Movie Mondays: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
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.
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.”
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.
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.