When Korean war veteran George Haverstick (Jim Hutton) spends some time in the hospital, he’s lucky enough to end up with Isabel (Jane Fonda) as his night nurse. During his stay, the two of them fall in love and when George is discharged, one of the first places they visit is the Justice of the Peace. They’re married just before Christmas and head off for a honeymoon in Miami. But before the ink has time to dry on the marriage certificate, Isabel and George begin to realize how little they really know about each other. For one thing, George has suddenly quit his job without consulting Isabel. And it turns out that the car George had been talking about is, well, a hearse. And to top it all off, they end up spending their wedding night in a dingy, run-down roadside motel; hardly what Isabel had envisioned.
Along the way, George decides to stop and visit his war buddy Ralph (Anthony Franciosa). Ralph has been married to Dorthea (Lois Nettleton) for a few years, but his marriage’s future is just as shaky as George and Isabel’s. Ralph married Dorthea for her money and because he would stand to inherit her father’s business when he died. Dorthea’s father was in poor health at the time but survived. Although Ralph grew to genuinely love Dorthea, he could never stand her parents and abruptly quits his job at her father’s company after an argument. Worried that he might leave her just as suddenly, Dorthea decides to leave Ralph.
George and Isabel arrive at Ralph’s house on Christmas Eve, barely speaking to each other by the time they get there. As the night progresses, Ralph does his best to help solve his newlywed friend’s problems while coping with his own. At one point, Dorthea’s parents come over to collect their daughter’s things and the situation gets so far out of hand, all of them wind up down at the police station. But when things start to settle, both couples begin to have renewed confidence in their futures together.
Period of Adjustment is based on the play by Tennessee Williams and marked departure from the typical Tennessee Williams fare. When the play was released, Williams dubbed it “a serious comedy,” which is a pretty accurate description. There’s drama, but it’s got some more lighthearted moments as well. I wouldn’t say it was one of my favorite movies, but I’m glad I saw it. The cast, particularly young Jane Fonda, was great. And although I prefer the movies based on more typical Tennessee Williams plays, this was a welcome change of pace. Period of Adjustment is also noteworthy for being the directorial debut of George Roy Hill, who went on to direct hits like The Sting, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Thoroughly Modern Millie.