Thrilling performances by Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, and Burl Ives make this adaptation of Tennessee Williams' story about a wealthy plantation owner succumbing to cancer, one of the most acclaimed movies in history. ... more »Year: 1958 Director: Richard Brooks Starring: Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Burl Ives, Jack Carson, Dame Judith Anderson« less
"Tennessee William's play, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", was considered so controversial that its Broadway producers forced the playwright to alter the third act. Either in spite of or because of the changes, the play was a huge hit. Even with the changes, it had to be further watered down for Hollywood's 1958 movie version. Once more, it was a boxoffice smash. It went on to garner six Oscar nominations, including Best Actress for Elizabeth Taylor and Best Actor for Paul Newman. Despite the industry's timidity back then, the movie was a searing, powerful drama about a family in crisis. That it remains so to this day, despite massive changes in social values and mores over the years, is a credit to its brilliant cast and to its director, Richard Brooks. Brick and Maggie [Newman and Taylor] have come to his father's big plantation in Mississippi to celebrate the old man's 65th birthday. Everyone calls him Big Daddy, and as portrayed by Burl Ives, he truly is a larger than life figure. Brick's brother, Gooper [Jack Carson], his wife, Mae [Madeleine Sherwood], and their five `little no-neck monsters" are also there. Big Daddy has just returned from several weeks at a clinic where he was treated for cancer. He thinks he is cured, but the doctors have lied to him. He's unlikely to see his next birthday. Rivalry and intrigue abound among the siblings and their families as everyone fights over who will take over the plantation. Brick has major problems of his own. The former star athlete drinks too much, refuses the advances and affection of the gorgeous and calculating Maggie because he blames her for his best friend's suicide, and is bitter about his father, who doesn't seem to love him or anyone else. Brick is also hobbling around on crutches, having recently tripped while trying to leap a hurdle one drunken night. Through all the bickering and fighting, his mother, Big Mama [Judith Anderson], tries desperately to hold onto whatever happiness and dignity the family still possesses. But a storm of confrontations is brewing, and she's powerless to stop it. The `shocking' element that was changed was the revelation that Brick and his friend had been lovers and that Maggie's `crime' was her attempt to eliminate her rival. This was changed to the friend's killing himself because he was weak. I think when you know this, you can easily see what is going on underneath the surface between Brick and Maggie. It also makes the characters more understandable and believable. Their constant fighting makes more sense. The story becomes about more than greed, power, money and land. It becomes about the power of the human heart. "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" is highly recommended, script changes notwithstanding."
Every line filled with tension, and the acting is wondeful!
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 04/05/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play was nominated for six academy awards in 1959. It stars Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie, rejected over and over by her alcoholic husband, Brick, played by Paul Newman. His father, Big Daddy, played by Burl Ives, has just returned to his Mississippi mansion after exploratory surgery. There's bitter rivalry in the family as they speculate about his death. Jack Carson plays the older son, who, with his pregnant wife, played by Madeline Sherwood and their five obnoxious children are determined to inherit Big Daddy's fortune. But Big Daddy despises him, as he does his own wife of 40 years, Big Mama, played by Judith Anderson.As this film was originally a play, most of it is sharp and cutting dialogue, every line filled with tension and double meanings. Close-ups reveal the artistry of the actors, all of whom are excellent. I especially liked Burl Ives, whose performance called for a wide range of emotions, showing his vulnerability as well as his strength. And as the characters battled with each other, the story, which I understand was rewritten to fall within the guidelines of 1950s censors, slowly revealed itself. Some critics say this ruined this movie adaptation. I can't comment on that because I though the story was great. Most of the film takes place inside a house and there's almost no physical action. Not necessary. The dialog does it all. And it does it well. Recommended."
Linda Linguvic | 10/15/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Richard Brooks' 1958 screen adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof finds its greatest merit in its actors. Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Burl Ives, Judith Anderson, Jack Carson, and Madeline Sherwood give award winning performances as the members of the dysfunctional Pollitt family. Set at the plantation Big Daddy built from the ground up and centering around his sixty-fifth birthday celebration, Cat on A Hot Tin Roof delves into the "mendacity" surrounding this Southern family. All the family has gathered, not so much for the party, but for the news of Big Daddy's medical condition...and of course, to protect their share of the inheritance. Big Daddy has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, but is unaware of it. Oldest son Gooper and his wife Mae vie with youngest son Brick's wife Maggie for the biggest portion of the estate. The two sons and their wives are set up as a direct contrast to one another. Gooper has always tried to please his father, even becoming a lawyer at his suggestion. Mae has done her share to win Big Daddy's affection as well, giving birth to five children, soon to be six. Brick has stayed a child, having been a football hero in his youth and becoming an alcoholic during the film. Maggie also tries to please Big Daddy, but is genuine in her affection for him. Censorship in the 1950s did not allow such controversial things as homosexuality and vulgarity (which were in the play) to be in the film, but they are just beneath the surface. This is partially revealed by Brick's relationship with his friend Skipper. Some of the tension in his marriage to Maggie is assumed to be because she had an affair with Brick's friend. It is later revealed that this is not the case. Skipper's suicide the year before led to Brick's drinking and his problems with Maggie. One of the outstanding parts of the film is the symbolism of Brick's crutch. He used to lean on Skipper, now he leans on his crutch. Twice, he refuses to lean on others for support when they offer it. Maggie and Big Daddy both demand to know why he will not lean on them. Alcohol becomes another crutch for Brick. Big Daddy withholds his liquor and asks why Brick drinks. He says it is because of all of the mendacity in the world. Yet when Maggie demands that he face the truth about Skipper, he throws the crutch at her. The lies he hides from are his own. Big Daddy eventually gets him to explain the he hung up on Skipper just before he killed himself, and that the phone kept ringing and ringing. He says that when he drinks, he hears a "click" in his head and when he hears it, the phone stops ringing."
