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"Brick" in "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof"

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How gay is this character?  Very gay!  You cannot believe the falsified ending. 

 

I saw a later re-working of the material by Tennessee Williams himself in a Connecticut theater.

 

This gorgeous production starred Elizabeth Ashley and Keir Dullea.

 

It later transferred - famously - to Broadway.

 

And it did acknowledge the fact that Brick, Maggie's husband, was gay.

 

His relationship to the deceased Skipper was an intensely deep relationship.

 

Was it "actualized"?

 

No, probably not.

 

But it was REAL.

 

Brick thinks that Maggie went to bed with Skipper.

 

She did not.

 

But he did not pick up that ringing telephone.

 

If he had, he could've saved Skipper's life.

 

Skipper had disappointed Brick on the football field.

 

Skipper wanted to apologize.

 

Brick was too furious to accept his apology.

 

So, Brick is much more angry with himself.

 

The one thing that meant so much to him - Skipper - that one thing, Brick chose to destroy.

 

If he can ever accept Maggie in his bed, she will be a poor substitute.    

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I think Brick is bisexual and fell in love with Skipper just as a heterosexual husband could fall in love with another woman besides his wife. They don't clarify exactly "why" Brick married Maggie but I think he married for love. Maggie upset him by trying to "straighten out" Skipper in the bedroom to make Brick jealous. She failed with him (not that she really did anything important), just as she seemed to be failing with Brick. Because Brick himself felt responsible for Skipper's death, he needed to blame his wife to some degree. Yet the underlying problem was that Brick was a widower-in-mourning for that second spouse he loved.

 

Maggie in particular gets taunted by Big Brother and Big Sister-in-law... and even the bratty kids!... for not having babies. Big Daddy clearly favors Maggie more than his other (very shrewish) daughter-in-law, but he is also critical and does not understand why a sexy woman like her wouldn't have three children and "one in the oven" by now. Big Mommy (poor Judith Anderson never gets respect for her enjoyable roles) also attacks Maggie for the same reason even though she too is quite fond of her daughter-in-law.

 

Yet I think Brick starts to fall-in-love with Maggie all over again simply because she has not fallen into the aroma of "mendacity" (a.k.a. "family crises bring out both the best and worst in people") that disgusts him.

 

Also Maggie the Cat is... alive!

 

... which brings up two important points:

1.) Brick has been "dead" since Skipper's death.

2.) Big Daddy was all about living and the doctor was hesitant to tell him the truth about his dying because he knew fully well that he isn't ready.

 

Son & daddy must now accept what they are least comfortable dealing with. Brick must learn to LIVE and Big Daddy must learn to DIE. Big Daddy learns a lesson from his own son after he talks about grand-daddy, the hobo who left Big Daddy only a suitcase with Spanish-American War clothes. Grand-daddy died happy because he was always able to show his love for his son regardless of how little wealth he left him.

 

Maggie suggests earlier that Skipper might have been a daddy substitute for Brick, but it is only when Big Daddy finally shows some love to sonny boy that Brick can be a "man" just like James Dean dealing with Raymond Massey in East of Eden. Good gawd! The 1950s were obsessed with daddy issues! (By "man", I do not mean in a sexual sense. Nothing wrong to our contemporary eyes if Brick and Skipper were intimate together. Yet I don't think he was repulsed so much by Maggie as much as placing too much blame on her for Skipper's death.)

 

I do find it interesting that only after Brick feels "loved" (since Skipper was the one he felt love the most from and he is now dead), that he is able to "love" Maggie again. This is a movie about grieving and placing blame where blame is not deserved. Just like Big Daddy needing to be reminded how much his own daddy loved him even though he was ashamed of his lack of success in his youth and tried to over-compensate by getting rich. Also interesting that Jack Carson as the older brother was trying to win Big Daddy's love as a lawyer making money. He understands what is wrong at the end, even though his wife certainly doesn't any more than she understands what "mendacity" means. (I still chuckle over how the one daughter eats ice-cream out of the machine with as much greed as her own parents doing the paperwork in anticipation for Big Daddy's death and how the wealth is distributed. Like daughter, like Mommy and Daddy.)

