A picnic-watermelon, games under the Labor Day sun, friends getting together in a small, sleepy Kansas town. Enter Hal Carter (William Holden), a drifter and dreamer whose presence causes cracks in the Americana surface, exposing lives of loneliness and desperate daydreams: a middle-aged school teacher (Rosalind Russell), weary of waiting for her suitor (Arthur O'Connell) to propose; Millie Owens (Susan Strasberg), an insecure and unhappy teenager; her sister Madge (Kim Novak), engaged to the town's richest man, but dreaming of “true love.” One doesn't usually associate the use of CinemaScope with such intimate stories, but here the wide screen is filled to the corners with local picnickers, capturing the stifling claustrophobia of a small town community, and underscoring it as the source of the characters' desperation. And when Madge and Hal fall in love, they seek to escape, to other dreams in other towns just off the edge of the wide, wide screen.

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