Movie Mondays: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Cat on a hot tin roof poster

The Pollitt family awaits the return of Big Daddy, who was coming home from a diagnostic surgery that would tell if he would live or die. His two sons, Brick (played by Paul Newman) and Gooper both married strong women who are determined that their husbands receive their fair share of the family estate.

Brick, though traditionally the favorite son, has no children with his wife, Maggie, and is throwing his life away into alcoholism. His brother, Gooper, has a growing family and a promising career as an attorney. It would seem that Brother Man is well on his way to inheriting the family estate, and his pregnant wife makes sure to pull out all of the stops to make sure that he does. Maggie, not to be outdone, is always right there, just trying to stay in the fight, though Brick wants nothing to do with the whole affair.

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When Big Daddy arrives, he boisterously announces that the doctors have told him he’s in good health and he will outlive them all. Preparations are made for a big celebratory supper, but all the while, Brick just hides away in his bedroom, drinking glass after glass of alcohol, and looking down upon the self-seeking family with contempt.

This movie, like most Tennessee Williams stories, has really great dynamic character development. At first, it’s difficult to decide whose side to choose. Not many of the characters seem likable, but as time goes on, each one either becomes sympathetic of despicable. When the doctor privately privately tells the family that Big Daddy doesn’t have long to live, each character’s true colors come through. As Brick says, “A family crisis brings out the best and worst of every member of the family.”

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Brick’s character is a mysterious self-loathing alcoholic with a lot of resentment towards his family, and especially towards his beautiful wife. Maggie is an alienated women who continuously makes frustrated attempts to regain intimacy with her husband, who most of the time, can’t even stand to look at her. The mystery behind their estranged relationship unfolds as the movie progresses, as does the dynamics of the entire dysfunctional family.

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I absolutely adore Elizabeth Taylor in her role of Maggie “the cat.” As a viewer, you simply cannot resist loving her, cringing at her, and then cheering her on. As Gooper says towards the end of the movie, “Yep, that girls got life in her, alright.”

Though there aren’t really any romantic scenes throughout the movie, the chemistry between Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor was still so palpable.  They each played amazingly on their own, and Taylor’s performance as Maggie was so perfectly on key that I’ve gotta say this is my favorite performance of hers that I’ve ever seen. You can sense her emotion in your own heart, and feel on edge, just as she is. The proof is in this short clip. What a wonderful performance.

15 Responses

  1. Maria says:

    I love this play. I think it’s an important point to note that Brick is gay, though. It says a lot about Tenessee William’s experiences and feelings in America at that time.

  2. Lisa says:

    This is one of my all time favorites! It is quoted quite a bit in my house.
    Love your blog, by the way. Really look forward to the movie posts :)

  3. JenCoen says:

    One of my all-time favorite movies ever!

  4. zelina says:

    wow, what a great review. I must see this my mother was raving about it last week. thanks Mandi

  5. deja says:

    I remember watching this movie a long time ago when I was little. You just made me want to watch it again! Thanks!
    xoxo

  6. Helga says:

    Definetly my favourite Elizabeth Taylor film.Classy movie,and she is amazing AND gorgeous!I love how she refers to the kids as “no-neck monsters”!
    :)

  7. Tracey says:

    A great review of one of my all time favourite films.
    Taylor and Newman really did sizzle on the screen … and their performances are incredible!!
    I actually learnt a new word watching this film – mendacity (such a great word) – ‘Mendacity. What do you know about mendacity? I could write a book on it…Mendacity.’ :)

  8. Tamara says:

    I love that you are doing Elizabeth Taylor movies and I L-O-V-E Paul Newman! Great choice of film!!!

  9. kim says:

    YES – fantastic movie, I was thinking of it this entire weekend. I saw “Cleopatra” on tv as part of the Taylor hommage, but this movie showcases her talent much more. Maggie the cat is a great character!

  10. annebeth says:

    GOD why did they make movies like that back then, while we’re stuck with things like Sucker Punch? So depressing! :-D
    I adored her in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf :)

  11. Sarah says:

    Hello there! I love this post! For some reason I never got around to seeing this movie but after reading this, I am determined to take some time off from writing papers for school and am having a movie night this Saturday– and this is gonna be it!
    I really love Elizabeth Taylor and also would recommend “A Place in the Sun” with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor if you have not already seen it. Such a great movie.
    I really enjoy your blog! Thanks :)

  12. oh man I think i’ve seen this as a kid but hardly recall it. sounds really good from your review.

  13. Liza Morgan says:

    I totally agree with you! She was such a classic, iconic actress. Love your review.

  14. Lizzie says:

    yeah I agree with the first comment that it is very important to say that Brick is gay – that is the whole tension in the relationship with Liz’s character….bit of an oversight not to mention this!

  15. Mandi says:

    Brick being gay is certainly a fact that is very slowly and tactfully exposed as the movie goes on. It’s never really put “out there” like it is in the play, and I really hate to give things away in movie reviews. So, I didn’t think I ought to mention it. Instead, I just said, “the mystery behind their estranged relationship unfolds…”