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One curious side-note that always intrigued me.

 

It appears that both Burl Ives and Judith Anderson as parents seem to "love" Brick more than Gooper (Jack Carson) and this adds to all his and Mae's hostility towards Brick. "Where's my Brick!" Judith's Big Momma bellows as the other two's eyes roll in disgust. Big Daddy purposely rides in the same car with Maggie to avoid the others. (I like how they stop to watch the horses, reminding me of Liz Taylor's horses in National Velvet and Giant. Something about Liz with horses increases the attraction that the Mickey Rooneys, Rock Hudsons and Burl Ives of the world have for her. Maybe she should have brought one into Brick's bedroom?)

 

I guess part of the problem is due to too much family togetherness with all of those obnoxious kids while Brick and Maggie were mostly away in the past.

 

Yet this also makes all of their fuss over Brick and Maggie not having children and Maggie finally pleasing both by fibbing she's got "one in the oven" rather curious. Aren't there enough grandchildren already? Yet there is something about Brick and Maggie that Big Daddy and Big Mommy want to continue in child form that is different than what Gooper and Mae are producing.

 

Brick's obsession with Skipper's death makes him blind to just how much both his parents and Maggie are devoted to him even though they are clumsy in the way they show it.

 

The one I always feel sorry for is Gooper who does everything he thinks he is supposed to do in order to be loved as much as Brick.

 

One movie everybody must watch after this one is Mr. and Mrs. Bridge. Think of it as Paul Newman now becoming Big Daddy himself, although he is much more successful showing his love for wife and children than Burl Ives. At least he supports his actress daughter in her journey to the Big Apple, tolerates the marriage of the other (future son-in-law even says "Bull!" at one point) and is dependent on sonny boy looking after mother since he fears his own mortality. I also like how the scene with the old war hat in the basement is paralleled in the attic scene with Robert Sean Leonard trying on daddy's Great War clothes.

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Great comments, JLewis, so much to think about, right?

 

The Maggie, Brick and Skipper debate can rage on indefinitely, I think.

 

Brick, Skipper and Maggie were a happy threesome, I think.

 

But, when Skipper committed suicide, Brick began to realize the extent of his feelings for Skipper.

 

He doesn't want to blame himself - he did not pick up that ringing telephone - so he decides to blame Maggie - she was there at the time.

 

Brick wants to think that Skipper went to bed with Maggie.

 

And, that that "happening" unhinged Skipper enough to run to the hotel window and then jump out.

 

When, of course, he realizes that he had spoken to Skipper, who was unduly overwrought and then, when Skipper called him back, Brick was too overwrought, too, to pick up the phone.

 

When Skipper needed him the most, Brick simply decided that he wouldn't be there.

 

Instead, he lay in bed - and listened to that ringing phone. 

 

Now, since Skipper has committed suicide, Brick realizes the fact that Skipper was in love with him and could not live with disappointing Brick and just wanted to end it all.

 

Brick realizes the extent of his love for Skipper, because he chose to punish him instead of comforting him.

 

The fact that Brick could not live up to the demands of his relationship with Skipper is at the heart of his disgust with and avoidance of Maggie.

 

Brick should have been going to bed with Skipper.

 

In the end, Maggie wins out - because she was there - she knew Skipper  - and becomes a substitute.

 

Going to bed with Maggie - giving her a child - becomes what he should have done for Skipper.

 

Maybe Brick can make up for what he did to Skipper.

 

At least, that thought might get him through the rest of his life.

 

If you had seen the second production, with Elizabeth Ashley and Keir Dullea, which went from Connecticut to Broadway, you would have realized that - 

 

MAGGIE WAS IN THE PROCESS OF BECOMING SKIPPER!

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MAGGIE WAS IN THE PROCESS OF BECOMING SKIPPER!

 

But as Jlewis points out, Brick was in the process of becoming Big Daddy. 

