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CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958)
Feuding members of a greedy and self-destructive Southern family scramble to ingratiate themselves with rich, dying patriarch Harvey "Big Daddy" Pollitt (Burl Ives) in this Oscar-nominated film of Tennessee Williams's blistering stage drama, directed by Richard Brooks. Paul Newman stars as the sullen and alcoholic ex-football star Brick Pollitt, whose self-pity and drunken anger threaten not just his inheritance, but also his marriage to the provocative Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor).
CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF was nominated for the Best Picture award.
With "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof," Director Richard Brooks provided a brilliant look at greed, life, love, sex, regret and alcoholism in this memorable southern drama.
"All the sultry drama of Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize winning Play is now on the screen!"
This powerful story tells the tale of a southern family's response to the news that "Big Daddy" Pollitt (Burl Ives), is dying of cancer, though Big Daddy doesn't know it. His doctor, Dr. Baugh (Larry Gates) has told him that it is in remission, but Gooper and Brick know the true prognosis. For Big Daddy's birthday, his two sons, Gooper and Brick and their wives come for a visit. Gooper (Jack Carson) and Mae (Madeleine Sherwood), who have a lot of "no-neck monster" kids, really want to inherit Big Daddy's millions. Meanwhile, Brick (Newman), nursing a broken leg and a bottle, mourns the loss of a his very close friend,(with whom he had an abnormal friendship with), whom he thinks had an affair with his wife. Brick ignores his wife, Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor), who he despises on several levels. Maggie dearly loves Brick, and is frustrated by his unjustified nasty behavior. She is feeling like a cat on a hot tin roof. While Gooper and Mae, and their children suck up to Big Daddy, Brick refuses to do so, though he is Big Daddy's favorite son.
Big Daddy finds himself in a pickle. While Brick is his favorite son, Brick has a lot of personal problems, making him not a good candidate to will everything that Big Daddy worked so hard to attain. Brick has never grown up, and now is also a drunk, who recently quit his job. Brick is suspected of having homosexual tendencies, because he had too close a relationship with his late friend, Skip, and he had stopped having sexual relations with his wife, Maggie. Big Daddy is forced to consider leaving his money to the back-stabbing money grubbers, Gooper and family, because they would keep things going in a responsible manner, insuring Big Daddy's legacy. Gooper is successful, but still craves his father's approval , as well as his Dad's money. Big Daddy finally takes on the role of father, and does his best to try to straighten Brick out, in order to get him back on track, before it's too late.
.The film is a classic because of the timeless story, (brilliantly adapted by Brooks and James Poe, from the Tennessee Williams play), its exceptional cast, and marvelous direction by Richard Brooks, who understands good drama. He also directed such films as "Sweet Bird of Youth," "Blackboard Jungle," and "Looking for Mr. Goodbar."
The riveting screenplay hooks the audience right away as the tension between characters entices but is not explained right away. As the story progresses, secrets and feelings are revealed at appropriate moments that explain this family's dysfunctional dynamics that are of nightmare proportions. Much can be picked up by paying attention to what is going on in the background. The homosexual undertone that existed between Brick and Skipper can be picked up if one pays attention, though in this film this unnaturally close attachment between these two men is explained as being a result of this family's dysfunctional ability to show love, headed by Big Daddy.
Tennessee William's works never portray happy, functional families, and this is a powerful story about another dysfunctional family, (the Pollitt clan) that makes the audience realize that their problems in their own families aren't so bad after all. William's characters, true to form, are strong, well-developed characterizations, that each have strengths and flaws, giving the cast terrific inspiration to do their very best work. The dialog is razor sharp, the acting is superb, and the twists in the plot makes this fussing, conniving feuding southern family very believable.
This is one of those rare films where all the performances from this talented cast were perfect and searing efforts, seen both in their individual and ensemble work, which is mesmerizing and makes the screenplay sparkle with dramatic energy, igniting the screen, and fascinating the audience.
