Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

cat on a hot tin roof poster 1958 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Great cast

Dances around one of the big subjects due to when the film was made

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Studio:  Avon Productions (II)

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  August 23, 1958 (Premiere)/August 29, 1958 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

cat on a hot tin roof elizabeth taylor

Maggie the Cat needs out!

“Big Daddy” Pollitt (Burl Ives) is coming home with Big Mama (Judith Anderson) for his birthday after at an exam at a private clinic.  Waiting for him is his son Cooper “Gooper” Pollitt (Jack Carson), Gooper’s wife Mae Flynn “Sister Woman” (madeleine Sherwood), and their children.  Also attending the party is Big Daddy’s other son “Brick” (Paul Newman) who has just broken his leg in an accident and constantly at odds with his wife Margaret “Maggie the Cat” (Elizabeth Taylor).  Brick is drinking more and more and won’t talk to Maggie or his family about his problem…as Maggie worries that Gooper and his family are threatening to take Brick’s part of Big Daddy’s inheritance.  It could be a tempestuous night and the truth could be laid bare.

Directed by Richard Brooks, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a Southern drama.  The film is an adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ classic 1955 and was well received upon its release.  The film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Newman), Best Actress (Taylor), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Cinematography—Color.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a classic.  It is loaded with memorable characters and a story of innuendos and loss.  The film is a decent adaptation of it, but the time it was made forced restrictions on it that even led Tennessee Williams to object to the adaptation.

cat on a hot tin roof sister woman gooper jack carson madeleine sherwood

Two of the most intentionally irritating characters ever

The story is about the Southern elite in decay.  Big Daddy is as rich as anyone can be, but it hasn’t made his home happy.  The characters are tortured, money grubbing, and selfish.  Brick seems to see through the venire due to his “unspoken” relationship with his friend Skipper who committed suicide.  Due to when the film was made, there is a lot of dancing around the relationship between Brick and Skipper and how his death has affected Brick and his relationship with Maggie and his family.  It deviated from the play and Williams wasn’t happy with it.

While a lot of the dialogue still feels like a play, the actors are great.  Paul Newman rages and is insecure as the confused Brick (who feels a bit like James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause in his explosiveness).  Elizabeth Taylor is probably supposed to be the more identifiable character in that she is still worried about class and money, but she also doesn’t come from it and tries to explain how it can change you.  Burl Ives is great as the boisterous Big Daddy who is facing mortality while the underplayed Judith Anderson does a nice job especially near the end.  The two “villains” of the film are deftly played by Jack Carson and Madeleine Sherwood.  While Carson halfway redeems himself, Sherwood is out and out evil.

cat on a hot tin roof brick big daddy paul newman burl ives

Big Daddy…you’re about to get some real bad news

The movie has a limited set due to the play aspect, but it doesn’t need a lot of space to tell the story.  Being trapped in the bigger Southern home loaded with “stuff” also makes the home almost a character.  It is high class and beautiful, but it houses ugliness.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a worthy film, and while the movie somewhat undercut itself in its themes, it is almost quaint and more fun to see how the characters dance with controversy.  Check out the play (which honestly isn’t as blunt as it would be today), but also check out the movie for a decent story with a great cast.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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