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134 user 44 critic

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

Approved | | Drama, Mystery, Thriller | January 1960 (USA)
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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.

Writers:

Tennessee Williams (play), Gore Vidal (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Elizabeth Taylor ... Catherine Holly
Katharine Hepburn ... Mrs. Venable
Montgomery Clift ... Dr. Cukrowicz
Albert Dekker ... Dr. Hockstader
Mercedes McCambridge ... Mrs. Holly
Gary Raymond ... George Holly
Mavis Villiers ... Miss Foxhill
Patricia Marmont Patricia Marmont ... Nurse Benson
Joan Young Joan Young ... Sister Felicity
Maria Britneva ... Lucy
Sheila Robins Sheila Robins ... Dr. Hockstader's Secretary (as Sheila Robbins)
David Cameron David Cameron ... Young Blonde Interne
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

These are powers and passions without precedent in motion pictures! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

January 1960 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Plötzlich im letzten Sommer See more »

Filming Locations:

Begur, Girona, Catalonia, Spain See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$3,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$13,897,500
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Screenwriter Gore Vidal credits film critic Bosley Crowther with the success of this film. Crowther wrote a scathing review denouncing the film as the work of degenerates obsessed with rape, incest, homosexuality, and cannibalism among other qualities. Vidal believes advertising such salacious detail made audiences flock in droves to the film. See more »

Goofs

The doctor's hands change position when he tells Hockstader that he needs more time. See more »

Quotes

Catherine Holly: [being sedated] Who was it that said we were all a bunch of kindergarteners trying to spell God's name with the wrong alphabet blocks?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in What's My Line?: James Cagney (1960) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Born to play Tennessee Willams
2 November 2006 | by MOscarbradleySee 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.


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