Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

Unrated  |   |  Drama, Mystery, Thriller  |  22 December 1959 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 9,708 users  
Reviews: 115 user | 37 critic

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.


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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Dr. Lawrence J. Hockstader
Mavis Villiers ...
Patricia Marmont ...
Nurse Benson
Joan Young ...
Maria Britneva ...
Sheila Robbins ...
Dr. Hockstader's Secretary
David Cameron ...
Young Blonde Interne


A wealthy harridan, Violet Venable, attempts to bribe Dr. Cukrowicz, a young psycho-surgeon from a New Orleans mental hospital that is desperately in need of funds, into lobotomizing her niece, Catherine Holly. Violet wants the operation performed in order to prevent Catherine from defiling the memory of her son, the poet Sebastian. Catherine has been babbling obscenely about Sebastian's mysterious death that she witnessed while on holiday together in Spain the previous summer. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Suddenly, last summer, Cathy knew she was being used for something evil! See more »


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

22 December 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

De repente en el verano  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$3,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Vivien Leigh rejected the role of Violet Venable before Katharine Hepburn was cast. See more »


Violet's hand jumps from her neck to her mouth when she tells the doctor that Sebastian had been looking for hungry birds. See more »


Dr. Lawrence J. Hockstader: She burnt a nun with a cigarette.
Dr. Cukrowicz: Yes she did, I was there, I saw it, she was provoked!
Dr. Lawrence J. Hockstader: Provoked? Whover would provoke a mentally disturbed person?
Dr. Cukrowicz: You'd be surprised.
See more »


Featured in Sex at 24 Frames Per Second (2003) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Born to play Tennessee Willams
2 November 2006 | by (Derry, Ireland) – See all my reviews

This screen version, by Joseph L Mankiewicz, of Tennessee Williams' play isn't as highly thought of as it should be. It's not a classic and on occasions it comes over as crude and stilted, but it also has many fine things going for it. Although he never really opens it out, Mankiewicz gives it a fluency that isn't at all theatrical and although he often films scenes intimately and between only two characters, he ensures it is photographed and cut in a very cinematic fashion.

Unfortunately, one of the two people on screen during these 'cinematic' sequences is Montgomery Clift who is at his worst here. It was after his accident and he looks as if he's in pain. When he walks it's as if there is a board up his back and he talks as if out of the side of his mouth. Luckily, with him in these scenes is either Elizabeth Taylor or Katharine Hepburn or both and when they are on screen you don't pay too much attention to Clift.

Dilys Powell said Elizabeth Taylor was born to play Tennessee Williams and she was right. Indeed this may be her best performance after "Virginia Woolf". Catherine's lines don't have the kind of poetry in them that Violet Venable's does but Taylor finds a poetry of her own in her readings. She builds on her long speech at the end and is very moving, even if Mankiewicz can't resist 'showing' us, in flashbacks, what Taylor is telling us, as if he doesn't trust an audience to sit still and just listen to Taylor. (They would have to in the theatre).

As Violet, Hepburn has the showier part and she milks it for all it's worth. It's a great piece of acting because Violet never seems to be acting, though she tends to think of her life as a kind of performance, something she has passed on to her homosexual son, Sebastian. (If the old adage, 'my mother made me a homosexual', has any validity you don't have to look any further than here). She enters from above, descending in her small baroque lift, and Hepburn can see the comic potential in such an entrance. Moments later, however, she is recounting how the sea-turtles were devoured by flesh-eating birds in the Galapogos, and you can see just how dangerously unstable this woman really is.

Any film that has acting of this calibre automatically qualifies as worth seeking out, (you forgive the lame work of Clift and Gary Raymond and draw a blind over Mercedes McCambridge, though Albert Dekker is very fine), but this qualifies on other grounds; as one of the better Tennessee Williams adaptations, (he co-wrote it with Gore Vidal), as a flawed, dated but strangely fascinating example of how Hollywood viewed homosexuality at the time, (negatively, naturally, but any face, no matter how horribly distorted, so long as it was in the public gaze, was better than no face at all), and as a serious addition to the Joe Mankiewicz canon.

25 of 35 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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