave in the entire attic floor unless she signed an incriminating statement attesting to the fact that her husband set fire to the gin and that Archie had lied about his alibi. Afterwards, he accepted her invitation to take a nap in her crib - it was entirely possible that during a fade-out as she knelt over him and covered him with her blanket, he was able to succeed in having sex with the nubile bride.
  • when Archie returned, he jealously reprimanded Baby Doll for being with Vacarro, dressed only in her slip: "Ain't I told you not to slop around here in a slip?" Vacarro had been invited for supper at Baby Doll's request. Just before supper, he was able to accomplish a further seduction of Baby Doll in a sneaky and steamy kissing scene behind a wall, seen from Archie's POV (although Archie's back was turned and he was on the phone in the other room trying to encourage his rough friends to come over from the Bright Spot Cafe and deal with Vacarro). The two were in a darkened adjoining room under a bare-bulb. Vacarro told Baby Doll: "I do my own justice," and then lasciviously looked at her:

    Vacarro: "I find you different this evening in some way." (Baby Doll responded with a wanton look)
    Baby Doll: "Never mind that...."
    Vacarro: "Grown up, suddenly."

  • Baby Doll rolled her head over to look at Vacarro and purred: "I feel cool and rested for the first time in my life. That's the way I feel. Rested and cool." Her hand reached up for the beaded chain on the light bulb above her head and switched off the light. She engulfed Vacarro and herself in darkness. They kissed as she breathed heavily - and then they kissed again (in full close-up).
Vacarro Seducing and Kissing Baby Doll in Adjoining Room
  • Vaccaro also flirted with Baby Doll at the stark dinner table when they shared hunks of bread dipped in raw, uncooked greens, while moaning, giggling and exchanging looks.
  • the film ended with Vacarro confronting Archie with Baby Doll's signed affidavit. Vacarro further enraged Archie by admitting that he had coaxed other favors from Baby Doll, and that there existed a "certain attraction" between them - after a crib-nap, a sung lullaby, and "the touch of cool fingers."
  • Archie responded by retrieving his shotgun and chasing Vacarro outside while Baby Doll called the police. Both Baby Doll and Vacarro hid in the fork of a pecan tree in the yard until the police arrived and promptly arrested Archie (when Vacarro presented the signed affidavit for the crime of arson) at around midnight when Baby Doll turned 20. It was left ambiguous whether Baby Doll or Aunt Rose Comfort (Mildred Dunnock) would be cared for in the future; Baby Doll asked: "We got nothin' to do but wait for tomorrow and see if we're remembered or forgotten"

Archie With Shotgun

Archie Arrested for Arson

To Be Remembered or Forgotten the Next Day?

Baby Doll (Carroll Baker)
in Crib

Baby Doll in Bathtub

Baby Doll Licking Ice Cream Cone in Town

Silva Vacarro (Eli Wallach) Honored For Business Success by a Senator

Competitor's Cotton Gin Set on Fire by Archie Lee

Baby Doll Introduced to Silva

The Virile Vacarro Pumping Water

Vacarro in Car with Baby Doll

Falling Backward Into Vacarro's Arms on the Porch

In the Nursery, Vacarro Rode a Hobby Horse

Baby Doll Signing the Affidavit Against Archie

Vacarro in Baby Doll's Crib with Her

Baby Doll In Her Slip

Vacarro Invited For Late Supper

Baby Doll and Vacarro Eating Uncooked Greens

Archie Incensed by Vacarro and Baby Doll


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