Movie Review

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Every sultry moment of Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize winning play is now on screen!
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Movie Poster

US Release Date: 09-20-1958

Directed by: Richard Brooks


  • Elizabeth Taylor
  • Maggie Pollitt
  • Paul Newman
  • Brick Pollitt
  • Burl Ives
  • Big Daddy
  • Jack Carson
  • Gooper Pollitt
  • Judith Anderson
  • Big Momma
  • Madeleine Sherwood
  • Mae Pollitt
  • Larry Gates
  • Dr. Baugh
  • Vaughn Taylor
  • Deacon Davis
Average Stars:
Reviewed on: September 20th, 2001
Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

A powerful and complex Tennessee Williams drama starring Elizabeth Taylor as the sexually frustrated Maggie the Cat and Paul Newman as Brick her stoic ex-football hero husband. Burl Ives painfully recreates his stage role as the terminal Big Daddy. The supporting cast, including Jack Carson, Judith Anderson and Madeleine Sherwood as Brotherman, Sisterwoman and Big Momma, all give fine readings.

The story concerns one pivotal evening in the lives of a wealthy Mississippi family. It's Big Daddy's 65th Birthday and he's dying of cancer. Only he doesn't know it yet. Everyone else, except of course for Big Momma, does however. This and other revelations occur over the course of a few hours. The times being what they were, Brick's homosexuality is never uttered in so many words, yet it is easy enough to read between the lines.

Though both Newman and Ives have more screen time, it is the obnoxiously luminous Taylor that dominates every scene she's in. As Maggie the Cat she spits, hisses and scratches. As Brick tells her 'Your claws are showing Maggie.'

This high drama is anchored with laughs, such as Maggie's insistence on referring to her brother-in-law's children as 'The little no neck monster's.'

Tennessee Williams has written a multi-layered story full of vivid people and prosaic dialogue. Like a great painting this picture can be viewed many times.

Reviewed on: September 20th, 2002
Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

The first time I watched this movie, many years ago, when I was quite young, I must confess that except for thinking Liz looked hot in a slip, I found little else to enjoy. It therefore came as quite a shock that when I sat down to watch this movie for only the second time, just how much I really enjoyed it. Apparently my 13 year old self simply missed much of the story here, since as Patrick mentioned, this is a multi-layered story, with most of the good bits lying just below the surface.

One of the many great things about this movie is it's absence of an ordinary plot. The plot of this movie is all psychological and emotional. It's about Big Daddy coming to terms with his mortality, Brick coming to terms with the guilt he feels over the death of his lover, and Maggie and Brick coming to terms with their past and their future. It is these emotional dealings that make up the plot. The rest is just stuff that happens during that day.

While I agree with Patrick that Liz dominates the scenes she is in with Newman, it is hardly surprising. During many of her conversations with Brick, his lines seem limited to 'Really Maggie?' or 'Why don't you, Maggie?' All the overt emotion comes from her. However, in Newman's scenes with Ives, he truly shines, displaying quite a range.

Due to the times, as Patrick mentioned, Brick's homo-sexuality must be inferred rather than having it spelled out for you. Which in a way only adds to the movie's depth. Too often, particularly in these open days when anything may be discussed, everything is so obvious that there is no surface to look beneath.

And the final thing that surprised me during my second watching of this great movie is just how entertaining it is. The caustic humor provided by Sister-Woman and her horrible brood of children contains some laugh out loud moments and Maggie's stinging one liners directed at them are positively classic, as is the rest of this movie.

Reviewed on: September 20th, 2003
Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

I both agree and disagree with my brother's opinions. I agree that the dialogue is good. 'I got a million different feelings left in me and I wanna use them all.' Spouts the terminal Big Daddy. 'I'm not living with you. We're occupying the same cage, thats all!' Maggie shouts at Brick.

I am not a big fan of Taylor, but she does a remarkable job here. Maggie is a horny, neglected, strong willed, gold-digger who actually loves Brick. Taylor plays all these and other emotions well throughout the movie.

Newman is awesome. As Scott wrote, he really only shines in the second act. When he must confront his problems, he allows his character to literally make an emotional metamorphoses right there on the screen. He goes from a repressed drunken child to a sober, wounded man.

With Brick, Williams uses the simplest yet most effective symbolism. Brick hurt himself jumping hurdles and now uses a crutch. Brick is emotionally hurt so he uses alcohol as his crutch. Simply brilliant.

Now, I take exception to Brick's supposed homosexuality. Let's look at the evidence. He and Skipper were close. He was hurt deeply when Skipper died. Brick was upset to think that Maggie slept with him. Brick is unwilling - not unable - to sleep with Maggie. At the end of the movie, or the end of Brick's therapy, Brick appears ready and able to have sex with Maggie. I believe Skipper was in love with Brick, but Brick did not return the affection, and thus Skipper killed himself.

I agree with Scott that this movie is actually better because it does not spell everything out so clearly. Skipper is described as Brick's hero. Perhaps Brick sexually experimented with Skipper? However, Brick so easily changes in the movie that to say he is gay at the beginning of the movie and then have him switch teams is ridiculous. To assume he is gay, is to say that men can't have deep, emotional friendships. A man could be just as scarred for failing a friend as he could be for failing a lover.