A Place in the Sun (1951)
George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) lands a job at his rich uncle’s factory, perks excluded. His humble beginnings spark a relationship with his fellow packaging buddy, Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters) in his “eff this” mindset against the taboo no-relationships-in-the-workplace policy. Alice, or “Al”, is fixated with George, dazzled with his dashing good looks and personality (who wouldn’t be?) Things get crazy when George meets the enchanting Angela (Elizabeth Taylor), a high-society beauty with rich friends and influence to boot. Alice is all-but thrown out the window once the chemistry between George and Angela starts fizzling. But Alice isn’t done with George. Not even close. She’s determined to win him back, and she’s got a pretty convincing argument after she ends up pregnant. But George has other plans. [don don don…]
This was not was I was expecting. I expected some sweeping romance between Clift and Taylor, with lots of passionate kissing and emotional music and beautiful scenery. While this isn’t entirely untrue, haunting romanticism and tragedy encompass the plot. When Elizabeth Taylor died just a few months ago, this was the first movie I wanted to watch since I had never seen it before (and it’s another one I can check off the AFI top 100 list…) Go even further back to when I discovered Montgomery Clift, my mom told me that I needed to see A Place in the Sun if I wanted to see one of the most beautiful on-screen couples ever. Boy was she right. Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, two beautiful people with beautiful faces and beautiful bone structure, were meant to be together on screen. I’d argue that this is one of Taylor’s most beautiful films. She’s classy, refined, and elegant. And Clift is, well, movie-star dreamy. Don’t judge. I am a girl, you know. I won’t tell you whether or not I drooled at his on-screen presence. I’ll leave that up to you to figure out. All handsomeness aside, he’s fantastic in this role. Just sayin.
The real hero here, however, is George Stevens (won an Oscar). Somehow he manages to paint the movie on screen. The cinematography (also won an Oscar) is magnificent and breath taking. Every camera angle contributes to Stevens’ ideals and overall feel of the story line. I also feel like Stevens has a remarkably sensitive approach to the subject which, by the end of the film, is pretty grim. He allows us to connect with the characters and feel the angst and pain. But he also reminds us of what it’s like to be in love, and that confused hormones aren’t just reserved for teenagers.
This is a remake of the 1931 film An American Tragedy. Though I have not seen the original, it intrigued me that Stevens’ version features a different title. A Place in the Sun. After I finished, the title seemed to take on an entirely new meaning. It was poetic. Sunshine and warmth in the midst of tragedy. Finding solace in the heat of a new and exciting relationship and forgetting about the pressing problems of life. On such a high, one wouldn’t believe how fast it could come crashing down. But oh it does.
One must not forget Shelley Winters – she’s not easy to overlook with her plain features and feisty, whiny mannerisms. You can relate to her insecurity concerning the L-Taylor and her bubbling hope that things will work out with George. Her performance, though not as widely recognized for her lack of star-power, is a highlight and earned her an Oscar nom.
Haunting and tragic, A Place in the Sun is a beautiful film, albeit kind of difficult to watch by the end. 8/10