Contrast of rich and poor, as the aspiring young man becomes obsessed with murdering his factory girl fianc?e when offered the chance to get a rich wife. — Genre: Feature Film-Drama — Rating: NR — Release Date: 8-AUG-2006 — Me... more »dia Type: DVD« less
Dreams crash down and hard moral choices must be made
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 01/20/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I haven't read Theodore Dreiser's "An American Tragedy" on which this 1951 film is based, but I can see how the word "tragedy" is used in its classic sense - that of a character who meets disaster because of a tragic flaw. So even though purists might see "A Place in the Sun" as a romanticized version of Dreiser's tale, I certainly found it serious enough for me.Directed by George Stevens, the film opens with Montgomery Cliff thumbing a ride. He's going to the town where his rich uncle owns a mill. He's awkward among his affluent relatives and happy to get a job, any job. And so even though he has to start at the bottom, packing bathing suits into boxes, he's aware of his future opportunities. Shelly Winters is cast as a factory girl he starts romancing. But then, his fortunes suddenly turn, he's invited to more and more upscale social events, and he falls in love with Elizabeth Taylor. The plot thickens as Shelly Winters announces her pregnancy and Montgomery Cliff finds himself trapped. The consequences are horrific as we watch his dreams all crash down around him.I was captured by the story right from the beginning in a screenplay that kept the tension mounting and never let up. I identified with Montgomery cliff and found myself sympathic to his plight. He plays a complex character and has a lot of moral choices to make. He sweats, he shakes, he cringes, his eyes fill with tears. Certainly, he was one of the finest actors of his time and his performance is magnificent. Elizabeth Taylor was just 17 years old then and sure was a beauty. As she explains in an interview as part of the special features on the DVD, this was her first serious role. "Before that," she says jokingly, "all my leading men were either dogs or horses." She also tells us that Montgomery Cliff, with whom she maintained a long friendship with until his death at the age of 45, was her first movie kiss. "I had only just had my first 'real' off-screen kiss just two weeks before," she says. Shelly Winters talks about her role too. She wanted the role of the factory girl badly. However, at the time, she was typecast as a glamour queen. And so she dressed in an extremely plain way when she went for her screen test. She sat demurely in the office and George Stevens didn't even recognize her.I loved this film. It had everything. Romance. High drama. Great acting. Moral choices. And I also loved the "behind the scenes" special feature that was on the DVD. "A Place in the Sun" might have been made more than 50 years ago, but the theme is universal and as valid today as the day it was written. I therefore give it my highest recommendation. It's simply wonderful."
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 09/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Theodore Drieser was among America's earliest realistic authors, and his massive 1925 AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY, loosely based on real events, was a best-selling shocker filled with premarital sex, abortion issues, and social failures. The novel was filmed in 1931--and Drieser was so outraged that he successfully sued Paramount to force reshoots and a new edit. The result did not please Drieser, Paramount, or the movie-going public, and when censorship began to rear its head both the novel and movie were quietly shelved.
By the late 1940s, however, censorship began to relax, and A PLACE IN THE SUN was among the first films to take advantage of the fact. Unlike the 1931 film, producers did not attempt to film the whole of the novel; they instead focused on the second half. The result was singularly powerful.
George Eastman (Montgomery Cliff) is the poor relation of a wealthy family--and when seeks aid from them he is given a menial job in the factory, where he becomes intimate with factory worker Alice (Shelly Winters.) But when George is suddenly promoted he begins to enter the world of his dreams--and it includes glamorous socialite Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor.) And now only the commonplace and unexpectedly pregnant Alice stands between him and all that he has ever desired.
The script veers toward excess more than once, but director George Stevens and his extraordinary cast carry the film to unexpectedly powerful effect. Previously known as a sex-bomb, Shelly Winters fought hard for the role of Alice and with it gives the first in the series of truly brilliant performances for which she would become so well known. Elizabeth Taylor was one of the leading beauties of the screen, and her acting chops had been in clear evidence for some time before A PLACE IN THE SUN went before the cameras, but it here that she first truly showed what she could do with serious drama; she is flawless. And then there is Montgomery Cliff.
Although Marlon Brando and James Dean made "Method Acting" a household term, Cliff was very much of the same school, and he broke new ground in film several years before either Brando or Dean made the screen. And A PLACE IN THE SUN shows Cliff at his finest, offering a truly amazing, powerful performance as the highly-driven but morally weak George Eastman, stumbling over ever trip-wire society can place in his path. It is a truly devastating performance, gut-wrenchingly painful in honesty, offered without a trace of artifice in evidence.
As the film progresses the moral issues evolve in several very unexpected ways, most particularly as they reference degrees of guilt, premeditation, and at what point intent becomes the same as fact. In the process A PLACE IN THE SUN develops a highly disconcerting "there but for the grace of God go I" quality. I think this particularly true for those among us who can look back upon what might best be called "youthful indiscretions;" we are left to wonder what choices we might have faced if things had been only very slightly different in our lives.
The DVD print is not remastered, but it is pristine, and it comes with a slight but interesting bonus package that includes interviews with the surviving stars. Strongly recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer"
One Young Man's Tragedy
Robert Morris | Dallas, Texas | 07/31/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Coincidentally, I saw this film within a week after I read Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby for the first of several times. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I had so many dreams, fantasies, ambitions, etc. and thus, years later, immediately identified with George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) as well as with Jay Gatsby, so different in many ways but both hungering for acceptance and respectability, thereby to enhance their self-image. George Stevens' brilliant direction was rewarded with an Academy Award. Working with a screenplay based on Theodore Dreiser's bloated novel An American Tragedy, Stevens elicited from both Clift and Elizabeth Taylor (Angela Vickers) perhaps their finest performances on film. Both are ideally cast as star cross'd lovers, so near and yet so far from what both so passionately desire. Members of the supporting cast are outstanding, notably Shelley Winters (Alice Tripp), Anne Revere (Hannah Eastman), Sheppard Strudwick (Anthony Vickers), and Raymond Burr (Frank Marlowe). Young Eastman is torn between accepting essentially a blue-collar life (with some prospect for a white collar eventually) and doing whatever is necessary to join the society of affluence in which his beloved Angela is so comfortable.
