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.
The only son of wealthy widow Violet Venable dies while on vacation with his cousin Catherine. What the girl saw was so horrible that she went insane; now Mrs. Venable wants Catherine lobotomized to cover up the truth.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Drifter Chance Wayne returns to his hometown after many years of trying to make it in the movies. Arriving with him is a faded film star he picked up along the way, Alexandra Del Lago. ... See full summary »
The family of "Big Daddy" Pollitt convenes at his and Big Momma's vast 28,000 acre East Mississippi plantation for his sixty-fifth birthday, although it may as well be for his funeral on the belief that he is dying. Despite his latest medical report being clean, in reality he truly does have terminal colon cancer, something the doctor only tells Big Daddy's two sons, Gooper Pollitt, a lawyer, and Brick Pollitt, who recently left his job as a sportscaster. Brooding Brick and his wife Maggie Pollitt, who have driven up from New Orleans for the occasion, are going through a long rough patch in their marriage. Brick wanted to split, but Maggie convinced him to stay married on the condition that she not pressure him for sex. In their troubles, Brick has turned to the bottle, leading to a drunken incident which has left Brick currently on crutches. Maggie believes Gooper and his wife Mae Pollitt are trying to orchestrate Brick out of Big Daddy's will. Brick and Maggie's saving grace is Big ... Written by
Much has been made of the differences between Tennessee Williams' play and this film--the homoerotic themes have been driven further into subtext (though not eliminated entirely) and a more upbeat ending was added. The changes were necessary when the film was made; although theater and literary purists decry the "sanitizing" or censorship of plays when they are adapted for the screen, in some cases (such as this one) the changes can improve the work in question. "Cat" on film is clearer, for one thing. Tennessee Williams plays tend to be "cluttered" in their original form. They are also cynically downbeat; if that type of story appeals to one, this adaptation might be off-putting.
As with all theatrical adaptations, many of the scenes are excessively talky, especially the Brick/Big Daddy scenes in the second act. Some of the highlights are just as wordy but thoroughly enjoyable rather than tedious (especially Maggie's story about Mae's reign as Cotton Carnival Queen and the entire scene in the basement). All of the performances are excellent, though Paul Newman as Brick is less flashy; it's not really until the basement scene that one feels his talent is given a workout. Elizabeth Taylor is an emotional rollercoaster, venturing from flirtatious to hectoring to wheedling to calm to grasping to tender, often within a single scene, and yet she never slips the rails. Watching films from this period (her career peak), one wonders what happened to turn her into the vague, bleary-eyed woman we see today. Judith Anderson's Big Mama is loud, coarse, and bossy, but completely sympathetic both in the scene with the birthday cake and in the confrontation scene at the end. When Big Daddy invites her along with him at the end, it is every bit as welcome to the viewer as it is to her. Burl Ives is the most towering of all; the emotional growth in the film is as much his as it is Brick's. Jack Carson and Madeleine Sherwood are every bit as good despite being relegated to comic relief at times.
My favorite aspect of this story, however, is the social dynamic. Brick and Maggie are spoiled, young, "beautiful people" who have yet to take on any responsibility, while Gooper and Mae are the epitome of a serious young family. Brick is an alcoholic former football player, while Gooper is a corporate lawyer. Despite these obvious differences, however, both their parents and the audience (and Tennessee Williams, obviously) clearly prefer Brick and Maggie. Every aspect of Gooper and Mae's personalities, even those which bespeak traditional values, are portrayed as petty and unimaginative. Even if one believes that Gooper and Mae have done all the right things, they have done them for the wrong reasons. Thus the theme of the story is most clearly presented: all that is important is to love and to express that love.
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