Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Place in the Sun (1951)

As I usually do with recently departed stars, I watched this Elizabeth Taylor movie this weekend.

A Place in the Sun, tells the story of George Eastman (Montgomery Clift), an honest, hard-working young man.  At the request of his uncle, George hitchhikes into town to get a job at Uncle Estman's factory.  There, he gets a menial job, starts working his way up the ladder, and begins a secret romance with coworker Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters).

George and Alice were going to spend a quiet evening together for his birthday, but George gets invited to a lavish party at his uncle's house.  There he meets Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor), and the two fall madly in love.  The chemistry is palpable between the two stars.

George clearly loves (or at least loved) Alice, but he is completely blown away by Angela.  Alice is everything George is, and Angela is everything George wants.

The next couple paragraphs deal with spoilers, so if you don't want to know anything, skip ahead.

George spends a little bit leading a dual life, but he is clearly getting closer to Angela and farther away from Alice.  One day, Angela invites George up to her family's lake house to spend his vacation and meet his family.  Unfortunately for him, Alice also calls and tells him she's pregnant.  He lies to Alice and goes to the lake house with Angela.

In a stroke of bad luck, Alice sees George's picture in the paper and goes up to the lake to confront him.  The two end up on a boat together and Alice falls overboard and drowns.  It appears to be an accident, but could George have possibly saved her?

The movie starts out as a fairly straightforward drama that gets more complex as George falls further and further in love with Angela.  I'd call the last half of the film quite noir; even if the term is slightly overused these days.  There are parts of it that made me think of Cornell Woolrich.

Taylor doesn't get too much screen time, but when she's on the screen, you can't keep your eyes off her.  She is clearly the engine that runs the show; the driving force behind Clift's actions.


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