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Bringing Theodore Dreiser's sprawling novel An American Tragedy to the
screen must have been a daunting task, made harder by the constraints
Paramount imposed on director George Stevens. The studio had lost big
on a version made 20 years earlier, under Josef von Sternberg, and had
little faith in a remake. So, hobbled by a tight budget, Stevens scaled
back his ambitious plans but delivered, perhaps even to his own
surprise, a superbly crafted and and powerfully sustained work of movie
He was lucky that Paramount, edgy about the story, gave him a cast that would guarantee not only good box office but solid performances as well. Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelly Winters take the principal roles, with, in the last third of the movie, extra oomph courtesy of Raymond Burr (in a role that may have nabbed him the Perry Mason franchise).
The jaws of the vise Clift finds himself squeezed into are class and sex. Barely educated, raised by stern members of a religious sect, he luckily (or not) happens to be the shirt-tail nephew of a prosperous entrepreneur who casually offers him work in his factory. Awkward and lonesome, Clift escapes the drudgery of his job by taking up with a mousy co-worker (Winters, toned way down from her platinum-bombshell image at the time). But his nose-to-the-grindstone ways attract the attention of his uncle, who rewards him with a promotion and an invitation up to the manor.
There he meets Taylor and launches an obsession about her, reinforced by a neon sign visible from his window that blazes her surname through his restless nights (she's another child of an industrial fortune, raised in wealth and privilege). Somehow, she falls for him and, need it be added, he for her despite his coming from the wrong side of the tracks (she hasn't the faintest notion that for people like him, life may not be the blithe affair it is for her).
Only one inconvenient fact keeps Clift from taking his rightful place in the sun: He's left Winters pregnant. The two worlds he occupies are destined to collide, and crash they do when Winters phones him, in the midst of a Hawaiian-themed luau at Taylor's summer place on the lake, to issue her ultimatum: Marry her or she'll spill their sordid secret. He leaves abruptly to meet Winters, desperately trying to assemble the plan which will seal three fates.
Stevens sustains an overwhelming, ominous momentum, unbroken by even a hint of levity (not even a single bit player is allowed to lapse into shtik). Languorous dissolves and superimposed images heighten the sense of inevitability as each scene, each event glides seamlessly into the next.
Maybe he wasn't able to pile on the exhaustive social commentary that bulked up Dreiser's novel, but everywhere there's sharp detail that he adroitly leaves to be noticed. When Clift shows up hours late at his intimate birthday party in Winter's cramped room, with the tiny table pushed up against her marble washstand, the ice cream has warmed to lumpy syrup (a self-homage to a similar scene in Steven's Alice Adams?). With an island combo playing merrily on, Clift sports a lei and eats pineapple out of its shell when Winters calls to break the spell and this South-Seas reverie is offered up not as Veblenesque excess, but merely as the way Taylor's crowd spend their days and evenings and nights in an endless round of heedless gaiety.
The apex of the film's crescendo is handled with tight, quiet assurance the reckoning in a rowboat upon a deserted lake. Dusk gathers among the pines like fog, the loons call back and forth, and the rippling waves reflect a demented flash into Clift's eye as he wrestles with his conscience. Winters natters nervously about the dreary life they'll spend together while his head swims with luminous visions of Taylor. Then, destiny catches.... Romantic but unsentimental, serious but without pretension, gripping without stooping to the manipulative, A Place in the Sun ranks as a masterpiece of American cinema.
Time does extraordinary things with greatness. If nothing else it confirms it. "A Place in the Sun" is a remarkable example of that theory. I rushed to buy a DVD after watching a BBC documentary on ELizabeth Taylor to celebrate her 75th birthday! In "A Place on the Sun" an Elizabeth Taylor barely out of her teens is paired with Montgomery Clift. She had been raised at MGM and groomed for movie stardom from day one. He was a method actor, complex, introspective and their coupling produced something that I'm tempted to call, unrepeatable. The actors own personal stories, their friendship, mutual love and respect made it possible for their communion to be so transcendental. To make things even more perfect, the film seems a love letter from director George Stevens to his stars and vice versa. Look at the opening credits and tell me if you've ever seen a more startling introduction to a character/star. The story of doomed love and descend into darkness is, without question, one of the best ever made.
Isn't IMDb great? As well as reading the detailed and thoughtful
criticisms from contributors about a film like this, you can browse
through all sorts of IMDb trivia, discovering interesting stuff all the
time. My latest favourite activity on the site is checking out films
that won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. Needless to say A
Place in the Sun won this award for William C. Mellor. Much has already
been said of the beauty and precision of the images. I'd like to add a
comment about one shot where Clift is coerced into a speedboat ride
with Taylor and her rich pals. The static camera is on the jetty with a
portable radio in close-up. The speedboat pulling away and doing a spin
in the bay occupies our middle vision, while hills and boats lie in the
distance. All of them are in wonderful pin-sharp deep focus, a skill
that seems all but lost in today's productions. The radio announces the
discovery of the girl's body while the boat speeds past, completing the
dramatic reason for the shot.