All decisions have consequences and some decisions have tragic consequences. George's decision to gratify himself sexually with Alice one rainy evening creates a complication for which he is ill-prepared. Eventually, he is held accountable for her death (even if viewed as an accident) because, at that point, he cannot endure a life with her nor a life without Angela. George may not deliberately eliminate Alice from his life but he certainly has no interest whatsoever in having any further contact with her. He is convicted of intent. This film received six Academy Awards: including director Stevens, costume designer Edith Head, and composer Franz Waxman, although An American in Paris was selected as best film in what must have been a close vote. The other nominees were Decision before Dawn, Quo Vadis, and A Streetcar Named Desire.
When I recently saw this film again, I was reminded of one of Fitzgerald's short stories, "Winter Dreams," in which a young man very much like George Eastman yearns to improve his station in life. For so many young men and women, the American Dream can become the American Tragedy. For whatever reasons, they are destroyed...or so brutalized that their lives become a nightmare from which they can never awaken."
An All-Time Classic
Golden Girls fan | Alabama, USA | 03/17/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Among the top 100 films of all time this gem from the early fifties solely belongs on it. George Stevens has fashioned a memorable and stirring adaptation of the novel by Theodore Dreiser's "An American Tragedy." Montgomery Clift stands out as the poor and wretched nephew of a wealthy businessman. He slowly starts to climb the ladder of success when he sees the lovely Elizabeth Taylor, who was 19 at the time. However, he has also become involved with the maidish Shelley Winters and their one night together results in a pregnancy. With his future suddenly becoming brighter and more promising, the bitter truth from Winters threatens to bring him down and destroy him. However one cannot fool the way life works, and it all comes back to seek revenge upon him for what he does to secure his place in the sun of high society. Six Oscars went to this masterpiece for its brilliant direction from Stevens, screenplay adaptation, cinematography which looks creepy and then blossoming when appropriate, Franz Waxman's moody music score, Edith Head's incredible costume designs for Taylor, and film editing, which keeps the film moving and never letting up interest. However audiences and critics were in an uproar in 1951 when it lost Best Picture to a musical that year. This film's content was ahead of its time in some aspects for it deals with pregnancy, lust, a one night stand, and cheating your way up the ladder of success. There are few films that can equal the powerful impact of emotion this film evokes for the characters. You can't help but feel sorry for Winters when she becomes victimized and lied to by Clift, thus leaving her to fend for herself while he goes on in the carnival of a life of sheer luxury. The most terrifying and pulse-pounding scene takes place on the lake, where tragedy and shock occur. The photography adds tension and fear, you can sense that danger is waiting somewhere. One of the greatest films ever and I highly recommend it to anyone who is a genuine film buff of the classics and this film is an eternal landmark in the world of movies."
DVD features review
Golden Girls fan | 02/22/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This magnificent film, undoubtedly my vote for Greatest of All Time, is deserving of a 5 star rating. However, this review is based upon the film as a DVD special edition - AS I FIND REVIEWS SUCH AS THIS TO BE MOST BENEFICIAL TO DVD PURCHASERS. I found that of all the features the only thing of true value was the documentary/ interview montage "Filmmakers Who Knew Him". This referring to a collation of interviews about George Stevens, the master behind the film. These interviews have been revealed before albeit in edited form in the 80s doco "George Stevens - A Filmmaker's Journey". BUT for the uninitiated, Alan Pakula/Warren Beatty/Fred Zinnemann are among those who shed light on the directorial style of George Stevens. There is a half hour piece concerning the participants still alive, such as the filmmaker's son G Stevens Jr, Ivan Moffett associate producer, and the two leading ladies. But this is simply well made diatribe.As for the much anticipated commentary - well it should have been insightful, compelling, revealing. Instead, it trod a well worn path providing information of use only for those inexperienced in DVD commentary. AFTER ALL we have come to accept a certain standard, and I certainly think reviewers need to consider more the actual value of commentaries, rather than simply assuming that they are great bonuses. (Ever heard "US Marshalls" commentary with director Stuart Baird - worst on offer!). BUT this is not bad mouthing for its own sake - the same commentators did an outstanding ***** star effort with George Stevens' "Shane" DVD - a masterpiece, and I personally feel the greatest Western of all time (I'm sure people are howling over that call!!).As for technical quality, the picture stability was somewhat shaky at times. No doubt a fault of the original negative that it was mastered from. But for a definitive DVD version, a fan has the right to expect better. ALL IN ALL, it is a worthy disc to own if you happen to love the film as I do. Alas though, if you love the work of George Stevens, and wish to own one of his masterpieces in DVD, with added value of surpassing quality (ie commentary by George Stevens Jr & assoc producer Ivan Moffett), then the best bet is SHANE. A FINAL THOUGHT - who could ever forget the lingering kiss between Taylor and Clift, which dissolves into an over the shoulder reverse shot????? Incredible motion picture, for all its artifice and melodrama, it still retains a spellbinding one of a kind humanity, sincerity, and TRUTH."