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I understand the appeal of Tennessee Williams in pushing the envelope in the repressive heteronormal 1950s, an era when so many were staying in the closet under McCarthyism. (We can also have a field day here with the movie version of Suddenly Last Summer also featuring poor Liz.) Yet I don't think the Tennessee Williams plays and movie adaptations, regardless of censorship, ever strove to be "about" sex of any kind. Since Williams wasn't entirely "in the closet" like others in his day, sex was just sex to him. We can say the same for bisexual 1970s German film director Rainer Fassbinder. I only grudgingly view Fox and His Friends as a "gay" film, seeing it more as a Greek Tragedy about a man who is just lonely and seeking affection from others without being only used and abused for his money. Ditto the Williams plays. We have a virgin woman who sticks to her Glass Menagerie because she dislikes the way she looks, only to be coaxed out of her shell by the friend of her brother and then get disappointed that he doesn't love her as much as she hoped. Also the Streetcar Named Desire character of Blanche being the opposite, hardly virginal in her "dependence upon the kindness of strangers" but still seeking emotional affection from others that she can't find. Paul Newman himself lacks an emotional relationship with an older woman in the movie adaptation of The Sweet Bird of Youth even though the sexual relationship is already there. Also he's in trouble for being sexual with his ex girlfriend.

 

These plays are really more about emotional needs than physical needs since everybody in the Williams universe can still get "it" when they want "it", only "it" isn't what they really want. We may not really care in the end whether or not Brick, Skipper and Maggie were sexual with each other except that Brick needs to have the emotional aspects of love first because he can take on the physical. Yeah... it is strange that he needs confirmation of Big Daddy's love before he can get all sexual with Maggie the Cat, but that is what he needs to bring down his impotent "wall".

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The movie version of "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" is a heavily edited version of the text of the Broadway  play.

 

Elia Kazan forced Tennessee Williams into his - Kazan's - version of the material.

 

In the original play version, Big Daddy died in The Second Act - and there was still The Third Act.

 

Also, Ben Gazarra, who played Brick in the Broadway version, came down heavily against any gay reading of the Brick/Skipper relationship.

 

Later, Williams, who was not adverse to re-writing his material, produced another version that opened up in a Connecticut theater and then transferred to Broadway.

 

But, even in the Broadway version - the first act, which barely exists in the movie, is all Maggie and Brick in the bedroom.

 

It provides far more leeway for a gay subtext to the Brick/Skipper relationship.

 

The fact that Brick didn't feel loved by his father is, I agree, an important ingredient in the development of the plot.

 

But I don't really think that Skipper was filling in for "dear old dad".

 

Brick, who happened to be married to Maggie, also just happened to fall in love with a man.

 

What really bothers him, I think, is that that relationship didn't carry over into "the sexual".

 

If it had - and it came pretty close - Skipper might still be alive,

 

Can he atone?

 

Maybe.

 

By re-embracing the one thing that they had in common - Maggie the Cat. 

 

 

 

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Can he atone?

 

Maybe.

 

By re-embracing the one thing that they had in common - Maggie the Cat. 

 

I think this interpretation would be troubling for most feminists. It suggests the objectification of the female as well as her second-class status amid the homoerotic relationships of men in her immediate surrounding-- instead of allowing her to be independent of all that and bewitching in her own way.

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Kazan did Streetcar. Richard Brooks handled this movie.

 

Yet it is interesting how many changes took place with the story. This may account for some of the confusion I still have with the movie.

 

The women do not fare well here. Maggie does suffer here as a sex object. Mae and Big Momma are also too dependent on their men, but at least Mae has some "fight" in her. Viewers do not like her though because she is really nasty in her personality. It is also offensive how Big Daddy scorns her for eavesdropping when he is coldly joking about her being a good breeder or whatever. As if that is her full purpose in life! Even the little girl mocks Maggie for not having children. What if she herself can't when she grows up? Is that what defines a woman?

 

The 1950s was a tough decade for many people (gay, straight, male, female... well, not so much straight males who got to live the "Mad Men" lifestyle) despite how nostalgic we are for the vintage cars and music. Everybody had to conform to a cookie cutter mold. Note also how many black servants this household has.