A funny thing I've noticed about these great cinematographers is they all seemed to live a good long life, usually working right up the end of their lives. I don't know why, I just thought I'd mention it!
George Stevens' A PLACE IN THE SUN is a poetic film, filled with tender
moments, sadness, and pending doom. Having not read the book, I had the
pleasure of seeing the material for the first time, which is preferable if
you see a film based on a "classic" novel. Montgomery Clift is his usual
mysterious self as he has a scandalous relationship with the homely Shelly
Winters and falls instantly in love with a spellbindingly beautiful Liz
Taylor, who was only 19 when the picture was made. She glows with energy
and a sense of optimism about life, a stark contrast to Clift, whom Taylor
has also fallen for. Rumor has it they had an actual affair while making
the movie. This is not for all tastes, for it is slow, and Clift is not all
that appealing. The idea of dropping a lesser life (with Winters) and
pursuing the good life with Taylor is what makes it work and the lengths to
which Clift will go are staggering.
George Stevens has a gift for "painting" a movie on-screen. Just see GIANT, also with Taylor, or SHANE, the other two parts of his "American Trilogy". The scenes on the lake and the way the mood of the movie is painted is quite simply amazing. He also uses slow dissolves that leave a ghostly image on-screen between scenes. This all adds to the atmospheric touch of tragedy that will ensue. Poor Shelly Winters. She always gets a raw deal in films. There are times when you almost sympathize with Clift. Imagine living the life of a socialite with the girl of your dreams and a good job with your family. A life with Winters would be dismal according to Clift and us. What's right is right, however. An unnecessary court room saga closes the picture to ensure the viewer's sense of justice. This must've been pretty controversial stuff back in the early-50's
A PLACE IN THE SUN truly is an American tragedy, a portrait of young lives gone wrong with post-WWII optimism as a backdrop. Clift and Taylor shine together, and provide film fans with a romance never to be forgotten. The finale is emotionally draining during Taylor's expression of undying love. Unfortunately, Clift cannot have it all. A beautiful piece of classical Hollywood film-making with a mix of method acting (Clift) and a love story we wish could work.
RATING: 8 of 10
The young and poor George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) leaves his
religious mother and Chicago and arrives in California expecting to
find a better job in the business of his wealthy uncle Charles Eastman
(Herbert Heyes). His cousin Earl Eastman (Keefe Brasselle) advises him
that there are many women in the factory and the basic rule is that he
must not hang around with any of them.
George meets the worker of the assembly line Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters) in the movie theater and they date. Meanwhile, the outcast George is promoted and he meets the gorgeous Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor) in a party at his uncle's house. Angela introduces him to the local high society and they fall in love with each other. However, Alice is pregnant and she wants to get married with George. During a dinner party at Angela's lake house with parents, relatives and friends, Alice calls George from the bus station and gives thirty minutes to him to meet her; otherwise she will crash the party and tells what has happened. George is pressed by the situation that ends in a tragedy.
"A Place in the Sun" is an unforgettable masterpiece by George Stevens and one of the best love stories ever made, with the perfect development of characters and situations. I watched this film for the first time on 14 June 2001 on cable television and yesterday I saw it again on a Paramount DVD with Extras telling details about the difficulties that George Stevens faced to bring Theodore Dreiser's novel "An American Tragedy" to a motion picture and casting. He had to sue Paramount to carry out the signed contract and get the agreed budget. Another interesting point is Shelley Winters, who was a sex symbol at that time, telling how she got the role of Alice Tripp. Elizabeth Taylor also tells funny things about her relationship with Montgomery Cliff. My vote is ten.
Title (Brazil): "Um Lugar Ao Sol" ("A Place in the Sun")
This is a movie about George Eastman (Clift), a young, gentle laborer
without social standing who longs for the better things in life
swept off his feet after a chance encounter with wealth, success and
George is introduced to a stunning socialite Angela Vickers (Liz Taylornever so beautiful) full of sensual delight and threatened by an unattractive factory girl (Alice) he's already made pregnant Angela and George fall deeply in love, but Alice Tripp (Winters) presses and chases George until he agrees to marry her He has a desperate decision, but hesitates Finding they can't get married over the Labor Day weekend, George takes Alice boating
Shelley Winters was extraordinary as the distressed co-worker She made the wronged employee an understandable reaction to human dimensions As she sits in the rowboat, unconsciously torturing Clift with her thoughts of their future together, Winters is both pathetic and annoyinga special candidate to get rid of
The impact of the film depends absolutely on a moral climate that has now less impact on our society Pre-marital sex is no longer disapproved and abortions are easier to obtain But the film's power resided in its exceptionally convincing depiction of the points and questions created by these situations
"A Place in the Sun" was nominated for nine Academy Awards, and won six
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Standout film which was a remake of An American Tragedy with the late
The film was remade in 1951 with Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters.
