Baby Doll House Update!Posted: November 17, 2007
The Baby Doll House in Benoit, Mississippi, is being renovated! After a previous post [Oct. 27, 2007] about visiting the dilapidated and decaying old house, I got an email from Jane, whose family is from the small Delta hamlet on Highway 1 that follows the river. She says it is now privately owned and the restoration project is nearing completion. My friend Currie, from Toronto, now living in Nashville, saw it in Old House magazine last year and wanted to buy it. So did my sister, who lives in Memphis. Somebody hit paydirt! That old house has been lingering in the back of my mind until I decided to give it new life in my novel.
The house was brought to fame by the 1956 movie Baby Doll, based on a screenplay by Tennessee Williams. Baby Doll. “She’s nineteen. She makes her husband keep away–she won’t let the stranger go.” Baby Doll (Carroll Baker) is Archie’s (Karl Malden) wife in title only. They agreed to be married for one year without sex. Time’s about up, when a rival gin owner (Eli Wallach) comes into play. It’s two hours of seat-gripping sexual tension, even though Baby Doll’s constant tease of a laugh is annoying. Extremely erotic, it’s a steamy classic that still sizzles.
A lot of Benoit locals were recruited for the film. Jane’s great uncle was the town Marshall in the movie.
The movie brought to fame “baby doll” pajamas, or the shortie nightgown–a short, sleeveless, loose-fitting gown made of nylon or chiffon, with lace or ruffles and bows and ribbons. Some styles had matching bloomer-like panties. I grew up wearing them, but had no idea of the origin of the name.
The movie has a place in local history. In the book Reflections of Bolivar County, there’s a picture with a caption that says, “Mayor Jimmy Williams of Benoit outside his grocery and hardware store with movie stars Karl Malden and Carroll Baker, who were in town filming Baby Doll at the Burrus Home in 1956.”