Friday, August 27, 2010

A Place in the Sun (1951)

In mid-eighties my aunt gave some pictures of actors from the 50's, I guessed they had been cut from a book. I remember one picture of actor Montgomery Clift, which I thought was very handsome, and I hoped that someday I could see one of his films. The pictures were lost when my family moved house 15 years ago.

The first film of Montgomery Clift I have seen is Judgment at Nuremberg, but I was rather disappointed with his looks, as he looked ill in the movie; but later I read that he was really ill when the scene was made. I thought he was a very good actor. Lately I saw Suddenly, Last Summer (compared to A Place in the Sun, Suddenly Last Summer is more like a play); but in this one, I think he is too thin - and looks ill a bit. Tonight I saw A Place in the Sun, and I remembered the picture I had years ago and I almost believed that the picture was taken when A Place in the Sun was made. 

The story of A Place in the Sun is sad: one mistake you made in the past has prevented you to obtain happiness. George Eastman is the poor nephew of the rich owner of Eastman swimsuit factory. He comes to work for his uncle and to begin with, they put him in the packaging department, where he meets Alice, a worker. The first time George comes to his uncle house, he sees Angela, who is beautiful and rich, who seems like a goddess to him (the trailer says so). Believing that Angela is out of his reach, he builds a romance with Alice. However, the second time his uncle invites him, Angela notices him and is attracted by him. Although George is poor and uneducated, Angela and her parents don't mind and it seems that George will have a better future - he will join the high society in their place in the Sun; but then Alice tells him that she is pregnant. 

It is not difficult to choose between Angela and Alice, but growing up in a family who dedicate their life to missionary, George's conscience speaks loud. He knows he should not abandon Alice. It's not only for fear that she will blow up their secret that he keeps returning to calm her, but because deep down inside he knows that it is the right thing to do. When the opportunity comes, when he really could get rid of Alice, although it has not been planned - well, at first he did plan it, but he changes his mind in the end - if in a split second he decides not to save Alice (and can he save her? It is dark and Alice is heavy), do they really have to punish him with maximum? The movie shows how prejudice is built to gain public opinion and it's the prosecutor's duty to finish it. The case has made the front page news for days, maybe weeks, that they feel it's not right if George is to let go free. 

Montgomery Clift is very convincing as a poor guy among the rich people. His complexion is dark, gives an impression that he is used to work under the sun. After the accident in the lake, his inner battle is so great, that he looks so tired. He is not Tom Ripley, who goes hungry after killing someone. His soul is in torment that he sweats. He wonders if he is really guilty, but his conscience keeps accusing him. Perhaps he could not save Alice, but at least he must try, and he did not. Another thing I like from this movie is the 3 dresses worn by Elizabeth Taylor: 1. in the pool room 2. when for the first time she and George say that they love each other 3. when George tells his family history to her father. They are very gorgeous.

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