Film Spotlight: From the Terrace (1960)

Directed by Mark Robson adapted from the novel by John O’Hara

Two years after they were married, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward starred in From the Terrace (1960), a romantic drama about the throes of marriage and the sacrifice of happiness for money and prestige. World War II is over and David Eaton (Paul Newman), returns home to a heartless father and sloshed mother. His dysfunctional roots take hold in his marriage after falling hopelessly in love with the passionate socialite, Mary St. John (Joanne Woodward). His uptown wife becomes the ice queen and makes it easy for him to fall for dewy-eyed, wholesome Natalie Benziger (Ina Balin).

Joan Woodward and Myrna Loy make the film worth watching while the rest of the cast is mediocre. I never thought I would say it, but Paul Newman’s bland performance could have been played by anyone.

1310_fromtheterrace5a

The Role of Women 

What I liked best about the film were the three faces of women. Myrna Loy plays Martha Eaton, a sad character, and atypical from her former days as temptress during the silent era and her bubbly, popular role as Laura Charles, the comedic sleuth with William Powell.

Nick and Laura Charles with Asta. They would pair up in six
Nick and Laura Charles with Asta. Loy and Powell would pair up in six “thin man” films from 1934-47.

In From the Terrace, Myrna Loy is a neglected housewife, finding solace where she can because her husband can’t overcome the loss of their son. Her last words to David begged for a revisit in the plot. Unfortunately, we never see David revisit his mother or his former life.

Newman and Woodward
Newman and Woodward

Joanne Woodward met Paul Newman on the New York stage in Picnic, and the two became professional equals–Woodward would start the stronger–she won the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in The Three Faces of Eve (1957). His role in Cat on a Hot-Tinned Roof  (1958) and their steamy partnership in The Long Hot summer (1958) made them a power couple. If you are interested in their early life together with all the sordid details, you can read the 2009 article from The Guardian HERE

Joanne Woodward’s performance in From the Terrace is dynamic. I love how time changes her personality from demur to vixen to vulnerable to bitter. Her wide range ability to portray moods is why I thought she was top rate.

Annex - Balin, Ina (From the Terrace)_01
Ina Balin plays annoying Natalie Benzinger

It’s no wonder that David Eaton falls for warm, dark haired Natalie–the foil to the cold, white-haired wife, Mary; however, the guilt and torture of having an affair didn’t come through from either Balin or Newman. Kisses were cold. The parting durable. The reunion tepid.

The theme of loneliness pervades all the characters of the film. From mourning father to drunken wife; from workaholic David Eaton to his independent wife Mary; to timid, masochist Natalie, all the characters stumble around disillusioned and frustrated.

While this all sounds like downer, the film ends on a high note. Despite the aggravating performance by Ina Balin, I suspect the novel by John O’Hara might be more satisfying. Truly, it’s Woodward and Loy’s multi-dimensional, nuanced acting that makes it worth your time

6.5 / 10. 

39 thoughts on “Film Spotlight: From the Terrace (1960)

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  1. I cannot recall having seen this one, Cindy. Given your review, even with Woodward and Loy giving creditable performances, I doubt I will bother. I would probably enjoy watching one of the ‘Thin Man’ films again instead.
    Best wishes as always, Pete.

  2. Maybe the Director never expected or wanted more from Paul at that time? He had a rep for being rangeless and wooden early in his career. Ultimately his intelligence blew all that away.
    One excellent Newman and Woodward movie that I liked which received very little notice was Mr. & Mrs. Bridge (1990).

    1. Hi, JC. You know, I didn’t see that and should. I’m not sure why I missed it. I did see them in the 2000s in the film version of the Pulitzer winning book, Empire Falls. I liked both their performances even though the film/story as a whole didn’t thrill me. I do agree he warms up as an actor and many of his roles in the middle to later of his career I find more entertaining.

      1. Some of the scenes of family dysfunction in that movie hit me like a ton of bricks. Especially the scene where she says to her son: “You’re just like your father.” And he replies: “Who else would I be like.”

        1. Ha Ha. Yes, how true! I wish he had returned to visit his mom after the dad died if only to see if she broke her cycle. I saw the similarities between her dissatisfaction and Mary’s. The decline of their marriage is quite typical.

  3. Hi Cindy! I like that you’re rating your reviews now. Oooh I wanna see this, I’ve never seen the real life couple Newman and Woodward together on screen. I had no idea she won an Oscar, now I’m curious about Three Faces of Eve, too!

