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A Place in the Sun

A Place in the Sun(1951)

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teaser A Place in the Sun (1951)

SYNOPSIS

George Eastman has hitchhiked from Chicago to meet up with his wealthy uncle Charles Eastman, the owner of a bathing suit manufacturing concern. George is the poor relation, having been raised by his widowed mother Hannah as part of a Salvation Army volunteer family. At his meeting in the palatial Eastman family home, George glimpses the beautiful, rich Angela Vickers. George proves to be ambitious in his position as an assembly line worker at the factory, and is given more authority. While dating between co-workers is forbidden, George drifts into a relationship with factory girl Alice Tripp. Charles is impressed with George?s work at the factory and invites him to an increasing number of social functions at his home. George tentatively forges a relationship with Angela, with whom he has been infatuated since the moment he saw her. When Angela returns his love, George tries to break with Alice, but Alice demands marriage because she has learned that she is pregnant. George stalls for time so that he can join Angela and the Eastman family on a vacation to Loon Lake. As pressure from Alice intensifies, George weighs his options in an attempt to make a clean break to join Angela and the lifestyle she represents.

Producer/Director: George Stevens
Screenplay: Michael Wilson, Harry Brown, based on the novel An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, and the play by Patrick Kearney
Editor: William Hornbeck
Cinematography: William C. Mellor
Costume Design: Edith Head
Art Direction: Hans Dreier, Walter Tyler
Music: Franz Waxman
Cast: Montgomery Clift (George Eastman), Elizabeth Taylor (Angela Vickers), Shelley Winters (Alice Tripp), Anne Revere (Hannah Eastman), Keefe Brasselle (Earl Eastman), Fred Clark (Bellows), Raymond Burr (Marlowe).
BW-122m.

Why A PLACE IN THE SUN is Essential

Theodore Dreiser's 1925 novel, An American Tragedy, was based on a real-life murder of a poor, pregnant factory girl by her social-climbing fianc. It had been filmed by Josef Von Sternberg in 1931, starring Sylvia Sidney, Phillips Holmes and Frances Dee. George Stevens' 1951 version, A Place in the Sun, focused more on the developing romance between the man and the rich girl, and changed the poor girl's death to an accident, but maintained the psychological motivations and class distinctions of the novel.

Stevens cast Elizabeth Taylor, not yet 18 and lushly beautiful, as Angela. Stevens claimed he had never seen any of her films, but knew she had exactly the quality he wanted: "Not so much a real girl as the girl on the candy-box cover, the beautiful girl in the yellow Cadillac convertible that every American boy sometime or other thinks he can marry."

Shelley Winters wanted to break out of silly blonde bombshell roles and prove herself a serious actress by playing Alice. But Stevens, knowing only her sexpot image, refused to consider her. Finally, the director agreed to meet her, and Winters showed up for the interview sans makeup, wearing dowdy clothes and an unflattering hairdo. Stevens barely recognized her, and agreed to test her if she would allow herself to be photographed just as she was. Winters agreed, and won the role.

Montgomery Clift was already one of the most important young actors in films, and had been nominated for an Academy Award for his first film, The Search (1948). Intense and neurotic, Clift was ideal for the part of George, but he relied heavily on his acting coach, Mira Rostova, to shape his performances. This infuriated the autocratic Stevens, who could not bear anyone but himself guiding the performances. Throughout the production, Stevens never spoke to Rostova or acknowledged her presence, and instructed his assistants to keep her out of his sight. Clift found Stevens inflexible, and dismissed him as a "craftsman," rather than an artist. But Clift's performance was one of his best, and earned him an Academy Award nomination.

Clift's co-stars, however, blossomed under Stevens' direction. The director insisted on extensive rehearsals, during which he would have the actors run through the scene without speaking their lines, only communicating them non-verbally. Winters later wrote in her autobiography, ?He was the greatest director I?ve ever worked for. He made me understand that acting, especially film acting, is not emotion, but thinking. He had been a famous cameraman since the Keystone Kops days, and he showed me how the camera photographs your thoughts and sometimes your soul.?

