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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
Patricia Neal played the lead role to so much acclaim on the London stage she was sure she would be given the part in the film adaptation, even without her agent promoting her the job. She then woke up in shock to find Elizabeth Taylor had been assigned the role. See more »
At the films opening a title says, "1935" but the films hair, makeup and costumes are obviously 1959. See more »
In 1930's New Orleans, a wealthy and eccentric older woman named Mrs. Venable (Katharine Hepburn), wants a surgeon (Montgomery Clift) to perform a lobotomy on her niece (Elizabeth Taylor), for reasons that become clear toward the end of the film. This macabre Tennessee Williams story, with overlapping adult themes, must surely have been a shock to audiences in 1959. The film provides a great vehicle for the talents of both Hepburn whose acting is engaging, and Taylor whose performance is superb.
The Mankiewicz script is very talky. The characters of both Hepburn and Taylor engage in lengthy and at times tedious monologues. In all that talking, at least there are some really good lines. My favorite is near the beginning. In a nonchalant tone, Mrs. Venable tells us about the daily vicissitudes of Lady, the Venus flytrap that Mrs. Venable keeps in her garden. "Lady must be kept under glass, and while she is under glass, we have to provide her with flies, flown in at great expense." Priceless.
As one would expect for a film derived from a stage play, cinematography and music are less important than dialogue and acting. "Suddenly Last Summer" is worth viewing for its unusual story, and for the acting accomplishments of Hepburn and Taylor.
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