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Former football star Brick Pollitt arrives at his family home in Mississippi to celebrate his father's birthday and, while drunk, attempts to jump hurdles late at night, only to fall and break his ankle. The next morning, constricted by a heavy ankle cast, Brick drinks in his bedroom, while in the backyard his brother Gooper, Gooper's wife Mae and their five raucous children prepare for the birthday party. After Brick's wife Maggie argues with one of Mae's spoiled children, she retires to the house to see Brick. Maggie observes that Mae's sixth pregnancy is a sure indication that Gooper and Mae intend to claim all the family inheritance of their father, wealthy land owner Big Daddy Pollitt, who has been in questionable health. Maggie then reveals that Gooper has suggested that Brick be committed to an alcoholic sanitarium. Although she vows to oppose Gooper's recommendation, Maggie implores Brick to stop drinking. She points out that if Brick is committed, they will be powerless to prevent Gooper from carrying out his plans to deprive them of the inheritance. When Brick rebuffs Maggie's flirting, she pleads to know why he consistently rejects her. After Maggie describes her pent-up frustration as akin to that of "a cat on a hot tin roof" with nowhere to go, Brick callously advises her to find a lover. That afternoon, Gooper, Mae and the children drive to the airport to meet Big Daddy and his wife Ida, who have been away consulting numerous doctors. Annoyed by the shrill greetings of Gooper's family, Big Daddy is delighted to see Maggie, who has driven in separately. Before returning home, Ida insists that family physician Dr. Baugh announce that Big Daddy's exploratory surgery revealed only a spastic colon. Back home, while the birthday celebration begins, Maggie runs upstairs to tell Brick of Big Daddy's positive test results and entreats him to make an appearance at the party. Brick refuses and continues drinking. Disappointed, Maggie declares that she cannot live without Brick, but when she embraces him, he flees, locking himself in the bathroom. Moments later, Ida bursts in to the bedroom looking for Brick and demands to know if he is still drinking. She then remarks that Maggie's continued childlessness and Brick's alcoholism are indicative of a failed marriage. Dr. Baugh then intervenes, asking to examine Brick's ankle. Once alone with Brick, Dr. Baugh confides that he has lied about Big Daddy's condition, which is fatal. The doctor admits he told Gooper the truth, but decided to spare Big Daddy and Ida to let them enjoy the party. After the party, Maggie brings Brick some tea only to find him packing. Startled, Maggie asks about Dr. Baugh's visit and Brick admits that Big Daddy is dying. Distressed, Maggie accuses Brick of running away from reality. Despairing over Brick's continued remoteness, Maggie speculates that her relationship with Brick collapsed when she tried to tell him that his longtime friend, Skipper, was a bad influence. Furious, Brick forbids Maggie to mention Skipper. After the last of the guests depart, Big Daddy asks to see Brick. Finally alone with his son, Big Daddy admits that he loathes the shrewish Mae, her unruly children and Gooper. Although he still suffers from pain in his stomach, Big Daddy confides his desire to start life a new life, as he has long since wearied of Ida. Big Daddy then demands an explanation for Brick's excessive drinking and observes that the behavior began after Skipper's death. Angered, Brick lashes out at Big Daddy, insisting that Skipper was the only reliable person in his life. When Big Daddy asks what Maggie thought of Skipper, Brick says that he should ask her. Maggie responds to Brick's summons and uneasily tells Big Daddy that Skipper despised her for coming between him and Brick. She points out that Brick was so devoted to Skipper that he formed a football team for him, because he was not good enough to play for a legitimate professional team. After Maggie declares Brick's life revolved around Skipper, Brick angrily accuses Maggie of having gotten Skipper drunk to sleep with him and demands to know what happened the night that Skipper committed suicide. Maggie relates that when Brick's team, led by Skipper, had a dramatic loss, Skipper went on a violent drinking binge. When she was summoned by the hotel management, Maggie considered seducing him to make Brick acknowledge his friend's weak character, but fearing the result might backfire, she left the room after attempting to calm the drunken Skipper. Soon after, Skipper jumped out of his hotel room window. Maggie asks Brick what the dying Skipper meant when he wondered why Brick, who was too sick too attend the game, had hung up the phone on him. Furious over Maggie's story, Brick searches for another liquor bottle and insists on returning home, but Big Daddy demands that Brick complete Maggie's story. Acknowledging that Skipper phoned him to declare he had slept with Maggie, Brick admits that he was more appalled by his friend's weakness than his wife's alleged infidelity and hung up on him. Brick hastens outside into the rain in an attempt to flee, but Big Daddy follows and contends that Brick must get over his failures and live his life. Brick retorts that his life would be a lie, but the greater untruth is Big Daddy's assumption of his own future. Stricken by the implication of Brick's barb, Big Daddy staggers back to the house. Dr. Baugh follows Big Daddy to the basement where he confirms Brick's remark and provides Big Daddy with morphine to control the pain. Meanwhile in the family room, Gooper and Mae hover around Ida, insisting that they must discuss vital family matters. Aggravated, Mae blurts out Big Daddy's condition and Ida collapses in dismay, while Maggie comforts her. Mae insists that Brick is unfit to handle any part of the family's vast property and must be cut out of Big Daddy's will while Gooper tearfully pleads with Ida to acknowledge that he has been a devoted and faithful son to Big Daddy. After drying off, Brick goes down to the basement to apologize to Big Daddy. Although suffering from frequent attacks of pain, Big Daddy asks Brick why he had to lean on Skipper, instead of his own father. When Brick declares that Big Daddy was never available and only provided material things, never emotional support, Big Daddy insists he wanted to give his family everything he never had. Overcome by a sudden attack, Big Daddy refuses the morphine, but when he cries out, Maggie rushes to the basement in alarm. There she finds Brick crying and destroying all of the useless junk Big Daddy and Ida have accumulated over the years. After Maggie returns upstairs, a recovered Big Daddy maintains that his own father, a hobo, left him nothing. Brick reminds Big Daddy that his father clearly loved him because he always took him on his travels. Recognizing their mutual mistakes and hoping to make the best of Big Daddy's time left, father and son are reconciled and go to the family room where Gooper and Mae continue to harass Ida. Maggie then announces that her present to Big Daddy is the news that she is pregnant. Mae shrilly accuses Maggie of lying, but Brick confirms Maggie is telling the truth. Pleased, Big Daddy tells Gooper that he will talk to his lawyer the following day and, summoning Ida, retires. Mae accuses Brick of having turned Big Daddy against them, but, recognizing the truth, Gooper orders Mae to be silent. Brick retreats upstairs where he calls to Maggie. In their room, when Maggie thanks Brick for supporting her lie, Brick announces there will be no more lies between them and then embraces his wife.