Movie Review: “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” Richard Brooks 1958

Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Burl Ives

Personal Blurb-style Intro (aka “Why I picked up this dvd”):

It’s a classic. My Uncle Michael recommended this movie to me. I am recommending it to you. “Recommend” is an understatement in both instances; it is a must-see!

Summary:

Based on the award winning play of the same name by Tennessee Williams, all you need to know about this movie is that the carefully crafted dialog is matched only by the fiery intensity brought to the screen by the stars. Elizabeth Taylor is stunning and effective in her role of “Maggie the Cat.” Paul Newman’s eyes have thirty different shades of blue as his character “Brick” thrashes around inside his youthful physique, daring time to move on to a world he no longer recognizes. Burl Ives commands your attention, if not your oddly placed affection, as “Big Daddy.” The supporting performances are dynamic as well. Judith Anderson holds the family together as “Big Momma,” and is the perfect complement to the tyrannical Big Daddy. Jack Carson and Madeleine Sherwood add color and tension as Brick’s brother “Gooper” and sister-in-law “Mae” or “Sister woman,” respectively.

As I watch this movie, I am mesmerized by Burl Ives. He is so lithe and transformative; at times he melts into the background, acting as the inner voice we wish would guide us more directly. At other times he is commanding and coarse, saying truths cruelly to his most beloved family members. His face displays such open vulnerability, but only in glimpses – the moment of his birthday cake delivery and when he reminisces about his father; yet he has drastically different reactions that follow each moment. Which Big Daddy is the truth? Can we be so multi-faceted and still live with integrity?

Lastly, I really enjoy Elizabeth Taylor and the role she carries. Maggie is a strong, determined woman who acts on what she believes she wants from life; love, a financially secure home, and family. She has a comically contradictory relationship with Gooper and Mae’s antagonizing children – watch for the scene where Maggie smears ice cream into a little girl’s face! Yet, Maggie does want children. For me this is significant because I am a woman who grew up during the third-wave-feminism backlash, and living in the current climate where all women are expected to love all children, it is refreshing to see a portrayal of a woman who wants her own children but doesn’t need to concede defeat to becoming a mother like the orderly, over-bearing mother Mae.

Best Lines:

Maggie: “I’m not living with you! We occupy the same cage, that’s all.”

Dr. Baugh, played by Larry Gates: “Sometimes I wish I had a pill to make people disappear.”

Big Daddy: “I wanna think clear. I wanna see everything and I wanna feel everything. Then I won’t mind goin’. I’ve got the guts to die, what I wanna know is if you’ve got the guts to live!”

Big Daddy (to Brick): “I’ll outlive you. I’ll bury you. I’ll buy your coffin!”

Maggie: “Oh I’m more determined than you think. I’ll win all right.” Brick: “Win what? What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof?” Maggie: “Just stayin’ on it, I guess. Long as she can.”

Big Daddy: “But it’s always there in the morning, isn’t it? The Truth! And it’s here now.”

Maggie: “Not looking at a fire doesn’t put it out.”

Big Daddy: “Truth is Pain, and Sweat, and Paying bills, and Making love to a woman you don’t love anymore. The Truth is Dreams that don’t come true and nobody prints your name in the paper until you die.”

Big Daddy: “What’s that smell in this room? Didn’t you notice it Brick? Didn’t you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity?”

Big Daddy: “I hate sneakin’ and spyin’. It makes me PUKE!”

Themes:

Personal Responsibility.

Legacy.

What is love – actions, intentions, feelings?

Truth v. Mendacity: who has control of the truth, how is the idea of truth manipulated. Pretenses and hypocrisy = staying with the same woman and going to church.

Grown-ups v. children.

Shame.

Fashion of Elizabeth Taylor! No, seriously, she is gorgeous. Women and their figures are actually a theme, though. Also, the role of women in the family, to endure the cruelties of their husbands and all the while holding onto some sense of love. Big Daddy, Gooper and Brick each have at least once scene of significantly cruel dialog to his spouse, and the spouses each show her hurt, but each keeps fighting for her man, too. Pay attention to the scenes where the husband and wife have their backs to one another.

Use of Sound: Music, Children, Radio, Thunder.

Power and Locked Doors.

IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051459/

See also:  http://www.filmsite.org/cato.html

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2 Comments

Filed under Movie Review

2 responses to “Movie Review: “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” Richard Brooks 1958

  1. Katie Tyser

    Damn, that’s a quality review! You could have a future in this:)

  2. MBSmith

    I think that my work here is done.

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