Elizabeth Taylor had been a film actress for most of her life, but had never worked that way before, and her performance deepened. She had developed a schoolgirl crush on Clift, and fancied herself in love with him. Clift, a homosexual, could not love her romantically, but the two became intimate friends. Stevens observed the intensity of the relationship, and often rewrote dialogue to reflect Taylor's growing maternal tenderness towards the neurotic Clift. Their scenes together throb with barely suppressed emotion, and the rapturous close-ups Stevens uses heighten them even more. One morning, however, Stevens handed Taylor and Clift newly written lines for a love scene, and at first Taylor reacted indignantly to what she had to say. Yet it turned out to be the most breathtakingly romantic moment in the film. In enormous close-up, responding to Clift's inarticulate attempt to declare his love, Taylor whispers passionately, "tell Mama...tell Mama all."

Location shooting took place at Lake Tahoe in October, 1949. The weather had already turned cold, and crews often had to hose off newly fallen snow before the actors could pretend to be cavorting in the summer sunshine. Taylor gamely wore a bathing suit and swam in the frigid lake. Later, Winters and Clift refused to go into the water during the drowning scene, and demanded that their doubles do the stunt. Without a word, Stevens, in a heavy coat and boots, jumped into the cold water. Then he got out, and began giving Winters and Clift directions on how he wanted them to play the scene. They did the stunt.

The perfectionist Stevens spent two years working on A Place in the Sun, nearly a year of it editing the 400,000 feet of film he'd shot. The film opened to nearly unanimous acclaim, and was a huge box-office hit. It shows up on most lists of the best American films of all time. Stevens won an Academy Award for Best Director, and the film also won Oscars® for screenplay, cinematography, editing, score and costume design. It was nominated for Best Picture, but lost to An American in Paris (1951). Clift and Winters were also nominated for Best Actor and Actress.

by John Miller & Margarita Landazuri

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teaser A Place in the Sun (1951)

George Stevens' film was adapted to television a few years later, as an episode of Lux Video Theatre, which aired on CBS on January 28, 1954. This version starred Ann Blyth, John Derek, Marilyn Erskine and Ronald Reagan. This episode was one of the first following a switch from half-hour to one hour episodes.

The novel An American Tragedy is considered by many to be the greatest work of American writer Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945). Dreiser was one of the leading exponents of American Naturalism. He based his novel on the real-life murder trial of Chester E. Gillette. On July 11, 1906, Gillette was convicted of drowning his girlfriend, a factory worker named Grace Brown. They were on a lake in the Adirondacks when the drowning occurred, and Brown was pregnant. The trial was sensational and heavily covered in the press. Dreiser personally witnessed most of the trial, in which the state argued that Gillette killed the woman in order to be free to marry a wealthy debutante. Gillette was found guilty and went to the electric chair on March 20, 1908.

The theatrical adaptation of Dreiser's An American Tragedy was written by Patrick Kearney. The play was produced on the New York stage by Jules J. Leventhal, opening on February 20, 1931. It played at the Waldorf Theatre for 137 performances. Elements of this adaptation found their way into Josef Von Sternberg's 1931 film, and to a much lesser degree, into Stevens' A Place in the Sun.

Montgomery Clift's mother in A Place in the Sun was played by Anne Revere, who had a notable career playing the supporting role of mothers in films. She won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar® as Elizabeth Taylor's mother in National Velvet (1944), and won nominations as the mother of Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette (1943) and as the mother of Gregory Peck in Gentleman's Agreement (1947).

The movie poster for A Place in the Sun generally emphasized the romantic angle, featuring large art of Clift and Taylor together, usually with a smaller, separate depiction of Winters. The advertising taglines also played up romance, as well as the star power of the casting: "Seldom has the screen so captured the fire and fever of today's youth! Seldom has a film boasted three such exciting star performances!"

Dreiser's novel An American Tragedy has also served as the basis for a couple of decidedly non-American adaptations. Nakaw na pag-ibig (1980) was a version of the story filmed in the Philippines, and Um Lugar ao Sol (1959) was a TV series from Brazil.

by John M. Miller

back to top
teaser A Place in the Sun (1951)

George Stevens' film was adapted to television a few years later, as an episode of Lux Video Theatre, which aired on CBS on January 28, 1954. This version starred Ann Blyth, John Derek, Marilyn Erskine and Ronald Reagan. This episode was one of the first following a switch from half-hour to one hour episodes.

