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
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.
Beautiful Gloria Wandrous, a New York fashion model engages in an illicit affair with married socialite Weston Liggett. However, Gloria's desire for respectability causes her to reconsider her lifestyle. Written by
In the normal scheme of things, lofty MGM wouldn't have touched John O'Hara's novel with a ten foot pole--but shortly before her contract was to end, MGM star Elizabeth Taylor besmirched her image by running off with Debbie Reynolds' husband Eddie Fisher. With her reputation in shreds and one foot outside the studio gate any way, MGM decided to capitalize on the bad press by casting Taylor as BUTTERFIELD 8's bad-girl-from-hell... and then, to add insult to injury, tucked Eddie Fisher into a supporting role and cast Debbie Reynolds look-alike Susan Oliver in the role of Eddie's girl friend, who feels threatened by Liz's manhungry ways. Liz fought the project tooth and nail, but MGM was adamant: she owed them another film, and she wasn't leaving until she made it.
BUTTERFIELD 8 is the story of Gloria Wandrous (Taylor), a hard-drinking, sexed-up, bed-hopping dress model who gets her kicks by seducing and then dumping men according to whim--until she encounters an unhappily married man just as hard and disillusioned as she in Weston Liggett (Laurence Harvey.) Although the production code was still somewhat in force, it had loosened up quite a bit since the days of NATIONAL VELVET, and while scenes stop short at the bedroom door they have plenty of sizzle while they walk up to it; moreover, every one in the film talks about sex so much you'd think it had just been invented. Taylor is on record saying that she considers the film a piece of trash, and she swears she has never actually seen it, that she would rather die than ever see it.
But something weird happened as the camera rolled. Taylor, doubtlessly driven by her fury at having to do the movie, gives a throw-away, over-the-top performance--but perversely, this is precisely what the role requires, and her performance was successful enough to earn her an Oscar. The supporting cast follows her lead, all of them performing in broad colors and bigger-than-life emotions, and again they too are quite successful, with Laurence Harvey and Dina Merrill (as his long suffering wife) particularly effective. Ultimately, of course, Elizabeth Taylor is quite right when she says the film is a piece of trash. But it is the best kind of trash because it is so completely trashy: BUTTERFIELD 8 doesn't just dive into the trash pile, it wallows in it with considerable conviction. Modern films of the same type may show more skin and more sex, but for sheer authority BUTTERFIELD 8 remains a standard against which most of them pale. Not every one will like it, but I recommend it all the same.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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