The culture of rich vs. poor is explored in this film. Lonely drifter Clift meets Ms. Winters first and then in a chance meeting, meets the wealthy Ms. Taylor. Her wealth and position in society is what most affects Clift.
Eager to leave Shelley, he soon discovers that she is pregnant. This part, as the impoverished pregnant girl with nowhere to go, was the best part and performance by Miss Winters. We feel for her as she tries to maintain a grip on the Clift character. She brings to the part a nervousness rarely seen in motion pictures. Had she been nominated for best supporting actress, she would have possessed 3 Oscars in that category. Instead, she was nominated for lead actress and lost to Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Clift is perfect as the drifter;he was Oscar nominated for it. His scenes in the court, where he maintains that the drowning of Miss Winters was an accident, are real and leave a vivid reminder in the minds of the viewers.
The film also marked a breakout performance for Miss Taylor. Up until then, possibly with the exception of 1949's Elephant Walk, her roles were mostly childish in non-dramatic films.
The viewer is put in the moral dilemma of whether or not Clift made an attempt to save the drowning Ms. Winters. Capital punishment becomes a question as always.
Anne Revere is effective in an all too brief role as Clift's bible-reading mother.
All emotional stops are put out in the final scene when Taylor visits a condemned Clift in prison.
****. A superb production.
This 1950s melodrama was an interesting, involving story. It's part
film-noir, too, which I liked. I say that because the last third of the
film featured an expectation of some dreaded act about to be committed,
giving it a film noir feel.
One thing for sure, whatever you label the movie: it's well-acted, well-directed and well-photographed. Regarding the latter, this really looks good on DVD. No surprise it's directed well since George Stevens was the director. His resume speaks for itself.
Obviously Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor are the "big names" in this film, but I found Shelly Winters and the character she played to be the most intriguing. She wasn't really appealing yet one could certainly identify with her feelings of insecurity with Taylor as her competition. "Liz" was in in her prime, looks-wise, with an absolutely classic face.
Anyway, watching the character studies of the antsy Winters and the troublesome Clift were interesting. Clift, as is the case with most of us, causes his own problems and things slowly unravel for him. The story is another example of what can happen when one tries to cover up the truth. It comes back to bite you, big-time!
I really found it refreshing, however, to see Clift's attitude at the end. It's the exact opposite of what you hear today. He actually takes responsibility for his actions.
This film is very different from anything of it's time that I have ever seen.A man has a one night stand with a coworker and gets her pregnant.THEN he meets the woman of his dreams,the woman with everything;charm,good looks and Daddy's money.We then have a man who is torn between choosing to have it all and doing the right thing.The result of his struggles ends up very tragically as you will see.I was very taken aback by the film's sexual overtones,though it was only hinted at,of course.With the barrage of remakes in recent years,I am surprised it has not been remade with stronger sexual content.This is a very enjoyable film with good performances all around,particularly those of Shelley Winters and Monty Clift.Liz Taylor's strong screen presence is also a delight.A definite thumbs up.
Poor and uneducated George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) unwittingly sets
a trap for himself when he takes an entry-level job at his rich uncle's
factory, which has a prohibition on male employees dating female
employees. He just can't resist one of the girls in his department, the
pitiful and whiny Alice Tripp (wonderfully played by Shelley Winters).
Eventually, George gets a promotion and is invited into the upper
echelon of his uncle's social world, where he meets wealthy and
beautiful Angela Vickers (a breathless Elizabeth Taylor). Naturally, he
falls in love with Angela. But a complication with Alice leaves him
unable to break off his relationship with her.
That's the setup for this George Stevens-directed film that plays rather like a modern Greek tragedy. Everything about "A Place In The Sun" is high quality: the production design, the lavish Edith Head costumes, the wonderful editing, and that great B&W cinematography with those marvelous close-up shots, and overlapping dissolves that cleverly advance the plot.
All three principal actors do a splendid job. And they get solid support from a top notch secondary cast that includes Raymond Burr and the interesting Anne Revere.
The story clearly plays up social class differences, with the haughty rich looking down their noses at common workers. The film's tone varies from romantic, to sad, to suspenseful. At mysterious Loon Lake where significant events occur, the cinematic atmosphere is heavy with anticipation. It's like something out of a Hitchcock thriller.
I've never cared much for sad love stories, and the film does seem a tad dated. Still, it's so well made it can be appreciated by most everyone but the terminally shallow. It has a powerful ending, one that accentuates the acting accomplishments of Clift and especially of Taylor. "A Place In The Sun" was nominated for nine academy awards, and winner of six. I'd say this is one time when Oscar voters got it right.
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