The novel An American Tragedy is considered by many to be the greatest work of American writer Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945). Dreiser was one of the leading exponents of American Naturalism. He based his novel on the real-life murder trial of Chester E. Gillette. On July 11, 1906, Gillette was convicted of drowning his girlfriend, a factory worker named Grace Brown. They were on a lake in the Adirondacks when the drowning occurred, and Brown was pregnant. The trial was sensational and heavily covered in the press. Dreiser personally witnessed most of the trial, in which the state argued that Gillette killed the woman in order to be free to marry a wealthy debutante. Gillette was found guilty and went to the electric chair on March 20, 1908.

The theatrical adaptation of Dreiser's An American Tragedy was written by Patrick Kearney. The play was produced on the New York stage by Jules J. Leventhal, opening on February 20, 1931. It played at the Waldorf Theatre for 137 performances. Elements of this adaptation found their way into Josef Von Sternberg's 1931 film, and to a much lesser degree, into Stevens' A Place in the Sun.

Montgomery Clift's mother in A Place in the Sun was played by Anne Revere, who had a notable career playing the supporting role of mothers in films. She won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar® as Elizabeth Taylor's mother in National Velvet (1944), and won nominations as the mother of Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette (1943) and as the mother of Gregory Peck in Gentleman's Agreement (1947).

The movie poster for A Place in the Sun generally emphasized the romantic angle, featuring large art of Clift and Taylor together, usually with a smaller, separate depiction of Winters. The advertising taglines also played up romance, as well as the star power of the casting: "Seldom has the screen so captured the fire and fever of today's youth! Seldom has a film boasted three such exciting star performances!"

Dreiser's novel An American Tragedy has also served as the basis for a couple of decidedly non-American adaptations. Nakaw na pag-ibig (1980) was a version of the story filmed in the Philippines, and Um Lugar ao Sol (1959) was a TV series from Brazil.

by John M. Miller

back to top
teaser A Place in the Sun (1951)

Charles Chaplin attended an early prescreening of A Place in the Sun in Hollywood and told director George Stevens that "This is the greatest movie ever made about America." The press picked up on the quote and reported it widely as the movie opened.

Shelley Winters, referring to the drowning scene in A Place in the Sun, seemed to feel that water sequences were good luck, and later said in her autobiography, "...in every film where I've either drowned or had to swim, such as The Night of the Hunter [1955] and The Poseidon Adventure [1972], I have had a great personal success."

Anne Revere, memorable as Hannah Eastman, the mother who raised her son in a Salvation Army atmosphere, was brought up before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951, the same year that A Place in the Sun was released. Here she pleaded the 5th, and refused to testify. As a result, she was blacklisted and the Stevens movie was her last film appearance for many years.

by John M. Miller

FAMOUS QUOTES from A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951)

Alice (Shelley Winters): You know what the girls would say if they saw me walking along like this with you - they'd say I was making up to the boss's nephew.
George (Montgomery Clift): That's silly. I'm in the same boat as the rest of you.
Alice: If you're an Eastman, you're not in the same boat with anyone.

George: You lonely all of the time?
Alice: Not on weekdays.
George: How come?
Alice: Well, remember how we put swimsuits in boxes six days a week?
George: (laughs) Yeah. What about Sunday? Maybe then you put yourself in a swimsuit.
Alice: Not me.
George: Why? You don't look good in a swimsuit?
Alice: Sure I do. I can't swim.

Angela (Elizabeth Taylor): You look unusual.
George: Hah! That's the first time anybody ever said that.
Angela: You keep pretty much to yourself, don't you?
George: Yes, sometimes.
Angela: Blue, or exclusive?
George: Well, I'm neither right now.