Newman proving decisively that he wasn't a second-rate Brand
Roberto Frangie | Leon, Gto. Mexico | 12/23/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," Newman is an ex-football player, trying to relive his college athletic glories... Drinking and staggering, he attempts to jump hurdles, resulting in a painful injury that has him hobbling around on crutches during most of the film...
The role was certainly another demonstration of his widening range, for Brick is in many ways the antithesis of Ben Quick ("The Long, Hot Summer"). Although he too is cynical, cold and guilt-ridden, he manifests it by becoming moody, withdrawn, introverted... In addition, whereas Ben was strong and decisive, causing and participating in events, Brick is weak and passive, largely reacting to events around him... And he's anything but ambitious: while his greedy brother and sister-in-law await Big Daddy's death so they can inherit his huge fortune and plantation, and while his wife Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor) urges him to fight for his share, he merely broods and drinks... An emotionally crippled, "thirty-year-old boy," he refuses to face responsibility and truth, preferring to drown his memories in liquor...
Newman and Taylor enact striking contrasts in temperament: she is fiery, loud, animated, sensual; he is cold, quiet, immobile, dispassionate... Brick and Maggie haven't been sleeping together, and she wants him desperately, but he keeps rejecting her advances... As she talks, he replies with sarcasm, contempt and mostly indifference, speaking in a dreamy, monotonous manner, as if only half-there...
In conversations with her, as with Big Daddy (Burl Ives), he stares into space, or walks away (usually toward the liquor supply), turning his back on the other party and forcing the dialog to take place on separate planes... All of this places him in a private world, where he hides his torment and anxiety beneath a mask of detachment...
If Newman is best at enacting Brick's unspoken thoughts and emotions, he's also effective in the more spirited moments, as when he screams at Maggie or Big Daddy, to prevent them from getting at the truth he wants kept buried... But exactly what the "truth" is remains unclear...
In the play, Brick's fear of admitting a homosexual attachment led indirectly to his friend's death and explained his overall moodiness and passivity... But because of Hollywood's moral code, director-scriptwriter Richard Brooks had to eliminate this, and the character's motivations are considerably weakened... His hostility toward Maggie--understandable in the play--is especially confusing because it results from events that are unconvincingly outlined...
With the homosexuality cut out, Brick's dependence upon his friend is now explained by the failure of Big Daddy to provide strength and love, and this changed emphasis does make for exciting drama... The film's key scene--not in the play--is one in which Brick confronts his father with this painful truth... As they sit in a cellar disarranged with the old man's useless antiques, he tells Big Daddy that love cannot be bought... Newman moves powerfully from anguished looks to an eruption of emotion, smashing everything in sight, finally breaking down and crying: "All I wanted was a father, not a boss ... I wanted you to love me." Both are in pain--Big Daddy because of cancer, Brick because his crutch has (symbolically) been broken, and they need each other's he1p to get upstairs... Therefore the film ultimately becomes another statement of father-son alienation, and their coming to terms with it, as in "The Rack" and "Somebody Up There Likes Me," leads the characters to a new strength (and an upbeat ending not in the play).
Despite its compromises, the film was still daring by 1958 standards, and was an enormous commercial success... It received six Oscar nominations, including one for Newman as Best Actor--his first. Newman had developed, at last, a really impressive acting ability, and a distinctive screen image...
Dysfunctionalism before it was in vogue
C. MacNeil | Fort Wayne, IN USA | 03/17/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When the familial vultures hear that Big Daddy Burl Ives is dying of cancer, they flock to his southern Gothic spread for a supposed 65th birthday, and the Pollitt brood brings with it about every type of dysfunction that hadn't even been named when this scorching film version of Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize play got the big screen treatment. Alcoholism, suppressed sexual yearnings, latent homosexuality, greed, "mendacity" and children who could be poster kids for the pro-choice lobby are all here, and a riveting cast combine to make this triumphant film a classic. Headed by a sultry Elizabeth Taylor as the sexually frustrated and angry Maggie the Cat and Paul Newman as her alcoholic and closeted gay husband, Brick, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" explores the interpersonal traumas among husband and wife and a former acquaintance, Skipper, a washed up football player who throws himself out of a window in a Chicago hotel, and the impact his suicide has on Maggie and Brick's marriage. The hint of a gay atrraction between Brick and Skipper is obvious, and Maggie's anger at the physical and emotional distance imposed by her husband is magnificently projected. At the same time, in an overpowering performance by Ives, Big Daddy has to come to terms with his own mortality while baiting the wolves with his decision about who'll get what of his filthy rich estate. In the end, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" is less a snapshot of a seriously dysfunctional family at a major crossroad and more an affirmation of life, the passion for it and coming to terms with the sometimes vicious pitches life can throw. As Maggie, Elizabeth Taylor is spellbinding, and her performance is all the more credible considering the filming of the movie was interrupted by the death in a plan crash of her third husband, Mike Todd. Paul Newman, as the cynical, alcoholic and sexually ashamed Brick, unleashes a performance worthy of an Oscar, and Burl Ives is no less than commanding with an awesome screen presence. Though more than 40 years old now, this film remains a classic and deserves a spot on virtually every "best of" list that can be developed."