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Cat on a Hot Tin Williams


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I watched CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF again on TCM yesterday. I always discover new things, and even re-discover old things I liked in this one when I first watched it.

 

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I think some of the scenes are brilliant, this cast is to die for, and aside from the fashions and automobiles which are very rooted in the late 1950s, the film seems to transcend its era.

 

However, a few things could have been improved. The utterly long monologue that Maggie (Liz Taylor) has about Skipper's death, which I am guessing was nearly lifted verbatim from the stage play, just goes on too long. We do not really care about some dead character we never saw; we care about her and Brick (Paul Newman).

 

Now what I do think works well is when she lies and says she's pregnant. That is a desperate sort of woman who will try to bolster her impotent husband's manhood and save face with his relatives, not only for him but for herself. She is so wonderfully in denial about his sexuality, and Liz plays that perfectly. I love it when he calls her up to bed at the end, and she says 'Yes, Sir!...that is just great.

 

I also like the subplot about Big Daddy's (Burl Ives) impending death. I love how the doctor perpetuates this lie about his clean bill of health then goes to the sons and reveals the truth. When Big Daddy realizes the truth himself, it is very nasty and ugly...uglier than anything that has come before in the story.

 

The scenes with the five grandkids get over-played but do provide good comic relief. I think Judith Anderson is particularly effective and you would never know she's a native Aussie...she camouflages her own background well and totally becomes Big Mama. Of course, we expect great things from Dame Anderson, and she certainly delivers.

 

Jack Carson has some fine moments, especially near the end. He plays Gooper so pathetically that you almost start to feel sorry for him, and for Brick, under Big Daddy's thumb all these years, never quite measuring up to his tough-style of parenting.

 

But with all these excellent things, I think Richard Brooks' film goes on a bit too long. If some of the longer sequences had been trimmed a bit, and if some of the hand-wringing had been kept to a minimum, the project would be a little stronger. After awhile, as tends to happen in many of Williams' works, it veers into cartoonish portrayals of people that were no doubt real in Williams' mind, based on figures that were very real in his own past.

 

When the hand-wringing and the more cartoonish aspects take over, the project is seriously in danger of becoming a satire, not at all the straight drama that was probably originally intended.

 

Still, this film does hold up well, because I think the cast is completely absorbed in the production. They work on the characters to make them come to life and to show that a world of mendacity and disgust can be a thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking spectacle.

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< We do not really care about some dead character we never saw; we care about her and Brick (Paul Newman). >

 

 

Can't say that I agree entirely with you here, TB. Who Skipper was and what he meant to Brick is VERY important.

 

 

I watched "Cat" on DVD last week and was thinking about the Skipper character and how significant off-screen characters can be.

 

 

If Skipper DID actually appear on screen in this 1958 film, which actor would have been best? Opinions?

 

 

 

 

 

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I agree that Skipper is important to the backstory, but her confession about his death is so overwrought and elongated. In fact, I felt she was talking for her husband. I would rather have it that some of that dialogue was delivered by Brick himself, that he pushed Skipper to his death.

 

>If Skipper DID actually appear on screen in this 1958 film, which actor would have been best? Opinions?

 

Richard Jaeckel.

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