Alice: I think you could have phoned me.
George: Yeah, I know - I know, I could have phoned.
Alice: Never mind. (Motions to table) A present's waiting for you on your plate... Happy Birthday.
George: Thanks. (opens gift ? a new pen) Hey, that's wonderful. Why, I'd sure use that on my new job, huh?
Alice: Were there many young people there tonight?
George: A few, why?
Alice: Was your cousin Marsha there? All those other pretty girls you read about in the papers?
George: Some of them were, yes. They're not all pretty.
Alice: Was Angela Vickers?
George: What?
Alice: Pretty? Did you like her very much?
George: I liked her some. Sure, she's a pretty girl. She wears nice clothes.
Alice: Why shouldn't she with all that money?
George: Honey, why do you have to keep needling me all the time?
Alice: I can't help it. I still don't see why you couldn't tell them you had another appointment.
George: Oh, I can't tell them about you. You understand the fix we're in.
Alice: Yeah, I know. If the family found out about us, we'd both be out of a job.
Alice: George? Maybe you don't want to see me so much anymore. Is that it? Maybe you don't want to see me at all now that you're head of a department.

Alice: George, it's awful. I can't tell you now... Oh, I'm so afraid... George, I'm in trouble - real trouble, I think... Remember the first night we came here? Oh, I'm so worried.

George: It's wonderful when you're here. I can hold you. I can... I can see you. I can hold you next to me. But what's it gonna be like next week? All summer long? I'll still be just as much in love with you. You'll be gone.
Angela: But I'll be at the lake. You'll come up and see me. Oh, it's so beautiful there. You must come. I know my parents will be a problem, but you can come on the weekends when the kids from school are up there. You don't have to work weekends. That's the best time. If you don't come, I'll drive down here to see you. I'll pick you up outside the factory. You'll be my pickup. Oh, we'll arrange it somehow, whatever way we can. We'll have such wonderful times together, just the two of us.
George: I am the happiest person in the world.
Angela: The second happiest.
George: Oh, Angela, if I could only tell you how much I love you, if I could only tell you all.
Angela (whispering): Tell mama, tell mama all.

Dr. Wyeland (Ian Wolfe): I see. Mrs. Hamilton, when you went to the altar three months ago, you must have realized you might have to face a situation like this. Well now, once you make up your mind to face this bravely, you'll find all these problems have a way of sorting themselves out. Medical bills, clothes. I know, my wife and I worried at first, but now we can look back and realize...
Alice: (tearful) It's not like that. I'm not married. I haven't got a husband.
Dr. Wyeland: All right. That won't do any good. Where's the young man?
Alice: He deserted me. What'll I do? Somebody's gotta help me.
Dr. Wyeland: Miss Hamilton, my advice is go home and see your parents and tell them. It will be much better that way, I assure you. So if you've come here to place yourself under my professional care during your pregnancy, I'll do everything to insure your health and that of your child. On the other hand, if you've just come for... free advice on material and financial problems which I can't help you... No, I cannot help you.

Angela: It's in two parts with a little channel in-between. There's a crumbly old lodge down at the end of the other part, and its crumbly old boats. It's nice now. At night it's weird, especially at sundown. I've never been able to feel the same about it since the drowning.
George: What drowning?
Angela: A man and a girl last summer. Nobody knows exactly what happened. I guess their boat capsized. It was five days before they found the girl's body.
George: And the man?
Angela: They never found him.
George: What was that?
Angela: A loon.

Alice: I'm here at the bus station. You lied to me, George, for the last time. Now I want you to come and get me.
George: It's not going to be too easy right now.
Alice: NOW!
George: Tomorrow morning.
Alice: I said NOW! If you're not here in half an hour, I'll come where you are. I'll tell them everything George, I mean it.

George: Say, there's a wonderful lake near here, Loon Lake, just the kind of place you've always wanted to go for a honeymoon. We could go up there. Hey, there's a lodge on it too. If you like, we could, uh, spend a day there, and then tomorrow we can come back here. Al, are you listening? Tell you what, why don't we - let's make a holiday out of it. Everybody else is. Why don't we go get some sandwiches? Then let's have a picnic on the lake. How's that?

Alice: It's lonely here. It's like we were the only two people left in the whole world. Maybe we are. Maybe when we get back to shore, everybody else will have disappeared. I'd like that, wouldn't you? Then we could go anywhere we wanted. We could live in the biggest house in the world. Only I'd like to live in a little house, just big enough for the two of us. Only there's gonna be more than two of us, isn't there? What's the matter, George? You look sick.
George: Nothing, well, I'm out of breath. I'm not used to rowing.

