director George Stevens
Everybody say, “Is he all right?”
And everybody say, “What’s he like?”
Everybody say, “He sure look funny.”
That’s…Montgomery Clift, honey!”
— from “The Right Profile” by The Clash
My ongoing “Whack-a-Mole” of picking off the films that I haven’t seen from the recent BBC list of the “100 Best American Movies” has led me to A Place in the Sun, George Stevens’s classic adaptation of An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. Having never seen it, I didn’t realize that it was an adaptation of Dreiser. In fact, I don’t know if I knew much of anything about it other than it starred Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor. But that is what this exercise is all about, filling in those odd blanks in my movie knowledge.
Clift plays George Eastman, a young man who comes to his wealthy uncle for a job. He had been raised by his poor, evangelical parents and is seeking a better life. His uncle sets him up with a job in his factory. Here, he meets Alice (played by the excellent Shelley Winters), a mousy girl with whom he quickly takes up a relationship despite the company’s policy against such a thing.
But George continues to rise in the company, especially after he meets the luminous Angela (played with luminosity by Taylor), who is a relation in the higher echelon’s of society. They fall for each other in big ways and he begins to become accepted.
But then Alice turns up pregnant and starts making noise. George only sees one way out…to kill her.
The film is big time melodrama, propelled by its very strong stars, and is a pretty solid flick. The latter part of the film moves into courtroom drama, with Raymond Burr as the merciless DA. But the film follows this melodrama all the way to the electric chair.
I’ve read that it was a huge success in its time but has fallen somewhat in estimation in more modern times. I don’t know. I thought it was pretty good. Liz Taylor was never prettier, one might imagine.