Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)


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Synopsis: Alcoholic ex-football player Brick Pollitt (Paul Newman) and his sexually-frustrated wife Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor) are in Mississippi to celebrate the 65th birthday of Brick’s father Big Daddy (Burl Ives), who’s dying of cancer. With Brick’s brother Gooper (Jack Carson) and mean-spirited sister-in-law Mae (Madeleine Sherwood) sucking up to Big Daddy and Big Momma (Judith Anderson) in order to inherit the wealthy cotton tycoon’s land, Maggie is desperate for Brick to do something to convince his father he’s worthy of taking over the family estate. However, Brick has more on his mind than his father’s will — mainly the recent suicide of his best friend, Skipper.

Say, folks! If you’re interested in the topic of queer images in film, have I got an event for YOU! From June 18-22, Garbo Laughs (that’s me) and Pussy Goes Grrr will be hosting the Queer Film Blogathon. Check it out now to find out how you can contribute and even win prizes. The party simply won’t be the same without you!

Directed by Richard Brooks for MGM in 1958, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was adapted from the 1955 Tennessee Williams play of the same name. Despite the film’s enormous commercial success and six Academy Award nominations, both Williams and its star Paul Newman expressed dissatisfaction with the play’s translation to the big screen. In fact, Williams actively encouraged people waiting in line for the film not to see the movie, because he was so personally offended at the film’s bowdlerized bastardization of his work.

Broadway has always given more leeway to “controversial” works and writers than Hollywood has, which is exactly the case with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Williams intended Cat to be his personal treatise on the destructive effects of internalized homophobia on the human psyche; but with such a taboo subject at the heart of the story, the Hays Office would only allow homosexuality to be subtextually hinted at in the screen version. Therefore, with its core principles remaining unspoken, the film does not have the same impact as the play, and the message is watered down. Brick is only allowed to hint at what the play frankly proclaims and discusses, mainly the possibility of a homosexual romance between Brick and his dead friend Skipper.

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The Three Faces of Eve (1957)

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Synopsis: The mystery begins when Eve White (Joanne Woodward), a demure Southern housewife and loving mother, is referred to psychiatrist Dr. Curtis Luther (Lee J. Cobb) in the hopes he will have the cure for her sudden severe headaches and frequent blackouts. But the symptoms aren’t all as innocent as that; for it is soon revealed that sometimes Eve does things that she can’t remember, things that deeply disturb her husband Ralph (David Wayne). While under the care of Dr. Luther, Eve has one of her blackouts and reveals an entirely separate personality: that of the saucy, sultry Eve Black, who stays out dancing all night with sailors and tries to do harm to Eve White’s young daughter Bonnie. As Eve White begins to descend deeper and deeper into depression over these episodes, Eve Black takes over more and more, and quickly spins Eve White’s life completely out of control. Just when things can’t get any worse for Eve White, a thirdpersonality appears, the smart and level-headed Jane, who knows both Eve White and Eve Black and attempts to help Dr. Luther untangle their inner workings. Can the three faces of Eve ever be united into one whole, stable, healthy human being? Will Jane and Dr. Luther be able to discover the key to what caused the split, a repressed secret hidden deep in Eve White’s past?

Warning: This is a Full Recap review, meaning it includes screencaps and commentary on the film in its entirety. Therefore, it is much longer than a regular review, and spoilers are pretty much guaranteed.

Up until recently, I was blessed with the fortunate convenience of having my favorite living actor and my favorite living actress be married to one another. This all changed when, on September 26, 2008, the male half of the aforementioned duo, Paul Newman, passed away at the age of 83. While it was tragic enough to lose one of my personal heroes, even more painful was thinking about how Paul’s passing would affect his amazing wife, Joanne Woodward, who I idolize perhaps even more than I did her late husband. I’ve been told that hero worship is an unhealthy vice – whaaaaaaat?!? – but, to me, the Newmans were always more like my fantasy grandparents rather than living divinities. I’m serious. Two warm, funny, truly loving individuals, who were more interested in giving back to the world than fame or fortune, who just so happened to be mind-blowingly talented and unbelievably gorgeous to boot? Who wouldn’t want to be related to that? The fact that there really are a few kids out there who were fortunate enough to have been born Newman grandchildren makes me pretty jealous. They just seem like the kind of people who’d let you play army with their Academy Awards and not care if you scratched them up. Why wasn’t that my childhood?!? Why must fate be so very very cruel?!? *shakes angry fist toward the heavens*

Despite the fact that Paul was much more the household name than his spouse, it was actually Joanne who charmed me first. Her performance in the 1976 TV movie Sybil, that unpredictable, intense, knock-you-to-the-floor-and-drag-you-around-the-room little migraine of a film, really made an impression on me, and left me hungry for more. In three solid hours of screaming, crying, window-shattering drama, the character of Dr. Cornelia Wilbur was an incredibly soothing presence; by the end of it I wanted Joanne Woodward to stroke my hair and make me peanut butter sandwiches. I decided this actress warranted further investigation, and while I was at it, I might as well look and see what this husband of hers was all about. The rest is history. I’ve been hooked on the Newmans – both individually and as a couple – ever since. They’re just delicious. The kind of flawless people that you’d really hate, if they weren’t so gosh-darn genuine about it all. Just watch this clip of them on “What’s My Line?” – I dare you not to fall in love when Joanne boasts about how their six-month-old baby swallowed a cigarette.