Angela: Darling, what is it?
George: I'm tired. I'm tired.
Angela: Yes, you must be.
George: Darling, let's never leave this place. Let's just stay here alone.
Angela: Don't let father upset you. I'm the one who counts.
George: You're the only one. The only one. People are gonna, they're gonna say things, I know it. Things about me, about me, I know. It's gonna make you stop loving me.
Angela: Shhh, don't talk like that.
Defense Attorney Bellows (Fred Clark): This boy is on trial for the act of murder - not for the thought of murder. Between the idea and the deed there's a world of difference. And if you find this boy guilty in desire but not guilty in deed, then he must walk out of this courtroom as free as you or I. However, since the prosecutor lacked evidence, he's given you prejudice; lacking facts, he's given you fantasy. Of all the witnesses he's paraded before you, not one actually saw what happened. I will now call to the stand an eyewitness - the only eyewitness - the only one who knows the truth, the whole truth. George Eastman, will you please take the stand?

Dist. Attorney R. Frank Marlowe (Raymond Burr): Eastman, that night when you left that dinner party at the house at Bride's Lake to meet Alice Tripp in the bus station, do you remember leaving anything behind you?
George: No, I don't. I don't remember leaving anything.
Marlowe: I'm referring to your heart, Eastman. Did you leave that behind you? Did you, Eastman? Out there on that terrace in the moonlight? You left behind, didn't you, the girl you loved - and, with her, your hopes, your ambitions, your dreams? Didn't you, Eastman? You left behind everything in the world you ever wanted, including the girl you loved. But you planned to return to it, didn't you, Eastman? Answer me!
George: Yes.

Hannah Eastman (Anne Revere): Death is a little thing, George. You mustn't be afraid of it. You must fear now only for your immortal soul. Blessings on your soul, my son. You must make your peace with God.
George: I don't believe I am guilty of all this. I don't know. I wish I knew.
Hannah: If you are guilty, then I too am guilty. I must share your guilt.

Angela: Goodbye, George. (She starts to leave, then turns back) Seems like we always spend the best part of our time just saying goodbye.

Compiled by John M. Miller

back to top
teaser A Place in the Sun (1951)

Charles Chaplin attended an early pre-screening of A Place in the Sun in Hollywood and told director George Stevens that "This is the greatest movie ever made about America." The press picked up on the quote and reported it widely as the movie opened.

Shelley Winters, referring to the drowning scene in A Place in the Sun, seemed to feel that water sequences were good luck, and later said in her autobiography, "...in every film where I've either drowned or had to swim, such as The Night of the Hunter [1955] and The Poseidon Adventure [1972], I have had a great personal success."

Anne Revere, memorable as Hannah Eastman, the mother who raised her son in a Salvation Army atmosphere, was brought up before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951, the same year that A Place in the Sun was released. Here she pleaded the 5th, and refused to testify. As a result, she was blacklisted and the Stevens movie was her last film appearance for many years.

by John M. Miller

FAMOUS QUOTES from A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951)

Alice (Shelley Winters): You know what the girls would say if they saw me walking along like this with you - they'd say I was making up to the boss's nephew.
George (Montgomery Clift): That's silly. I'm in the same boat as the rest of you.
Alice: If you're an Eastman, you're not in the same boat with anyone.

George: You lonely all of the time?
Alice: Not on weekdays.
George: How come?
Alice: Well, remember how we put swimsuits in boxes six days a week?
George: (laughs) Yeah. What about Sunday? Maybe then you put yourself in a swimsuit.
Alice: Not me.
George: Why? You don't look good in a swimsuit?
Alice: Sure I do. I can't swim.

Angela (Elizabeth Taylor): You look unusual.
George: Hah! That's the first time anybody ever said that.
Angela: You keep pretty much to yourself, don't you?
George: Yes, sometimes.
Angela: Blue, or exclusive?
George: Well, I'm neither right now.

