Sweet Bird of Youth is a 1962 romantic-comedy film starring Paul Newman, Geraldine Page, Shirley Knight, Madeleine Sherwood, Ed Begley, Rip Torn and Mildred Dunnock. Based on the play by Tennessee Williams, it focuses on the relationship between a drifter and a faded movie star. The film was adapted and directed by Richard Brooks.
It won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Ed Begley), and was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Geraldine Page) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Shirley Knight).
The film was criticized for Paul Newman's awkward performance, although Shirley Knight, Ed Begley, and Geraldine Page were among the most acclaimed of the year.
Handsome, young Chance Wayne returns to his hometown of St. Cloud, Florida, accompanied by a considerably older film star, Alexandra Del Lago. She is needy and depressed, particularly about a film she has just finished making, and speaks of retiring from the acting world forever.
Chance had gone to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune at the behest of St. Cloud's most powerful and influential citizen, "Boss" Finley, either too naive or unwilling to appreciate that Finley merely wants Chance, a waiter from the country club, to keep away from his beautiful daughter, Heavenly.
A political kingpin, Finley enjoys putting Heavenly on display as a model of purity and chastity. His ruthless son, Tom Jr., aids his father's ambitions in any way he can. He, too, is unhappy to have Chance Wayne back in town.
Desperate to have Alexandra further his fantasy of becoming a star, Chance has become her lover. He goes so far as to blackmail her with a tape recording, on which she speaks openly of a dependence on drugs. Alexandra defies him, becoming irate at the realization that Chance's romantic interests in Heavenly are more important to him than her own needs.
Just when Alexandra is at her most vulnerable, a call from Hollywood comes to notify her that the new movie she's just made appears to be a certain success, reviving her career. Meanwhile, Finley's discarded mistress, Miss Lucy, exposes Finley's underhanded tactics to the government authorities. Chance, with nowhere else to turn, persuades Heavenly to leave town with him, but not before Tom Finley Jr. and other thugs give him a violent and brutal comeuppance. Quite able to face the truth about himself, Chance and Heavenly reconcile and leave town together, leaving her father to face indictment.
The film was a hit, making almost $8,000,000 on a $2,000,000 budget.
The film also was one of Roger Ebert's top films of the decade, and held a score of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes based on a total of 23 surveyed critics.