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Brick, the son of a rich southern plantation owner, is drinking himself to death over some hidden pain. His wife Maggie is desperate to regain his love. Brick's father, known as Big Daddy, has returned from a clinic where he has gone for serious health issues, but has been told he has a clean bill of health. Brick's brother and his scheming wife have hopes of inheriting the huge plantation. Eventually a long conversation between Brick and his father bring out all the lies that have been tearing the family apart. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Tennesee Williams is, without a doubt, one of the best writers of the 20th century. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has always been my personal favorite. This particular version first came out as part of a project that premium cable (Showtime I think) was doing in its early years. If I'm not mistaken, the performance was taped live in an effort to create a live theatrical atmosphere. I bring this up because it will explain to those who care why it looks so much like a soap opera, only with good writing.
Aside from the somewhat cheesy production level, this is one of the best adaptations I have ever seen of a play to television. It couldn't be better cast. The performances are excellent. Even the DX-7ish sounding music score has a sultry feel to it that matches the setting beautifully.
My first experience with this play was, like many I suppose, the film version with Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, and Burl Ives. Even in that watered down version, the play had power, so I went to rent it to check it out more thoroughly. The video store had this version of it instead. When it first played on TV, I was much too young to really appreciate the power and raw emotion of the story in its pure form. I never would have guessed the movie was so bad. Burl Ives, after all, played Big Daddy in the original production. Unfortunately, the people who made the movie were apparently either too scared or too hampered by censorship concerns and star egos to present a workable facsimile of the original. I can understand axing the ambiguously homosexual relationship that has cast Brick into his alcoholic nose dive, I suppose, though the story loses almost all of its power because of it. I cannot, however, understand giving Big Mama's only sympathetic line in the whole play over to Elizabeth Taylor, who now strikes me as badly miscast in the role.
I should point out, however, that even this version is not exactly what Williams wrote. In this case, though, that is to its benefit. Williams' original version did not have Big Daddy in the final scenes. The original director, Elia Kazan, wanted him back, so Williams, since he liked the character anyway, obliged him. The scene as rewritten, however, never struck me as quite as good as Williams' original effort. This version has taken the best of both of those versions, a few nicely written lines that were added to the movie version and melded them into a superb synthesis whose presentation is most assuredly greater than the sum of its parts. I hate hearing this play end any way other than Maggie telling Brick she loves him, and Brick replying, "Wouldn't it be funny if that was true?"
All in all, this was a magnificent effort. I only regret that premium cable did not keep up the good work.
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