Can I gush? I love, Love, LOVE this movie! I can't pick favorites, but I know this one one of the contenders for my #1 slot.
Tennessee Williams. The basis for this whole thing is his play of the same name. I have a love/hate relationship with his works. I love them because they are so richly written, and I hate them because they are so brutal. When reading his plays I would throw away the book if I wasn't dying to read the next page. Just gorgeous. Now, I know there are a lot of differences between the play and the movie, so you really can't compare too much. There are a couple of things that were not included in the play that I think really should have been - it would have made the movie even better. But there are some things in the movie that I really wish would have been in the play. So it evens out. And it's true, I think I even love this movie more than the play. Yes, I do!
We'll start with the story (remember, this is for the movie, not the play): focuses on Brick and Maggie's relationship. They are married, but they're not exactly on marital terms lately. They have come back to Brick's family home, as well as Brick's brother and his family, for the celebration of Big Daddy's birthday - or at least, that is what they say. Truth is (and that word is used a lot in this movie) that they are there to hear if Big Daddy is dying of cancer or not. I'll stop there. But what really you need to know is that this is a family crisis drama. And it is fabulous!
The music and sound design in this movie are very intense. There is a little bit of the stage play in this movie. At key moments, thunder is sounded, and that gives it a very planned feel. But that doesn't bother me at all for some reason. It's appropriate, and only helps to enhance the feeling of the moment. Aside from that, the score music is so sensuous. It's hot.
As far as other design goes, the settings are perfect. Southern plantation house of a RICH man. I love the obvious white used in Brick and Maggie's room. A subtle hint at their sexual relationship at the moment. I don't know how, but you can just feel the heat. I don't know where all the credit goes to for that, but it is there. The costumes are well done and appropriate, and everything looks like it should be.
Now, acting. Nothing but praise here. Elizabeth Taylor is at her best, in my opinion. She plays the character well with very appropriate switches between her southern belle charming act and the "cat" that she is so aligned with. But that is not all there is to her. There is also sadness, fear, desperation, and love. She is so vivacious and sensual. She's got a certain fire to her performance that so perfectly works. Paul Newman is a contradiction. He sizzles, but he is also so cool. This has to be a signiture role of his. Through most of it he is aloof, cool to the touch, icy, but so calm. He gives the sense of just flowing through his emotions as he downs his liquor. But there are cracks in the character's exterior and he can lash out better than anyone. I know I have said this before - and it still goes. His emotional bursts are so real and so effective. Oh! It just tugs at you. I don't think there is anyone on earth who can do that better. The big surprise of this movie for me was Burl Ives. Now this is probably because I grew up knowing him for his christmas album and his kids songs. But this is completely different. You like and you hate Big Daddy. He is not a nice person - but he is straight forward, and a force of life. Which is funny, considering he is the one most likely to die. He is big and bombastic, and he answers to no one. he is the center of everything, and he owns everything. You may not really like him much, but you have to admire him. And Burl Ives does such a fantastic job. He grabs you and makes you pay attention to him. Judith Anderson as Big Mama is ... well, let me say this, if I could get my hands on any role in the world, I would want to get my hands on this one. Big Mama is a bit of a pathetic character. She's doting and a little annoying, but she's real. There is nothing fake about Big Mama, and she is loyal as they come. You can't understand how she could love Big Daddy after the way he treats her, but you see it in her performance. And if seeing is believing, there you have it. The other two main characters as Gooper and Mae are right on. You don't really like them much at all. I never get to like Mae, but I do get sympathy for Gooper. He has a speech to Big Mama that just tugs at you. They're both brilliant in their roles.
How this film is not more acclaimed than it is, I will never know. It was nominated for several Oscars, but did not recieve any. Apparently, Tennessee Williams did not like the movie at all. This is owning to the fact that the movie is quite a bit toned down from the play. This mainly has to do with the subject of whether or not Brick is homosexual. I'm borderline about that. Considering the time and the film industry, I can see why some of the dialouge was cut, but I also think they were cowards because the play never says that Brick is homosexual - just dances around the situation between Brick and Skipper. In the play Maggie even admits that she knows nothing happened between the two men because Brick is so pure. In that sense, and in the fact that Hollywood was so hush-hush about homosexuality and bisexuality, I say shame on them. But that still doesn't stop me from loving this movie.
If I could go above the 5 star rating I would, but since I can't:
5 out of 5 stars