A Place in the Sun (1951) (mini-review++)

Montgomery-Clift-Elizabeth-Taylor-A-Place-in(If you’re curious, my review process. It’s also pasted at the end of this post. I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.)

(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)

acting 8

directing 9

effects 8

editing 8

writing 9

SW SCORE: 42

4.5 out of 5 🐙

++

This movie opens with Montgomery Clift hitchhiking. He’s wearing a leather jacket that’s open and a plain white t-shirt under it. I knew I saw that look somewhere. Check it out:

deanANDcliff

Very similar hairstyle. Same look. Hollywood certainly liked their brooding leading men to look a certain way in the 50s. INterestingly enough, this flick preceded Rebel Without a Cause by 4 years. But where the latter actually ad a young person play a young person, A  Place in the Sun decided to cast a 31-year-old Cliff as a character whose clearly supposed to be in his early twenties. It might have worked if Cluff didn’t have pronounced wrinkle lines on this forehead; not exactly a usual characteristic of people in their young 20s. OK, back to the movie review.

Cliff plays George Eastman, poor nephew of Charles Eastman, a wealthy local businessman, as a much more genuine and earnest and shy character than Dean did in ‘Cause. Dean’s character was cooler and much more troubled and more iconic for it. But you can see Cliff’s young man as a spiritual, less edgy ancestor. The movie starts with Cliff meeting Angela Vickers, played by a young and pretty much incomparable Elizabeth Taylor.

(I don’t know how she did it but in the same sentence she manged to be demure, flirtatious, and sexual. It’s as if she invented another kind of atmosphere.)

Not much is made of the meeting. Cliff appears to be intrigued but restrained and Taylor barely seems to notice him. Cliff goes his own way and falls for a sweet, genuine, girl next door type played as a cascading emotional collapse by a brilliant Shelley Winters. As almost anyone watching could probably predict, George falls for Angela. Who wouldn’t fall for Angela? That’s like asking the sea not to fall for the sun. As you might also imagine, the love triangle goes horribly, horribly wrong. But it goes wrong in much darker ways than you probably can imagine. I will stop there because half of the mastery of this film is the insane twist.

The dialogue is typical chilling and rarified 50s style patter. The dialogue goes over the top but it’s so lovely you just don’t care. I’ll give an example here:

“I love you. I’ve loved since the first moment I saw you. I guess maybe I even liked you before I saw you.”

I get that some would describe this as sappy but if you see the scene around it and the actors filling it, it just works. It probably would never work today but forget today’s mores and just shuck off your modern cynicism and let yourself swim in a much more naïve era.

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(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.

(2) Octopuses (0-5 🐙, with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)

(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so

(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)

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