Alice: I think you could have phoned me.
George: Yeah, I know - I know, I could have phoned.
Alice: Never mind. (Motions to table) A present's waiting for you on your plate... Happy Birthday.
George: Thanks. (opens gift ? a new pen) Hey, that's wonderful. Why, I'd sure use that on my new job, huh?
Alice: Were there many young people there tonight?
George: A few, why?
Alice: Was your cousin Marsha there? All those other pretty girls you read about in the papers?
George: Some of them were, yes. They're not all pretty.
Alice: Was Angela Vickers?
George: What?
Alice: Pretty? Did you like her very much?
George: I liked her some. Sure, she's a pretty girl. She wears nice clothes.
Alice: Why shouldn't she with all that money?
George: Honey, why do you have to keep needling me all the time?
Alice: I can't help it. I still don't see why you couldn't tell them you had another appointment.
George: Oh, I can't tell them about you. You understand the fix we're in.
Alice: Yeah, I know. If the family found out about us, we'd both be out of a job.
Alice: George? Maybe you don't want to see me so much anymore. Is that it? Maybe you don't want to see me at all now that you're head of a department.

Alice: George, it's awful. I can't tell you now... Oh, I'm so afraid... George, I'm in trouble - real trouble, I think... Remember the first night we came here? Oh, I'm so worried.

George: It's wonderful when you're here. I can hold you. I can... I can see you. I can hold you next to me. But what's it gonna be like next week? All summer long? I'll still be just as much in love with you. You'll be gone.
Angela: But I'll be at the lake. You'll come up and see me. Oh, it's so beautiful there. You must come. I know my parents will be a problem, but you can come on the weekends when the kids from school are up there. You don't have to work weekends. That's the best time. If you don't come, I'll drive down here to see you. I'll pick you up outside the factory. You'll be my pickup. Oh, we'll arrange it somehow, whatever way we can. We'll have such wonderful times together, just the two of us.
George: I am the happiest person in the world.
Angela: The second happiest.
George: Oh, Angela, if I could only tell you how much I love you, if I could only tell you all.
Angela (whispering): Tell mama, tell mama all.

Dr. Wyeland (Ian Wolfe): I see. Mrs. Hamilton, when you went to the altar three months ago, you must have realized you might have to face a situation like this. Well now, once you make up your mind to face this bravely, you'll find all these problems have a way of sorting themselves out. Medical bills, clothes. I know, my wife and I worried at first, but now we can look back and realize...
Alice: (tearful) It's not like that. I'm not married. I haven't got a husband.
Dr. Wyeland: All right. That won't do any good. Where's the young man?
Alice: He deserted me. What'll I do? Somebody's gotta help me.
Dr. Wyeland: Miss Hamilton, my advice is go home and see your parents and tell them. It will be much better that way, I assure you. So if you've come here to place yourself under my professional care during your pregnancy, I'll do everything to insure your health and that of your child. On the other hand, if you've just come for... free advice on material and financial problems which I can't help you... No, I cannot help you.

Angela: It's in two parts with a little channel in-between. There's a crumbly old lodge down at the end of the other part, and its crumbly old boats. It's nice now. At night it's weird, especially at sundown. I've never been able to feel the same about it since the drowning.
George: What drowning?
Angela: A man and a girl last summer. Nobody knows exactly what happened. I guess their boat capsized. It was five days before they found the girl's body.
George: And the man?
Angela: They never found him.
George: What was that?
Angela: A loon.

Alice: I'm here at the bus station. You lied to me, George, for the last time. Now I want you to come and get me.
George: It's not going to be too easy right now.
Alice: NOW!
George: Tomorrow morning.
Alice: I said NOW! If you're not here in half an hour, I'll come where you are. I'll tell them everything George, I mean it.

George: Say, there's a wonderful lake near here, Loon Lake, just the kind of place you've always wanted to go for a honeymoon. We could go up there. Hey, there's a lodge on it too. If you like, we could, uh, spend a day there, and then tomorrow we can come back here. Al, are you listening? Tell you what, why don't we - let's make a holiday out of it. Everybody else is. Why don't we go get some sandwiches? Then let's have a picnic on the lake. How's that?