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Brick is crippled both physically and emotionally by his guilt over Skipper's death.  Skipper was probably in love with Brick who I think was unable or unwilling to face the sexual nature of his friend's desire.  It was safe when they were just two jocks taking showers together and hanging out - a lot of straight men see sports as a safe place in which the can express their love for each other - look at how players are constantly hugging and practically making out after they win- or loose. But back to the play/movie- is Brick gay? I think you can go either way - his refusal to make love to Maggie is his anger over her role in Brick's death.  Did he kill himself because she was unwilling to share Brick?  At the end Maggie  wants to give Brick back his life- I imagine they do have sex and kids but at the same time I get the feeling that Brick will eventually find a new Skipper and they will head off to Brokeback Mountain.

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Brick is crippled both physically and emotionally by his guilt over Skipper's death.  Skipper was probably in love with Brick who I think was unable or unwilling to face the sexual nature of his friend's desire.  It was safe when they were just two jocks taking showers together and hanging out - a lot of straight men see sports as a safe place in which the can express their love for each other - look at how players are constantly hugging and practically making out after they win- or loose. But back to the play/movie- is Brick gay? I think you can go either way - his refusal to make love to Maggie is his anger over her role in Brick's death.  Did he kill himself because she was unwilling to share Brick?  At the end Maggie  wants to give Brick back his life- I imagine they do have sex and kids but at the same time I get the feeling that Brick will eventually find a new Skipper and they will head off to Brokeback Mountain.

Yes, I cannot see the movie ending as a HAPPY ENDING - even though it is clearly meant to be.

 

Skipper's suicide precipitates a lot of submerged feelings in Brick - how close they were - how intrusive was Maggie.

 

They probably did have a "Brokeback Mountain" kind of relationship - minus the sex, of course.

 

If he could leave Maggie The Cat, Brick would probably have a happier life.

 

But, then, Brick and Maggie - together - can keep Skipper "alive".

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Oh I dunno. Paul was devoted to Joanne Woodward for many decades like Brick could be with Maggie, but boys will be boys in their youth. I take it we have all seen this clip. Ha ha!

 

 

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Oh I dunno. Paul was devoted to Joanne Woodward for many decades like Brick could be with Maggie, but boys will be boys in their youth. I take it we have all seen this clip. Ha ha!

 

 

I wonder what happened between Jimmy and Paul after the camera stopped rolling...Newman was such a beautiful man I'm sure he had plenty of gay men who wanted to sleep with him.

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Yes, I cannot see the movie ending as a HAPPY ENDING - even though it is clearly meant to be.

 

Skipper's suicide precipitates a lot of submerged feelings in Brick - how close they were - how intrusive was Maggie.

 

They probably did have a "Brokeback Mountain" kind of relationship - minus the sex, of course.

 

If he could leave Maggie The Cat, Brick would probably have a happier life.

 

But, then, Brick and Maggie - together - can keep Skipper "alive".

The movie has the usual 1950 force happy ending- everyone has to conform and be heterosexual- I can imagine a coda in which after Brick has finally have sex with Maggie- she is beaming with pleasure- Brick gets up goes to the window and sees- a barechested young man who reminds him of Brick- The End

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I wonder what happened between Jimmy and Paul after the camera stopped rolling...Newman was such a beautiful man I'm sure he had plenty of gay men who wanted to sleep with him.

 

There is material online you can research suggesting that Paul may have been experimental in his sex life during his early years. Probably after marrying Joanne Woodward, not so much. Many Hollywood stars were not entirely 100% heterosexual. We have all heard the rumor about Clark Gable and Billy Haines having a one time bro-bonding moment in the 1920s, which may or may not be true and always causes debates on movie history threads. Usually those who take offense to such stories are rather homophobic themselves and have a lot of issues to get over, thus can't picture their idols ever doing anything... different.

