Friday, March 27, 2020
2020 Blind Spot Series: A Place in the Sun
Based on the novel An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser and its adapted play by playwright Patrick Kearney, A Place in the Sun is the story of a young man who is love with two women including a socialite while the other is a woman whose uncle he works for as it leads to trouble. Directed by George Stevens and screenplay by Michael Wilson and Harry Brown, the film is inspired on a real-life story of love gone wrong that lead to murder as it plays into a young man caught up in a torrid love triangle. Starring Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, Shelley Winters, Anne Revere, and Raymond Burr. A Place in the Sun is an evocative and haunting film from George Stevens.
The film is the simple story of a young man who is given a job at his uncle’s factory where he dates a co-worker, despite rules against dating co-workers at the factory, while finds himself falling for a heiress where the love triangle leads to trouble. It’s a film that explores a man who arrives into a small town where his uncle is rich and gives him a job in the hope he can stay out of trouble and work hard. Yet, he befriends a co-worker as they start to date but he would fall for this heiress who represents a life that he might want with all of the splendors that it offers. The film’s screenplay by Michael Wilson and Harry Brown opens with George Eastman’s arrival into this small town where his uncle Charles (Herbert Hayes) is a rich industrialist who met George back in Chicago when George was a bellhop as he decide to give him a job working at his factory.
While he meets his posh relatives, George is aware that he’s an outsider to the family as he’s more concerned with just wanting to do good for his uncle. Upon working at the factory, he meets Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters) whom he would date despite a rule in the factory for co-workers to not date each other. Yet, Alice intrigues George due to the fact that they both come from similar backgrounds with George not really wanting to be part of his relatives’ world of luxury and parties. That is until he formally meets the society girl Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor) whom he had seen at his uncle’s home and much earlier when he was hitchhiking. Vickers is a completely different person from the more introverted Alice as she’s lively and often enjoying party while she finds George intriguing as the two fall in love but George cares for Alice as things become complicated when she becomes pregnant. Even as she confides in a shrink about what to do just as she learns that George is with Vickers leading to a lot of trouble all in the film’s first half.
George Stevens’ direction is largely straightforward in terms of the compositions he creates yet he does manage to play into some of the dramatic tension that occurs throughout the film. Shot on various locations around Lake Tahoe, Echo Lake, and Cascade Lake in California as well as interiors at Paramount Studios, Stevens showcased a world that has this air of social divide where George lived in a small apartment while his uncle and Vickers lived in spacious homes. Stevens would create some unique wide shots to play into the spacious homes but also in some of the locations including the lakes where some of the characters go to. Stevens’ direction is also intimate in its approach to close-ups and medium shots in the way he would shoot certain scenes that include some gazing shots that goes on for a few minutes to play into a conversation. Especially during a moment where George meets Alice at his apartment for a dinner as he arrived late as it is about the lack of space and where the camera is placed as he shoots them from behind.
Much of the its first act has Stevens establishing the characters and setting while its second act is where the drama intensifies as it relates to this love triangle between George, Alice, and Vickers as both Alice and Vickers would never meet each other during the course of the film. It is also where George deals with his own internal conflicts as it relates to what he wants as it leads to this eerie third act in relation to the aftermath of what he got himself involved in. Stevens’ direction definitely intensify not just this air of anguish and guilt but also this social divide as it relates to George being somewhat in the middle. Even as it relates to this tragedy where there are sides yet not everyone is willing to hear George’s story despite his involvement in what happened. Overall, Stevens crafts a rapturous and mesmerizing film about a young man caught in a love triangle that leads to trouble and tragedy.
Cinematographer William C. Mellor does amazing work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography at it helps set a mood for some of the film’s dramatic scenes with its usage of available light and shadows for scenes set at night as well as the way some of the daytime interiors/exteriors are presented as it helps heighten the world of Vickers and her friends. Editor William Hornbeck does excellent work with the editing with its stylish usage of dissolves and transition wipes as well as some rhythmic cutting to help play into some of the dramatic tension that occurs in the film. Art directors Hans Dreier and Walter H. Tyler, with set decorator Emile Kuri, do brilliant work with the look of the mansions George’s uncle and the Vickers family lived in as well as the small and cramped apartment he lives in.
Costume designer Edith Head does fantastic work with the costumes from the design of the dresses that Alice wears to the stylish gowns that Vickers wears. Sound recordists Gene Garvin and Gene Merritt do terrific work with the sound in the atmosphere of the parties as well as some quiet scenes in the film including scenes that involve a bird that would frighten George. The film’s music by Franz Waxman, with un-credited work by Daniele Amfitheatrof, is wonderful for its usage of lush orchestral textures in the strings as well as the usage of bombastic percussions to help maintain a tense atmosphere in the suspense.
The film’s superb cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Kathleen Freeman as a factory worker who testified in court, Ian Wolfe as the psychiatrist Dr. Wolfe, Sheppard Strudwick and Frieda Inescort as Vickers’ parents, Kathryn Givney as George’s aunt Louise, Keefe Brasselle as George’s cousin Earl, Walter Sande as George’s attorney, Fred Clark as a defense attorney, and Herbert Heyes as George’s uncle Charles Eastman who gives George the chance to make something of himself. Anne Revere is superb as George’s mother who lives in the Midwest as she hopes that her son would succeed and stay away from trouble. Raymond Burr is fantastic as District Attorney R. Frank Marlowe as a man who investigates the aftermath of the tragedy as he believes that George did create trouble and is guilty.
Shelley Winters is amazing as Alice Tripp as a poor factory worker that George befriends and would date despite rules from the factory as she is fascinated by George but questions about the validity of their relationship as she becomes pregnant and learns about his time with Vickers. Elizabeth Taylor is brilliant as Angela Vickers as a young heiress who is often the center of attention as she is always at parties where she takes an interest in George whom she sees as someone different but also a man who has a lot of value in introducing her to the world outside of her posh existence. Finally, there’s Montgomery Clift in a phenomenal performance as George Eastman as a man trying to not to get into trouble by working at his uncle’s factory and make something of himself only to be involved in a love triangle as well as two different lifestyles that offer a lot as he becomes tormented by his world as it is a haunting yet intense performance from Clift.
A Place in the Sun is a tremendous film from George Stevens that features great performances from Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelley Winters. Along with its supporting cast, gorgeous visuals, evocative music score, and its study of love and desire. It is a film that explore a man’s own torment and anguish that lead to tragedy due to not just the love triangle he involved himself in but also two different world that play into the social divide and their respective lifestyles. In the end, A Place in the Sun is a spectacular film from George Stevens.
George Stevens Films: (The Cohens and the Kellys in Trouble) – (Kentucky Kernals) – (Bachelor Bait) – (Laddie) – (The Nitwits) – (Alice Adams) – (Annie Oakley) - Swing Time - (Quality Street) – (A Damsel in Distress (1937 film)) – (Vivacious Lady) – (Gunga Din) – (Vigil in the Night) – (Penny Serenade) – (Woman of the Year) – (The Talk of the Town (1942 film)) – (The More the Merrier) – (That Justice Be Done) – (On Our Merry Way) – (I Remember Mama) – (Something to Live for) – Shane - Giant (1956 film) - (The Diary of Anne Frank) – (The Greatest Story Ever Told) – (The Only Game in Town)
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