Alice: It's lonely here. It's like we were the only two people left in the whole world. Maybe we are. Maybe when we get back to shore, everybody else will have disappeared. I'd like that, wouldn't you? Then we could go anywhere we wanted. We could live in the biggest house in the world. Only I'd like to live in a little house, just big enough for the two of us. Only there's gonna be more than two of us, isn't there? What's the matter, George? You look sick.
George: Nothing, well, I'm out of breath. I'm not used to rowing.

Angela: Darling, what is it?
George: I'm tired. I'm tired.
Angela: Yes, you must be.
George: Darling, let's never leave this place. Let's just stay here alone.
Angela: Don't let father upset you. I'm the one who counts.
George: You're the only one. The only one. People are gonna, they're gonna say things, I know it. Things about me, about me, I know. It's gonna make you stop loving me.
Angela: Shhh, don't talk like that.
Defense Attorney Bellows (Fred Clark): This boy is on trial for the act of murder - not for the thought of murder. Between the idea and the deed there's a world of difference. And if you find this boy guilty in desire but not guilty in deed, then he must walk out of this courtroom as free as you or I. However, since the prosecutor lacked evidence, he's given you prejudice; lacking facts, he's given you fantasy. Of all the witnesses he's paraded before you, not one actually saw what happened. I will now call to the stand an eyewitness - the only eyewitness - the only one who knows the truth, the whole truth. George Eastman, will you please take the stand?

Dist. Attorney R. Frank Marlowe (Raymond Burr): Eastman, that night when you left that dinner party at the house at Bride's Lake to meet Alice Tripp in the bus station, do you remember leaving anything behind you?
George: No, I don't. I don't remember leaving anything.
Marlowe: I'm referring to your heart, Eastman. Did you leave that behind you? Did you, Eastman? Out there on that terrace in the moonlight? You left behind, didn't you, the girl you loved - and, with her, your hopes, your ambitions, your dreams? Didn't you, Eastman? You left behind everything in the world you ever wanted, including the girl you loved. But you planned to return to it, didn't you, Eastman? Answer me!
George: Yes.

Hannah Eastman (Anne Revere): Death is a little thing, George. You mustn't be afraid of it. You must fear now only for your immortal soul. Blessings on your soul, my son. You must make your peace with God.
George: I don't believe I am guilty of all this. I don't know. I wish I knew.
Hannah: If you are guilty, then I too am guilty. I must share your guilt.

Angela: Goodbye, George. (She starts to leave, then turns back) Seems like we always spend the best part of our time just saying goodbye.

Compiled by John M. Miller

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teaser A Place in the Sun (1951)

Following his acclaimed 1948 family drama I Remember Mama, producer/ director George Stevens began production on an adaptation of Theodore Dreiser?s 1925 novel, An American Tragedy. Stevens had long wished to tackle the project; he first began shaping a script while still a part of Liberty Films, the independent production group he formed in 1945 with fellow filmmakers Frank Capra, William Wyler, and Samuel J. Briskin. Liberty Films was later absorbed by Paramount Pictures, the company that owned the rights to the Dreiser book, so Stevens gladly signed a production deal with the studio. Stevens himself said of the book, "The greatness of An American Tragedy lies in the fact that it is all things to all people...In the main this might have been the love story of any Johnny or Mary in America ? Dreiser was factual; a man of great compassion, a tremendous realist...He made his central character, Clyde Griffith, one of the most fascinating and controversial figures in literature. You can spend weeks debating Clyde?s guilt or innocence, his legal immorality over his spiritual immorality."

Paramount Pictures was reluctant at first to produce another version of An American Tragedy. The first version they released in 1931 was a box-office failure, fared poorly with critics, and was despised by author Dreiser. Studio brass was also concerned that the story would be perceived as anti-American; by 1949-1950 the country was in an intense reaction to actual or perceived threats of Communism, and Dreiser?s story, which could be seen by some as an attack on Capitalism, must have seemed rife with danger. Paramount retitled the picture, eliminating the word "American" and Stevens pointed out that his picture would bear little relation to the 1931 version; he intended to adhere closer to the book, and update the setting to modern day. In addition, Stevens changed the name of the lead character, "Clyde Griffiths," to "George Eastman" ? he arrived at this by combining his own first name with the first part of the corporate-sounding Eastman-Kodak Company. Michael Wilson and Harry Brown are credited with the script for A Place in the Sun, although there were additional contributions from Stevens and from his trusted associate producer, Ivan Moffat.

