“I’m not living with you! We occupy the same cage, that’s all!” Maggie the Cat (Elizabeth Taylor) snarls at her detached husband Brick (Paul Newman). Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, written as a play by Tennessee Williams, was made into a film in 1958. Some plays do not easily translate from stage to screen, the film’s claustrophobia (almost all the action takes place in one house) enhances how the characters have trapped themselves.
Brick drinks himself into a stupor as Maggie sashays around trying to trick him into loving her again. Brick’s father, Big Daddy, is dying but doesn’t know it, and his other son Gooper and his brood of annoying children have dedicated themselves to giving Big Daddy a birthday celebration (and remind him to update his will). A storm on the night of the big party forces the family to face their demons, which are themselves.
Taylor especially is a spitfire of action here. She’s utterly ruthless as a woman who married for love and money, had one snatched away from her but will be damned if she loses the other. Newman reminded me so much of Marlon Brando in this role, brooding lion-like until all of a sudden he snapped. The homosexual subtext got scrubbed from Williams’ play for the movie, but there are still hints of it. The ending smacks of studio interference, and twists the brow of a modern viewer, but it’s a film filled with strong acting fit to burst out the screen.
Might be worth seeing alone for Elizabeth Taylor in corseted slips. You too will be tempted to act the grande, wronged Southern dame for the evening.