Carroll Baker: The Purest Instincts

Carroll Baker as Baby Doll

Interview with Tennessee Williams
Conducted by James Grissom
New Orleans

Working with [Elia] Kazan was always exciting because he had an inordinate zeal to be excited himself--to be surprised. I think he was always aware of the potential of scripts and of actors and of shots, but he never knew, to any certainty, what would ultimately happen. He did not map things out or craft story boards that delineated things in minute detail, but he did craft emotional currents; surprises; an atmosphere that was open to experimentation and daring.

I remember him telling me that Carroll [Baker] was a perfect template for me--for any writer--because she had the purest instincts, and they were not filtered through any defensiveness or masked by an adherence to any method or means of expression. She was wide open; she was free in a way that was enviable. I do not recall any judgment coming from her or clouding anything she did. There is always judgment in a person, but she kept hers hidden away. Millie [Dunnock] said she had a contained wildness, which was a huge compliment from her, and I think she was right: Carroll is wild and full of fantasy and heat, but it is contained in a faith for the work, and she submitted herself to the work in such a sweet and lovely way. Her sense of detail was so refined and delicate--that's what I remember the most. The talent--there is always talent when we talk of these women--but what I'm struck by is the method by which they access it and share it, and what I remember immediately is the refinement, the lapidary burnishing, of the talent she had, and the delicate, loving way it was parceled out. 

The fine line that separates judgment from discernment can be found in that woman.

Karl Malden and Carroll Baker in Baby Doll, directed by Elia Kazan.


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