Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Place in the Sun

In 2006, the age of tabloids and celebrity gossip, it is sometimes difficult to remember that once upon a time Elizabeth Taylor was a respectable actress, and also stunningly beautiful. Of course part of this is her fault, for reducing herself to a punchline, but when you go back and look at some of her earlier films you realize what a great screen prescence she was. Her performance in George Stevens' A Place in the Sun is just one of many things to absolutely love about this film, and she was not even as good as Montgomery Clift!

I'm gonna say something outlandish here, but there is absolutely nothing that I did not like about this film. There is nothing that I would change about it. I loved every scene, every line, every performance. Visually the film has to be a masterpiece of black and white pictutres. Every shot looks so crisp. Close ups of Elizabeth Taylor make it seem as though the water in her eyes will seep through the screen. Scenes of the rich anmd wealthy in LA and their swank dance parties are done nearly as perfectly as similar scenes in last year's Pride and Prejudice. And when you step into the apartments of the less well off the mood and yearning for something better is palpable.

I was also suprised by my reaction to the story. Montgomery Clift plays George Eastman. He has hitchhiked out to LA after his very well off uncle promised him some work. He starts off with menial work at his uncles mill and winds up romantically involved with one of the coworkers, whom as an Eastman, he is not supposed to socialize with. Eastman's are a class above these other workers. However, as he works his way into his Uncle's good graces he also catches the eye of Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor). The Vickers are in the same heightened social sphere as the Eastman's. Their vacations become front page news in the papers. As a romace begins to develop between Angela and George, he finds out he has gotten his previous lover pregnant. Of course, this can only end badly.

Now, in almost any other circumstance I would be livid and find myself thinking that George has to stand beside his pregnant girl, and provide for her. Yet, here I found myself hoping that something would work out for George that would allow him to continue his ascent to the upper class and be with Angela, whom he truly loved. Somehow, the story of the poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks had me so much that I put aside moral obligations and rooted for George. And I didn't think twice about it till afterwards, the story had me that caught up.

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