Our film today, directed by Nunnally Johnson for Twentieth Century Fox, is the one Joanne Woodward is most famous for, the one for which she won her Best Actress Academy Award. The Three Faces of Eve, in which Joanne plays the title character and essentially carries the whole picture, was actually only her third film, though she’d been making the rounds on television for a few years prior. She received her first Academy Award nomination for it – and won. Joanne Woodward, a relative unknown, just swept right in, knocked it out of the park, and beat out the likes of Lana Turner and Elizabeth Taylor for the Oscar. That’s pluck, is what that is. Joanne didn’t want to prove she was a star – she wanted to prove she was an actress, and given the role of Eve, a part she could really sink her teeth into, she blew away the rest of the competition on sheer skill alone. That’s what I love most about Joanne Woodward: she had the face and the body to get by just on her looks, but she never, ever took the easy way out. She’d walk onto the set looking like glamor personified, but then would launch a surprise attack on her part and take it down with her ninja-like acting skills of awesomeness. To me, that doesn’t only make her a phenomenal actress; that makes her a Legend. Not that, um, I’m biased or anything. (more…)

Hud (1963)

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Synopsis: Self-confessed ruthless jerk Hud Bannon (Paul Newman) spends his nights brawling in bars and sleeping with the women (married and unmarried alike) of his small Texas town, and his days avoiding the responsibilities designated to him by his ranch-owning father Homer (Melvyn Douglas). He also unwillingly takes on the function of role model to teenage nephew Lonnie (Brandon De Wilde), who is finally coming of age and trying to decide what kind of man he wants to be: a principled cowboy like Homer, or a pleasure-seeking ladies’ man like Hud? Hud spends his remaining free time trying to get under the skin of world-weary housekeeper Alma (Patricia Neal), who seems to be the only woman in town immune to his charms. But the brewing conflict between Homer and Hud comes to a head when the local veterinarian (Whit Bissell) delivers bad news about the family’s cattle herd. With pressure from Hud to sell the infected herd off to unsuspecting neighbors, will Homer be able to maintain his lifelong dedication to stoic morality – even if it means losing everything he’s worked for?

Patricia Neal (January 20, 1926 – August 8, 2010) was born Patsy Louise Neal in Packard, Kentucky, and grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee. After studying drama at Northwestern University, she landed her first Broadway job as an understudy in The Voice of the Turtle. Her second play, Another Part of the Forest, earned her the 1946 Tony Award (the first year the awards were presented) for Best Featured Actress in a Play. She made her film debut in 1949’s John Loves Mary opposite Ronald Reagan. That same year Neal appeared in The Fountainhead and began an illicit affair with her married leading man, Gary Cooper. In the early 1950s she appeared in several films, including the classic scifi drama The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), before suffering a nervous breakdown over the end of her relationship with Cooper and returning to Broadway to star in a revival of Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour. In 1953 she married British author Roald Dahl, with whom she would go on to have five children. Neal then starred in a string of hits, beginning with 1957’s A Face in the Crowd, directed by Elia Kazan; Blake Edwards’ Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961; and finally Hud in 1963, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress as well as the New York Film Critics’, National Board of Review, and BAFTA awards. However, public success was mixed with private tragedy. In 1960 Neal and Dahl’s four-month-old son Theo was left with permanent brain damage after his baby carriage was struck by a New York taxicab. In 1962 their daughter Olivia died at age seven due to complications from the measles. Finally in 1965, while pregnant with her fifth child, Neal suffered three strokes in rapid succession and was in a coma for three weeks. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Lucy, but it was doubted that Neal would ever walk or talk again, much less return to acting. However, Neal made a triumphant recovery from her strokes, due in no small part to her husband’s strict rehabilitation regimen. She made her long-awaited return to acting in 1967’s The Subject Was Roses, for which she was again nominated for an Academy Award. She would go on to appear in a variety of film and television productions throughout the next four decades, publishing an autobiography, As I Am, in 1988. Patricia Neal died from lung cancer at her home in Edgartown, Massachusetts, on August 8, 2010, at the age of 84.

I already gushed about Hud in my review of Hombre (1967), the last of three collaborations between director Martin Ritt, cinematographer James Wong Howe, and star Paul Newman. Hud was the first movie where these three great artists came together, and while I haven’t seen their second film (1964’s The Outrage, a Western remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon), I’m willing to bet Hud is the best of the bunch. Then again, I have a hard time coming up with any film that is better directed, better filmed, or better acted than Hud. It’s a cinematic perfect storm. (more…)

Friday Glam Spam: Paul Newman


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Hombre (1967)

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