Brick Pollitt (Paul Newman), an alcoholic ex-football player, drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife, Maggie (Dame Elizabeth Taylor). His reunion with his father, Big Daddy (Burl Ives), 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
Honest and hard-working Texas rancher Homer Bannon has a conflict with his unscrupulous, selfish, arrogant and egotistical son Hud, who sank into alcoholism after accidentally killing his brother in a car crash.
The family of "Big Daddy" Pollitt (Burl Ives) convenes at his and Big Momma's (Dame Judith Anderson's). Among the attendees is alcoholic son, Brick (Paul Newman); an ex-football player, who spends his time drinking and avoiding the ministries of his libidinous wife, Maggie (Dame Elizabeth Taylor) - "the cat". As this gathering isn't so much as a gathering but a farewell (Big Daddy is terminally ill) a lot of memories and revelations which had been hidden come to the surface of both father and son.Written by
When Paul Newman agreed to play the role of Brick Pollitt, he was under the impression this movie would simply adapt the original script into a screenplay. When the screenplay deviated wildly from the stage text over Tennessee Williams' objections, Newman expressed his disappointment. See more »
Maggie removes the gift card from the envelope twice. See more »
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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