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.
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.
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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
A wealthy harridan, Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn), attempts to bribe Dr. John Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift), a young psycho-surgeon from a New Orleans, Louisiana mental hospital that is desperately in need of funds, into lobotomizing her niece, Catherine Holly (Dame Elizabeth Taylor). Violet wants the operation performed in order to prevent Catherine from defiling the memory of her son, the poet Sebastian (Julián Ugarte). Catherine has been babbling obscenely about Sebastian's mysterious death that she witnessed while on vacation together in Spain the previous summer.Written by
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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