      1. Well, it’s been too many years for me to be honest , but I can tell you one other very old Newman movie( sorry I don’t remember the name) it was hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that it was indeed Him 😉 so.. I’m sure your correct 😉

  4. Good review. Boring movie, except for Woodward and Loy. Nit picking: Mark Robson directed the film, John O’Hare wrote the book.I remember I saw the film and thought the book would be much better. I didn’t like the book either.

  5. I’ve seen From the Terrace at least three times , but cant remember a thing about it. I remember that I was disappointed with it the last time a saw it, which was sometime in the last five years, as I remember liking it as a youth. But I might have been confusing it with another John O’Hara adaptation, 10 North Frederick. O Hara was certainly in the midst of a Hollywood windfall when this was made in 1960, and he was even allowed to contribute to the screenplay, which may account for its unwieldy length. Pal Joey (1957) 10 North Frederick (1958) From the Terrace and Butterfield 8 (both 1960) My mom loved his books, so i had read both From the Terrace and 10 North Frederick . Butterfield 8 and Pal Joey came from novels written over 20 years before they were filmed, and I liked those movies better than the ones from novels I had read. Director Mark Robson got his start as an editor for producer Val Lewton, and went on to direct three Lewton pictures. In the fifties, he directed the outstanding “Peyton Place,” one of the most significant soap opera epics of the era. so he would have seemed a natural for From the Terrace. Paul Newman was far from his early wooden days here. In fact, he was just entering his prime, having done Cat on a Hot tin Roof two years previous, with the Hustler (1961) and Hud (1963) just up around the bend. I’ll have to see the movie again to make any kind of reasoned comment on it, but it sure looks promising on paper. For Newman / Woodward collaboration, however, I;ll recommend “Rachel Rachel,” directed by Newman and starring Woodward. It is close to being a masterpiece, and should be seen by all.

    1. Hi Bill, thanks always for your input. I have not read nor seen Butterfield 8. I will get around to it, eventually. Paul Newman has always been a favorite of mine, so it was a surprise to watch “From the Terrace” and not like his performance much. Rather, I have seen few Woodward films and was
      impressed by her performance. I’m hungry to see more of her filmography and will certainly add “Rachel, Rachel” to the list–once again, I’ve heard of it, read about it a little, but have not seen it. I saw their collaboration “The Glass Menagerie” and “Empire Falls”.
      I don’t know anyone who knows more about the movies than you.

      1. don let the title of “the stripper” turn you off. its actually a pretty decent film version of william inge’s play, “a Loss of Roses.” You really cant lose with Joanne Woodward.She is good is almost anything. I always respected Newman for marrying a smart girl rather than a glamour girl, and sticking with her through the years.

  6. I love the first two ‘thin man’ films, I’ve seen. They were hilarious.
    And I love ‘Cat on a Hot-Tinned Roof’, Elizabeth Taylor was superb!!!
    I’ve only read John O’Hara’s ‘Butterfield 8’, based a true incident in the 30’s, that was a really good book, and I love the movie adaptation (set in the 50’s), with Taylor again, as well.
    Even though, ‘From the Terrace’ sounds like an average film, I don’t mind checking it out, when I can. Can’t really imagine ‘Paul Newman’ being bland!!!!

  7. Yes, I’ve seen this one and felt the same as you. Should have been better, but fell flat. Not enough emotion accessed somehow for a movie confronting so many tangled webs. I love the Thin Man and its sequels. Such pleasure!

  8. It was Paul Newman’s character whom I ended up disliking. We’re constantly being told that Newman’s character is unhappily married to a cold and unfaithful wife portrayed by Joanne Woodward. Yet, after I saw the movie, it occurred to me that Woodward’s character was being erroneously slut shamed. Newman’s character turned out to be the cold and distant spouse who ignored his wife, due to his ambitious drive. And Woodward’s character turned to another man, due to his cold behavior. And when he began an affair with Ina Berlin’s character, Newman’s character dumped the blame for the failure of his marriage on Woodward’s character. What an asshole! No wonder I disliked this film.

      1. I’ve read some of your posts, and I’ve tried to comment, but it won’t let me. I wish you had a WP follow widget so I could engage in more conversations. With regards to your recent post about the young QV, Emily Blunt was perfect for the role. And the costumes! I am enjoying season 1 of “The Crown” series starring Claire Foy. Another fine British crown film that rarely is mentioned is “Mrs. Brown” from 1997 with Judi Dench and Billy Connolly.

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