Reviews from critics were mostly positive. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote in a generally favorable review that Tennessee Williams "has written his trashy, vicious people so that they are clinically interesting . . . But Mr. Kazan's pictorial compositions, got in stark black-and-white and framed for the most part against the background of an old Mississippi mansion, are by far the most artful and respectable feature of 'Baby Doll. '" Variety wrote that Kazan "probably here turns in his greatest directing job to date" and praised the "superb performances," concluding that the film "ranks as a major screen achievement and deserves to be recognized as such. " Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post called it "one of the finest films of this or many another year, a chilling expose of what ignorance does to human beings . . . and an excellent example of why the Motion Picture Association should follow Britain's lead in classifying films into distinct categories for children and adults. " John McCarten of The New Yorker praised the cast as "uniformly commendable" and wrote that the plot machinations "add up to some hilarious French-style farce, and it is only at the conclusion of the piece, when Mr. Kazan starts moving his camera around in a prenaturally solemn way, that one's interest in 'Baby Doll' briefly wanes. " The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "Kazan has often fallen afoul of his own cleverness, but in Baby Doll he responds to a brilliant and astute scenario by Tennessee Williams with a great invention and the most subtle insight . . . There are no bad performances, and those of Carroll Baker as Baby Doll and Eli Wallach as the Sicilian are outstanding. "