Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun.
Elizabeth Taylor never looked more beautiful than she does in this classic black and white George Stevens production. She was nineteen years old and her ravishing sex appeal was in full bloom. Her unique ability to be an angelic young girl and a voluptuous worldly woman at the same time was never more evident than in the scene where she comforts a troubled Monty Clift with the whispered utterance, 'Tell momma.' It's an incredibly sensuous screen moment.
Montgomery Clift stars as George Eastman, poor relation to the rich Eastman family. After a chance encounter with his rich uncle he is offered a job at the family business. He starts off working on an assembly line where, against company policy, he starts a relationship with one of the factory girls, Alice Tripp (Shelly Winters). Before long, however, he is spending time with his wealthy relatives where he meets and is instantly smitten by the impossibly beautiful Angela Vickers (Taylor). George's place in the sun seems assured, except that Alice doesn't want to let him go. Everything comes to a tragic head over Labor Day weekend at the Vickers lakeside home.
The acting in A Place in the Sun is flawless. Montgomery Clift does some of the finest acting of his career, he is especially convincing during several phone call scenes. He completely embodies the confused young protagonist of Theodore Drieser's novel. Liz Taylor makes Angela Vickers every straight man's dream girl. She is virtually perfect in every way but manages to make you believe she genuinely loves George Eastman. Shelly Winters is incredibly pathetic and annoying as Alice Tripp, which is exactly what the part calls for. In fact, the only over-the-top performance comes from Raymond Burr (in his pre-Perry Mason days) as the overly dramatic prosecuting attorney. Just listen to the way he repeats, 'Didn't you Eastman?' in an incredibly accusatory tone.
The pacing may be a bit slow for many viewers, but the emotional impact of the movie is worth the wait. The class issues may seem outdated in the 21st Century but what a picture book pretty time capsule to be captured in. The AFI chose this movie among their 100 greatest American films and who am I to disagree? If you have never seen this classic, get ready for a gripping emotional roller coaster.
Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun.
A Place in the Sun is, as Patrick says, a good movie. If it has a problem at all than it is its tendency to be overly dramatic at times, especially near the conclusion. And while yes, parts of the movie are dated by the attitudes expressed; it isn't enough to detract from the overall movie.
Patrick did a good job summing up its strengths and weaknesses, but I have to fault him in a couple of places.
While I agree that Liz is hot in this movie, I think she was hotter still seven years later in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I also don't think I truly believed, despite Patrick's claims to the contrary, that Angela ever really loved George. Oh, she might have loved him, but only in a young girl's infatuated crush sort of way. However, she perfectly portrays and embodies all that George Eastman desires in life.
The thing that dates this movie isn't the class structure, which is still alive and well and thriving in this country today, but rather the sexual attitudes. In today's world, George would have told Alice to 'take a hike cause I'm trading upwards' and no one would have thought him the worse for it. Well, ok some people might have thought him the worse, but not in a way that would endanger his chances for future happiness. It's the scene at the doctor's office when Alice asks about an abortion that is the most dated.
But lest Patrick think I'm slamming his review, let me hasten to add that he also got a bunch of things right. Monty is great in this movie. At times you are supposed to be horrified by his actions and motives, but he is so sympathetic that you yearn for him to succeed. He really carries this movie and it is his performance more than anything else that makes it a classic.
Patrick was also right in saying that Shelly Winters is incredibly pathetic and annoying as Alice Tripp, only that might be too mild of a statement. I can honestly say that I have never before or after watching this movie found any film character to be more pathetic or annoying than her. If the AFI ever gets around to the 100 Most Annoying Characters than she's got a lock on the number one spot.
As for Raymond Burr's small part, again Patrick is correct. Burr hams it up so much that he is quite unintentionally funny. Just when you think he can't go any further over the top, he goes and brings a boat into the courtroom. When that happens, he is so far over the top that to him, the top is just a tiny little speck in the distance.
With all this melo-drama going on, it is only thanks to Monty that the movie remains grounded and gripping through out its full length. Because in the end, all you really want to know is whether or not he will find his place in the sun.
Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun.
As my brothers wrote, this movie is all about the cast and characters. First and foremost, I have to defend Alice Tripp. Monty uses her as a cum dump and gets her knocked up. This was the early 1950's. A single mother was something to be very ashamed of then. Many folks would have put her on the same level as a hooker. Her desperate attempt to get Monty to marry her are very legit.
Taylor plays a Paris Hilton type debutante whose big worry is whether or not the cottage on the lake will be ready for summer vacation. All she ever comments on is the next social event. She has about as much aspirations as a elementary school girl playing dress-up. George's interest in her are completely superficial.
This movie belongs to Clift and it hinders on his charm. Had a less charismatic actor played the part of George Eastman, he would be considered an outright villain. He disobeys the company policy and dates, sleeps with and impregnates a co-worker. Then he lies his ass off to her while he plays patty cake with a rich Barbie doll. Then there is the whole lake incident. Only because Monty is so charming do we care at all about George.
I also agree with Scott on the class system so readily displayed here. Today's politics of taxing the rich to give freebies to the poor make this movie very relevant to today. This movie shows the grotesque rich and the helpless poor. Is that not the very platform that today's liberal politicians stand on when they beg for votes?
Photos © Copyright Paramount Pictures (1951)