by Brad Nelson
Occasionally a movie goes beyond mere entertainment and achieves artistry. A Place in the Sun is one of these movies.
First, the bad news: The only flaw I see in this movie is Liz’s quick, and to my mind, unjustified infatuation with George Eastman (played by Montgomery Clift). Angela Vickers (Liz) is presented as a somewhat spoiled rich-kid society girl, full of high-priced fun and well-bred chums. When George comes along he is an unknown quantity. There is little to recommend him. Liz doesn’t even notice him upon George’s first visit to his uncle’s house. He’s just part of the furniture, if that.
And then — wham! — Liz is declaring her undying love for George. There is no build-up to this. Did I miss about a half hour of the movie somewhere? There should have been a scene showing how she was left dull and vacant by “proper” high-society life and longed for something different. Maybe a bad-boy angle or something. But we don’t get that. I guess we just have to assume that Eastman is just completely irresistible. (And one must confess that Monty is kind of a cute little runt.)
That issue aside, I have little but praise for this movie. Once the not-very-convincing love affair commences, it is so very well captured and effused by the stunningly vivacious and fawning Liz Taylor. And Clift masterfully portrays the star-crossed lover, the man who is not able to let go of the class gap that exists between the world he wishes to enter and the humble, even ragged, world that he comes from. But he’s a good chap at heart — except for well, you’ll see.
Shelley Winters (Wow…that’s Shelley Winters?) is nothing less than brilliant as Alice Tripp, the put-upon woman. You can’t help but feel she’s been badly used. Most people have a proclivity to social climbing. And who in their right mind wouldn’t have his head turned by the nubile Liz Taylor and the earthly-transcendent world that she represents? All that Alice Tripp represents is love, devotion, fidelity, and family, while Liz represents excitement, wealth, the exotic, and privilege.
Most movies are fairly formulaic. You can pretty much predict what will happen. But I had absolutely no idea what would happen when the pivotal moments came in this movie.
If I could sum up A Place in the Sun is about it would be about how man’s ambition and sexual drives tend to get him into all kinds of trouble. George wasn’t a bad guy. But he was of the “Progressive” mindset in that he wanted what he wanted, and to hell with having to pay any consequences for his actions. Alice, on the other hand, was the traditional “redneck” conservative who expected that if a man got her pregnant, he would marry her. Considering the sheer epidemic of unwed mothers, bastard children, and shattered families and neighborhoods produced by today’s new sexual morality, maybe that wasn’t such a bad ethic to have.
And, yeah, we see an early Perry Mason in Raymond Burr as the D.A., although he still has a lot of the creepy Lars Thorwald of Rear Window in him. He has yet to transition to the more fatherly (but forceful) Perry Mason.
All in all, a very well-written and acted movie. And it should not be understated just how much pleasing eye-candy was provided by Liz Taylor. I’ve never seen her look so gorgeous. This is not the stereotypical character that Liz tended to be (for better and for worse) in her later years. She’s fresh, vivacious, and pleasantly spirited. A definite must-see for classic movie lovers. • (838 views)