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  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) ft. Kieran B.


Guest: Kieran B. (Best Picture Cast)


Cast:

  • Richard Brooks, Director/Writer

  • James Poe, Co-Writer

  • Elizabeth Taylor as Margaret "Maggie the Cat" Pollitt

  • Paul Newman as "Brick" Pollitt

  • Burl Ives as Harvey "Big Daddy" Pollitt

  • Jack Carson as Cooper "Gooper" Pollitt

  • Judith Anderson as Ida "Big Mama" Pollitt

  • Madeleine Sherwood as Mae Flynn "Sister Woman" Pollitt

  • Larry Gates as Dr. Baugh

  • Vaughn Taylor as Deacon Davis

*Recognition:

  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was released on August 27th, 1958.

  • It would go on to gross roughly $17.6 million against a budget of $2.3 million becoming the third highest grossing film of 1958.

  • Tennessee Williams was reportedly unhappy with the screenplay, which removed almost all of the homosexual themes and revised the third act section to include a lengthy scene of reconciliation between Brick and Big Daddy. Paul Newman, the film's star, had also stated his disappointment with the adaptation. The Hays Code limited Brick's portrayal of sexual desire from Skipper, and diminished the original play's critique of homophobia and sexism. Williams so disliked the toned-down film adaptation of his play that he told people waiting in line to see the film, "This movie will set the industry back 50 years. Go home!"

  • However, the film was highly acclaimed by critics, and would go on to be nominated for Best Picture, Director (Richard Brooks), Actor (Newman), Actress (Taylor), Adapted Screenplay, and Color Cinematography.

  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof currently holds a 97% on RT among critics, an 84 score on Metacritic, and a 3.8/5 on Letterboxd.

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: The lies we tell ourselves within families.


Plot Summary: After Brick Pollitt (Paul Newman) injures himself drunkenly revisiting his high school sports-star days, he and his estranged wife, Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor), visit his family's Mississippi plantation for the 65th birthday of his hot-tempered father, Big Daddy (Burl Ives). Big Daddy does not know he is dying, but Brick drunkenly discloses the state of Big Daddy’s health. Brick’s older brother, Gooper (Jack Carson), and his wife, Mae (Madeleine Sherwood), knowing of Big Daddy’s demise, seek to control his estate. As the family wrangles over Big Daddy’s money, Brick and Big Daddy struggle to come to terms with their relationship.


Did You Know:

  • Elizabeth Taylor proceeded with filming, even though her husband Mike Todd was killed in a plane crash on the same day shooting began.

  • Tennessee Williams wrote the role of "Big Daddy" Pollitt with Burl Ives in mind. Prior to the original stage production, Ives was known primarily as a folk singer, and many within the theatre community questioned Williams' decision. Ives won rave reviews in the role on stage and screen, and went on to a long and prestigious acting career.

  • This movie was originally to be filmed in black-and-white, as was the standard practice with "artistic" movies in the 1950s. (Virtually all movie adaptations of the plays of Tennessee Williams had been in black-and-white up to that time.) However, once Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor were cast in the leads, writer and director Richard Brooks insisted on shooting in color, in deference to the public's well-known enthusiasm for Taylor's violet and Newman's strikingly blue eyes.

  • Due to a musicians union strike, the movie lacks a traditional musical score composed specially for this movie. Instead, a "canned" score, comprised of pre-recorded pieces from the MGM music library, is used. Most of this music, including the evocative main theme, was originally composed by André Previn for MGM's Tension (1949).

  • Elvis Presley, Robert Mitchum, and Montgomery Clift turned down the role of Brick Pollitt. James Dean was considered to play Brick, but died before production began.

  • The original play contained an utterance of "bullshit" by Big Daddy, in what was then an audience-shocking use of profanity onstage. Due to the motion picture production code enforcement at the time the film was produced, it was out of the question to include the line in the screenplay adaption.

Best Performance: Paul Newman (Brick)/Elizabeth Taylor (Maggie)

Best Secondary Performance: Paul Newman (Brick)/Elizabeth Taylor (Maggie)

Most Charismatic Award: Elizabeth Taylor (Maggie)/Burl Ives (Big Daddy)

Best Scene:

  • Maggie the Cat

  • Brick and Big Daddy Have It Out

  • Skipper's Death

  • Gooper and Mae Make Their Play

  • Brick and Big Daddy Reconcile

  • Mendacity

Favorite Scene: Mendacity/Brick and Big Daddy Reconcile/Brick and Big Daddy Have It Out

Most Indelible Moment: Mendacity/Brick and Big Daddy in the Rain/Brick's Grandfather


In Memorium:

  • Gloria Dea, 100, American actress (King of the Congo, Planet 9 from Outer Space) and first magician to perform the Las Vegas Strip.

  • Lance Reddick, 60, American actor (The Wire, Fringe, John Wick) and musician.

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: I've got the guts to die. What I want to know is, have you got the guts to live?


Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: What's that smell in this room? Didn't you notice it, Brick? Didn't you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room?


Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Let's face facts, baby. You're a drinker, and that takes money.


Brick Pollitt: What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof?

Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Just staying on it I guess, long as she can.


Dr. Baugh: Sometimes I wish I had a pill to make people disappear.


Dixie Pollitt: Why is Uncle Brick on the floor?

Brick Pollitt: Because I tried to kill your Aunt Maggie. But I failed. And I fell.


Brick Pollitt: Careful Maggie, your claws are showing.


Gooper Pollitt: I don't give a damn whether Big Daddy likes me, or don't likes me. Or did or never did. Or will or will never.


Brick Pollitt: It's like a switch, clickin' off in my head. Turns the hot light off and the cool one on and all of a sudden, there's peace.

Harvey "Big Daddy" Pollitt: Boy, you're, you're a real alcoholic!


Brick Pollitt: A family crisis brings out the best and the worst in every member of the family.


Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt : But, there's one thing you can't buy at any European fire sale... or any other market on Earth. That's your life. You can't buy back your life when it's finished.


Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: You're trying to concentrate but you can't because your brain is soaked with liquor. Wet Brain!


Brick Pollitt: People like doing what they used to do, after they've stopped being able to do it.


Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Mendacity. What do you know about mendacity? I could write a book on it...Mendacity. Look at all the lies that I got to put up with. Pretenses. Hypocrisy. Pretendin' like I care for Big Mama, I haven't been able to stand that woman in forty years. Church! It bores me. But I go. And all those swindlin' lodges and social clubs and money-grabbin' auxiliaries. It's-it's got me on the number one sucker list. Boy, I've lived with mendacity. Now why can't you live with it?


Brick Pollitt: How does one drowning man help another drowning man?


Brick Pollitt: Big Daddy... What is it that makes him so big? His big heart, his big belly, or his big money?


Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Looks like the wind took some liberties with this place...


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 5.33

Impact/Significance: 7.83

Novelty: 7.67

Classic-ness: 6

Rewatchability: 6.5

Audience Score: 8.2 (72% Google, 92% RT)

Total: 41.53


Remaining Questions:

  • Is Brick going to just help sell the lie until he really impregnates Maggie or is he going to go further than that and reconcile?

  • Do Gooper and Mae get cut in on the inheritance?

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