Paul Newman gives a terrific performance as the unhappy Brick, stuck in a marriage to a woman that he thinks slept with his close friend Skip, and feels she is after the family money as well. Brick medicates himself with booze. Newman displays more than what was envisioned for his part by the screenwriters, which must of made them insanely happy. Some feel he steals the show, as his talent as an actor is fully showcased in this plum of a part.
Burl Ives, gives a terrific, convincing supporting actor performance, as the patriarch of this messed up family, who is well aware of the character weaknesses of his boys, and who realizes a huge flaw of his own in the cellar scene. He must make some difficult choices for the sake of his own highly prized legacy. Ives' performance shows versatility, as he is sometimes funny, mean as a skunk, nice, self-centered, conflicted & domineering, bellowing his thoughts, no matter who he hurts. Ives is more than convincing as he portrays a tough as nails man who by his own strength keeps his family together by his own strong will and faith in himself, despite the physical and emotional pain he is in. Despite his faults, Big Daddy rises to the occasion, when he is most needed as a father.
My favorite scenes take place between Ives and Newman. Determined to find out what has Brick so upset, and eating him up inside, Ives has a father-son talk in the living room, where Ives courageously drags it out of Brick what has gotten him so upset. As the tortured, alcoholic Newman complains to Ives about the mendacity, the lies he must cope with, Ives lets into Newman, letting the younger man know of the lies, he, Big Daddy, must endure. More truths are brought out and admitted, and Brick has an epiphany about his problems. The beginning of a new bond between father and son forms. Their second father - son talk happens in the cellar, where they dramatically explore what has been wrong with their relationship and why. Both are changed men at the end. This is high wattage screen acting of a high order.
Famous Big Daddy Quote: "What's that smell in this room? Didn't you notice it, Brick? Didn't you notice the powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room?"
Elizabeth Taylor gives one of her finest performances, and sizzles on screen, playing a woman stuck in a horrible, almost unbearable marriage from hell to a disturbed man whom she dearly loves, but that she never should have married in the first place. Because of his suspicions about her behavior with Skip, Brick won't make love with her, she must endure the disgrace of not having any children, to add insult to injury. She also has to put up with the self-centered, hateful shallow family of Gooper, personified by her hateful sister-in -law, Mae (Madeleine Sherwood). Taylor shows the audience that she really can act. An added plus to her performance is when she is sometimes in her slip, being sexier than a barrel of naked starlets. Who could resist her? Only a man who has serious issues, displayed delicately by today's standards, but was considered to be provocative for its time, in a 1958 film.
Brick: "Now, you keep forgetting the conditions under which I agreed to stay on living with you!"
Maggie: "I'm not living with you! We occupy the same cage, that's all."
Taylor and Newman together are dynamite in their scenes together, fully bringing to life their characters' dilemmas and the frustration and unhappiness they both feel in their life together. Through it all, Taylor remains loyal to Newman, and is there when he eventually regains his senses.
Judith Anderson does a wonderful job as "Big Mama," who does her best to keep her family together, and love a husband who can't show love to anyone, let alone her. When she brings "Big Daddy's birthday party up to Brick's room, Big Daddy says some very hurtful things to her, and the look on her face breaks your heart, as she is cut to her soul.
Madeleine Sherwood is absolutely great as the money grubber, all-around nasty sister-in-law from hell, who has orchestrated her children to be "trained monkeys" forever singing annoying songs for "Big Daddy," and saying bratty and disrespectful things to their Aunt Maggie and Uncle Brick. She is the one motivating Gooper to try to get Big Mama to sign the will papers which would give the whole estate to Gooper's family.
The screenwriters created a happy ending to please the studio, which does work well, because of the results of the father-son talks between Big Daddy and Brick, which in turn changed their behaviors toward other family members, as well as between themselves.
If you enjoyed CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF you may like KEY LARGO, ORDINARY PEOPLE, PARENTHOOD, WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOLF?, STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH, THE BOYS IN THE BAND, THE LION IN WINTER, LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, and GIANT.