Friday, June 29, 2012

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

“I ain’t living with you I’m living in the same cage with you.”

            Tennessee Williams’ plays are not some of my favorites. Most likely due to when I took a theater class in college the whacked out teacher I had made up find a Tennessee Williams play, pick a monologue, and act it. I remember not having very good luck finding a decent part I liked because I did not like any of the stories. I cannot remember which dialogue I picked nor the play I got rid of the book I bought. I especially did not like sitting through A Street Car Named Desire but I think it was because Marlon Brando gets on my nerves so bad. I wanted to watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof because I needed to watch something different even though it was based off the Tennessee Williams play and Elizabeth Taylor who I cannot for the life of me stand was the main actress. Well, I must say I was pleasantly surprised with this film, I actually liked the story AND Elizabeth Taylor’s acting.
            Maggie (Taylor) and her husband Brick (Paul Newman) are not happy in their marriage. They are visiting his family home for his father’s birthday. Brick refuses any advance Maggie tries to make he tells her he is disgusted with her. Maggie is very upset with Brick because he has been drinking a lot. The night before he drunkenly went to his old high school track field and broke his ankle trying to jump hurdles. Maggie is also on edge because Brick’s father Big Daddy (Burl Ives) is dying and she is afraid with Brick’s drinking they will be left nothing and Brick’s brother Gooper and his annoying wife Mae with their six “no-necked monsters” will get everything.
            Maggie drives in her own car to meet Big Daddy and Big Momma (Judith Anderson) at the airport. Big Daddy went to a well known hospital to have exploratory surgery to see what was wrong with him. Big Daddy and Momma get off the plane and tell everyone he is going to live there is nothing wrong with him there is no cancer. Instead of driving home with Gooper and his brats he wants to drive home with Maggie whom he really likes.
            Brick refuses to come downstairs to the party he just sits up in the room and drinks. To make matters worse for him the family doctor came up to speak to him about Big Daddy, his father is not alright he is dying but the doctor did not tell him. Maggie comes up sometime later to bring Brick food and she sees him packing his things to go home to New Orleans. They have an argument and she makes things not any better when she brings up Brick’s best friend Skipper who died. Brick thinks Maggie slept with the friend which is why the friend killed himself. One of Gooper’s kids bursts into the room and starts making noises. Maggie flips out on the kid but the kid says she is just angry because she cannot have any kids. This makes her miserable since she cannot stand Gooper and Mae and the fact that they talk about she and Brick not having any kids yet. Maggie tells Brick that there is nothing wrong with that they can have kids but he responds that that will be a bit hard considering he cannot stand to be with her. During this time Brick tells Maggie about Big Daddy.
            Brick has enough of Maggie and goes downstairs to get more alcohol. Big Daddy walks into the living room where Brick is. He begins by saying he is sick and tired of people sneaking around getting into other business and reaches around the corner of the door and pulls Mae out and tells her to get out and mind her own business. Big Daddy wants to know why Brick started drinking and calls Maggie down. Brick blames her for killing his friend he says that she got him drunk and slept with him. Maggie says yes that had been her plan because she was mad and jealous that Skipper was getting in the way of their marriage that he came before she did. Her plan was to sleep with him to drive a wedge between Skipper and Brick but then she backed out because she would have driven a wedge between her and Brick instead. The truth is that Skipper killed himself because he had called Brick and Brick hung up on him and Skipper could not take that from his best friend. After that Brick has had enough he leaves in his pajamas during a storm to his car to drive back to New Orleans. Big Daddy follows, Brick just wants to be left alone to leave and he accidentally slips and tells his father that he is not well.
            Big Daddy runs to the basement to hide from everyone and to get his head around what he has just heard. Brick goes to his room to change. Big Momma is awfully upset and scared over the news. She yells for Brick and says in front of Gooper that Brick is her only son and needs him. Brick comes downstairs and hears Mae bashing him and Maggie defending him. Mae is an awful pain even her husband tells her to shut up. Maggie almost smacks her. Brick goes down to the basement to his father. They talk about things in their life and air their grievances. Brick tells his father that he, Gooper, and Big Momma wanted in life was to be loved by him and he never did.
            The talk really helped both father and son. They go back upstairs new people with different outlooks. To shut everyone up Maggie tells them she is having Brick’s baby even though it is not true. Brick, Big Daddy, and even Gooper back her up but Mae has a fit and knows Maggie is lying. Gooper tells his wife to just shut up. Brick calls Maggie upstairs and they make up.
            This is one film I have seen with Elizabeth Taylor where I thought her acting was fantastic. I sat there going “damn you Liz Taylor you’re actually really good in this film.” Really I loved every scene she was in when she was not in a scene I looked forward to the next one with her in it. The entire cast was just flawless. Paul Newman was hot as hell he was so gorgeous. He was wonderful as this moody depressed person. With Burl Ives it was so odd to hear him so mean since I am so used to hearing him sing Christmas songs and voice the snowman in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Ives was excellent he played the same role in the stage play so he knew the material and what to do with the character. Judith Anderson was amazing. I am so used to her as Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca and Anne Treadwell in Laura where she was these dark characters with twisted motives and here she was this sad unloved woman. I was floored with her acting she was great I will look at her much differently now in the two aforementioned films.
            Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was a film I was not expecting to like at all but I found myself enjoying it and the performances. The story was not too bad but having read or seen Tennessee Williams’ stories before it is a typical storyline from him. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a stage play and you can clearly see in the film from the limited number of sets, the staginess, and all the dialogue that is definitely originates from the stage but I did not find it unbearable like some stage-to-screen films. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a classic film I highly suggest seeing to everyone. 

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