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There is material online you can research suggesting that Paul may have been experimental in his sex life during his early years. Probably after marrying Joanne Woodward, not so much. Many Hollywood stars were not entirely 100% heterosexual. We have all heard the rumor about Clark Gable and Billy Haines having a one time bro-bonding moment in the 1920s, which may or may not be true and always causes debates on movie history threads. Usually those who take offense to such stories are rather homophobic themselves and have a lot of issues to get over, thus can't picture their idols ever doing anything... different.

Woodward and Newman had a long lasting marriage which not only produced several children but some interesting movies.   Did Newman have relationships with men on the side?  It's possible- the idea of Jimmy (who was bi) and Paul experimenting in bed would make a great bit of slash fiction.... the rumor is that Gable was gay for pay for Haines and that George Cukor knew about it and that is the reason Gable forced the studio to fire him from "GWTW"

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There is material online you can research suggesting that Paul may have been experimental in his sex life during his early years. Probably after marrying Joanne Woodward, not so much. Many Hollywood stars were not entirely 100% heterosexual. We have all heard the rumor about Clark Gable and Billy Haines having a one time bro-bonding moment in the 1920s, which may or may not be true and always causes debates on movie history threads. Usually those who take offense to such stories are rather homophobic themselves and have a lot of issues to get over, thus can't picture their idols ever doing anything... different.

In "Harper", Paul Newman keeps calling Robert Wagner - "beauty".

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Woodward and Newman had a long lasting marriage which not only produced several children but some interesting movies.   Did Newman have relationships with men on the side?  It's possible- the idea of Jimmy (who was bi) and Paul experimenting in bed would make a great bit of slash fiction.... the rumor is that Gable was gay for pay for Haines and that George Cukor knew about it and that is the reason Gable forced the studio to fire him from "GWTW"

 

Kenneth Anger's second Hollywood Babylon book milked that story well.

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I would love to see a Billy Haines bio film

William J. Mann wrote a very interesting biography of him - "Wisecracker".

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The original Brick and Maggie:

 

catonahottin.jpg

 

And a Brick and Maggie that I saw on stage:

 

rexfeatures_127076_1154002k.jpg

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Kenneth Anger's second Hollywood Babylon book milked that story well.

you know, I never fell for that Gable story for two seconds.  I'm talking about the Cukor business and GWTW.  According to the Selznick memos, he was furious that Cukor was going so slowly and finally got rid of him. The only person the public wanted for Rhett Butler was Clark Gable. I find it difficult to believe that finding out Cukor was directing, he didn't object.  What was the point of starting to film and then decide he knew where the bodies are buried? They were at the same studio, they knew one another, and had already made a film together, Manhattan Melodrama.  If Cukor knew about it, are you trying to tell me no one else did? If Gable felt that way he would have had to retire.

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There is material online you can research suggesting that Paul may have been experimental in his sex life during his early years. Probably after marrying Joanne Woodward, not so much. Many Hollywood stars were not entirely 100% heterosexual. We have all heard the rumor about Clark Gable and Billy Haines having a one time bro-bonding moment in the 1920s, which may or may not be true and always causes debates on movie history threads. Usually those who take offense to such stories are rather homophobic themselves and have a lot of issues to get over, thus can't picture their idols ever doing anything... different.

 

I agree with you - most Hollywood stars were and are not entirely 100 percent heterosexual. And whether or not you are a movie star, there is evidence that a high percentage of men have had one or more gay experiences as young men. 

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you know, I never fell for that Gable story for two seconds.  I'm talking about the Cukor business and GWTW.  According to the Selznick memos, he was furious that Cukor was going so slowly and finally got rid of him. The only person the public wanted for Rhett Butler was Clark Gable. I find it difficult to believe that finding out Cukor was directing, he didn't object.  What was the point of starting to film and then decide he knew where the bodies are buried? They were at the same studio, they knew one another, and had already made a film together, Manhattan Melodrama.  If Cukor knew about it, are you trying to tell me no one else did? If Gable felt that way he would have had to retire.

 

Good news. Cukor went on to do The Women and many other blockbusters, so there was no issue with his directorial abilities.

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