Brick, an alcoholic ex-football player, drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife, Maggie. His reunion with his father, Big Daddy, who is dying of cancer, jogs a host of memories and revelations for both father and son.
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The fifth Tennessee Williams play to reach the screen, wealthy Mississippi plantation owner Big Daddy Pollitt, unaware that he's dying of cancer and disturbed by the strained and childless marriage of his favored alcoholic son Brick and his other son, Gooper, whose wife is about to bring forth another in the endless line of little "no-neck monsters," celebrates his sixty-fifth birthday with his family. Brick's wife, Maggie, beautiful and desirable, tries unsuccessfully to coax her husband away from the bottle, while alternately enticing him and taunting him about his obsession with his deceased best friend and the guilt about their relationship. The seamy tensions reach a climax when the truth of Big Daddy's health is revealed, and he and Brick manage to resolve their differences. Written by
Although Elia Kazan directed "Cat" on Broadway, he was not involved in the film, despite having two cinematic successes with Tennessee Williams work A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Baby Doll (1956). Kazan had had trouble with Williams, demanding that he rewrite the third act of the play to bring Big Daddy back on stage. He also was tired of having critics call him a "co-author" of Williams work, which he knew he was not. He would eventually direct one more Williams play on Broadway, Sweet Bird of Youth (1962), but that film also would be directed by Richard Brooks. See more »
Despite the fact that merely stepping on his broken leg causes Brick to collapse, he is able to stand on both feet while he is smashing up the cellar. See more »
But, how in hell on earth can you imagine you're gonna have a child with a man who cannot stand you.
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Sultry and downbeat, this Richard Brooks directed film is set at a Southern plantation where a dysfunctional family celebrates the 65th birthday of family patriarch Big Daddy (Burl Ives), a portly man whose health, or the lack of it, is very much on the minds of all the family members. The story centers on one of Big Daddy's two sons, a brooding young man named Brick (Paul Newman) and his childless wife Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor).
Brick is reticent and repressed for reasons unknown, and finds relief in alcohol. Beautiful Maggie is concerned that Brick's indifference to Big Daddy may cost them their share of the family inheritance, at the hands of Brick's brother and scheming sister-in-law. Adding fuel to the fire is Brick's prepubescent nieces and nephews, in-your-face brats, whom Maggie refers to, not kindly, as little "no-neck" monsters. Big Momma (Judith Anderson) just wants Big Daddy to be physically well, and for everyone to get along.
Of course, with a big inheritance on the line, tension erupts, first between Brick and Maggie, then later between them and everyone else. As the tension mounts, arguments erupt into a real down-home Southern soap opera.
The film's script is heavy on dialogue. But because of the story's thematic depth, the issues are interesting and insightful, and the script never seems talky. At the heart of the story is the subject of mendacity, of lies and not telling the truth. There is considerable emotional pain, expressed as anger, resentment, and sarcasm. The story, originated by Tennessee Williams, goes against its era, in that it contradicts the virtues of traditional family values and capitalism.
Casting and acting are quite good. But Burl Ives' performance is wonderful, and alone makes the film worth watching. Color cinematography is conventional. It's a slow-paced film with long camera "takes". Sets and production design are lavish.
Because the dreadful Hays Code censored much of the thematic content in 1958, the film's conclusion is weak and does not justify Brick's emotional state. This is not a criticism of the film, but of the Hays Code itself which, mercifully, was abolished in the 1960s.
Dripping with Southern atmosphere, and with a sultry jazz score, "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" is a terrific movie, for its thematic value, its cast, and the splendid performance of Burl Ives.
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