Friday, August 12, 2011

AFI/BFI #200: A Place In The Sun (1951)

Director: George Stevens
Writer: Michael Wilson, Harry Brown
Cinematographer: William C. Mellor
Composer: Franz Waxman
AFI Rank:  92 (1998), - (2007)
BFI Rank: -


      75%

Theodore Dreiser’s parable on the myth of the American dream was published in 1925 and first commited to celluloid in 1931 with the same title. When George Stevens approached Paramount with the idea of filming another adaptation they were less than excited about a remake so soon after the original. It’s funny to think of 20 years as once being considered too soon for a remake in Hollywood. Stevens sued them for breach of contract and they finally let him make it and thank god they did. A Place In The Sun is as much a masterpiece of American cinema as the book is a classic of American literature.

Those new to the blog may not know that I detest reviews of films that give away the plot. The best way to see a movie is when you know absolutely nothing about it. Even the trailer can be too much. My goal is to get you to watch the picture and hopefully I occasionally succeed. A Place In The Sun is just one of those pictures. The less you know the better it will be.

What I can talk about is the cast. In 1949 Elizabeth Taylor was just 17 and her leading man, Montgomery Clift, was just shy of 30. A great child actor she had done little to suggest what she was capable of here and the studio took a risk that paid off and launched her career as a Hollywood icon. Shelley Winters had only played glamorous roles and taking this part in 1951 must have took incredible courage. The result is simply incredible, a film that is as good today as the day it was made.


Taylor and Clift relaxing on location at Lake Tahoe

The film took home 6 oscars for Best Cinematography, Costume Design, Direction, Film Editing, Music and Screenplay. Clift and Winter both got nominations as did the production itself for Best Picture. Impressive considering there was some serious competition that year from An American in Paris, Quo Vadis, A Streetcar Named Desire, the African Queen and Death of a Salesman.

It is a little surprising then that the AFI dropped it from their revised Top 100 in 2007 and that Rotten Tomatoes has it at a paltry 75%. The book is far better as usually the case, and the film is much lighter more melodramatic than its 1931 predecessor. Some critics feel it is now dated and that is most likely why it was dropped. I personally feel it has held up extremely well and is in my books at least, Crucial Cinema.


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