Wednesday, February 16, 2011

240. A Place in the Sun (1951)

Running Time: 122 minutes
Directed By: George Stevens
Written By: Harry Brown, Theodore Dreiser, Patrick Kearney, Michael Wilson, from the novel An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser and the play A Place in the Sun by Patrick Kearney
Main Cast: Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, Shelley Winters


My wife got this one in the mail today from Netflix and realizing it was in the "1001" book, I decided to join her in watching it. The biggest impression that "A Place in the Sun" left on me was the realization that Elizabeth Taylor was a stunning beauty.

"A Place in the Sun" is based on the novel An American Tragedy and tells the story of George Eastman (Clift), a man raised in a highly religious household who takes advantage of an opportunity to go work in his uncle's factory. Despite being the nephew of the owner, George is treated with no favoritism and is given the lowest position available in the factory. However, George is grateful for any opportunity and puts his best foot forward. On his nights and off days George takes to fraternizing with a girl he works with, Alice Tripp (Winters), which is in strict defiance of the workplace rules. Eventhough George is dating Alice, it seems that every boy in town is enamored by the beauty of Miss Angela Vickers (Taylor) and George is no exception. Once Angela notices that George exists, it doesn't take her long to fall for his good looks and proper manners. George is now courting two ladies, when he'd rather just be courting Angela and despite his efforts to ignore Alice, he can't shake her, especially when it is revealed that she is pregnant. Meanwhile George begins to move up the ranks at work and elbow his way into his uncle's social circle, but that is all in jeopardy when Alice threatens to spill the beans about their relationship unless George marries her.


The thing that I find the most intriguing about "A Place in the Sun" is the observance of what a man will do when his social rank is in jeopardy. You take the very gracious, very humble George Eastman, who was raised in a very poor household with a strict religious upbringing. He comes to New York for an opportunity at making it on his own, with his own job and own place and doesn't expect much. He makes the most of the opportunity and in the process begins to gain a little notoriety around the factory and begins to draw the attentions of a beautiful woman. You give George Eastman a taste of what the high life can be like and it drives him to ponder the thought of murder...murder on a person who is threatening to strip him of his new found social rank. I guess it echoes that old adage "Give him an inch and he takes a mile". George was in a good spot when he was living on his own, courting Alice and holding down a steady job, but when he got a taste of how the upper class lived, he wanted a mile.

I can't say that I fully enjoyed this movie as I did the last time I saw it, which was some years ago. I am intrigued by the premise and am enamored with the beauty of Liz Taylor and the acting skills of Monty Clift, but it just didn't fulfill me like it seemed to many years ago. I did love the camera work too. In fact, there's a particular shot in the film where George is conversing with Alice and all that can be seen is Alice's eyes. George looms in the shadows and to me this represents the exact moment when the thought of murder crossed the mind of George Eastman, when a purely evil thought consumed him. On the other hand, one thing that really took me out of this movie, just a bit, was the editing. I'm pretty sure that every change in scene over the course of the film is done with a dissolve, a dissolve that seems to hang way too long and leave us with overlapping images for too many seconds. I know it's a really anal thing to even mention, but it just seemed really sloppy and could've been handled with a little more care.

RATING: 6.5/10 Despite my nitpicking, this really is a good movie and I recommend it based on Elizabeth Taylor alone. I also recommend watching it as part of a double feature with "Match Point" - the 2005 Woody Allen picture.


February 16, 2011 8:37pm

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