Classic Movie Review: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)


Starring Paul Newman & Elizabeth Taylor

Here’s another film starring Elizabeth Taylor, along with Paul Newman.  Cat on a Hot Tin Roof comes from an adaptation from the play by Tennessee Williams.  It explores what happens when tragedy strikes a southern family that has for too long been obsessed with material wealth rather than the idea of making loving memories.  Maggie(Taylor) and Brick(Newman) are an unhappy couple visiting Brick’s wealthy family for his father’s birthday(aka Big Daddy).  Brick is a former football star alcoholic who’s bitter about his best friend Skipper’s death(by suicide), in fact he actually blames Maggie in some part for it (he believes Maggie slept with Skipper).

Maggie still loves Brick very much but Brick wont give into Maggie as he states he can no longer stand her.  Brick’s father, nicknamed Big Daddy, has recently arrived back from the doctor, believing he is cancer free.  However, this is not the case.  The doctor just lied to Big Daddy in order to spare him and the family of sorrow for Big Daddy’s birthday.  As the family gathers at the estate, the viewer is treated into seeing the excess of a life based on money rather than love.  When it’s finally realized by everyone that Big Daddy is actually terminally ill, the matter of who the estate will go to come into question.  Wether it will go to Brick(who has absolutely no interest in attaining his fathers wealth or to his brother, who wants the inheritance(but whom his father can’t stand).

The viewer then sees the dreams and structure of a family so based on material excess rapidly deteriorate.  With his interaction with his son Brick through the course of the film, Big Daddy finally realizes that having material wealth isn’t everything and that the best thing you can leave others are loving memories.  Once Brick becomes happier about his family situation, he is able to resolve his bitterness towards his wife Maggie(who actually didn’t sleep with Skipper).

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a display of rapid family change.  It’s the tale of a family on the brink of chaos.  It’s as if their obsession with material wealth accumulated so much that it’s as if it all explodes negatively at once upon the revelation that the head of the family is actually going to die.  Breakout performances by Newman and Taylor keep the viewer’s attention for the entire course of the film.  In the end, the viewer is treated with the most important lesson: Material wealth isn’t everything, it’s the memories that count.

5/5 Stars

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