For the pivotal role of protagonist George Eastman, Stevens cast 27-year-old Montgomery Clift. At the time of the casting, Clift had only two movies in release, Fred Zinnemann?s The Search (1948) and Howard Hawks? Red River (1948), but he was already a major star. Years in the theater helped shape his skills, and his smoldering, moody nature and boyish good looks ensured that he would be a major force in films. Indeed, he became one of the only men ever nominated for a Best Actor Oscar® for his first movie role.

Shelley Winters actively campaigned for the role of Alice Tripp. Initially, her agents could not get Paramount or director Stevens to even agree to meet the actress, known at that time almost exclusively for her "blonde bombshell" parts. Winters later wrote extensively in her autobiography about this episode of her life. She said that it was writer Norman Mailer who first alerted her to the role, and then coached her in the intricacies of Dreiser?s novel, and "...the inner workings of that girl?s soul and mind and what Dreiser wanted the reader to feel about the whole American syndrome of success at any price. Norman knew so much about Dreiser that I got the feeling he had been his protg, figuratively and perhaps literally."

Winters was determined to audition for the part of Alice Tripp and not take "No" for an answer. She contacted Stevens? lawyer, and found out that though Stevens didn?t want her to come and audition at the studio, he would agree to meet her in the lobby of the Hollywood Athletic Club. Winters embarked on some research. "I rushed out to the Firestone Tire factory and looked at all the girls on the assembly line. ...I rushed back to my apartment, dyed my hair brown, took the polish off my nails, combed my hair flat with sad little curls on the end below my ears, with two bobby pins on the side, and washed my face clean of makeup. Then I made myself a sandwich and put it in a brown paper bag." Winters also borrowed plain clothes from her sister Blanche, and so disguised, sat in the lobby of the Club ? lost amongst the ordinary people going to and fro. Stevens arrived and did not recognize her. Winters caught his attention as he was about to leave. "Slowly he walked over to me, touched the little bobby pins on the side of my head and said the words that changed my life: ?Shelley, if I test you for this role and you get it, will you let me photograph you like this??" Not only did Winters allow the director to photograph her however he wanted, she also wore her sister?s clothes for most of the film.

Elizabeth Taylor was loaned out from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for the film; her salary at MGM was $1,000 a week and they charged Paramount $35,000 for her ten weeks of work, netting $25,000 in profit. Shelley Winters was borrowed from her home studio, Universal-International.

by John M. Miller

back to top
teaser A Place in the Sun (1951)

Following his acclaimed 1948 family drama I Remember Mama, producer/ director George Stevens began production on an adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's 1925 novel, An American Tragedy. Stevens had long wished to tackle the project; he first began shaping a script while still a part of Liberty Films, the independent production group he formed in 1945 with fellow filmmakers Frank Capra, William Wyler, and Samuel J. Briskin. Liberty Films was later absorbed by Paramount Pictures, the company that owned the rights to the Dreiser book, so Stevens gladly signed a production deal with the studio. Stevens himself said of the book, "The greatness of An American Tragedy lies in the fact that it is all things to all people...In the main this might have been the love story of any Johnny or Mary in America -- Dreiser was factual; a man of great compassion, a tremendous realist...He made his central character, Clyde Griffith, one of the most fascinating and controversial figures in literature. You can spend weeks debating Clyde?s guilt or innocence, his legal immorality over his spiritual immorality."

Paramount Pictures was reluctant at first to produce another version of An American Tragedy. The first version they released in 1931 was a box-office failure, fared poorly with critics, and was despised by author Dreiser. Studio brass was also concerned that the story would be perceived as anti-American; by 1949-1950 the country was in an intense reaction to actual or perceived threats of Communism, and Dreiser's story, which could be seen by some as an attack on Capitalism, must have seemed rife with danger. Paramount retitled the picture, eliminating the word "American" and Stevens pointed out that his picture would bear little relation to the 1931 version; he intended to adhere closer to the book, and update the setting to modern day. In addition, Stevens changed the name of the lead character, "Clyde Griffiths," to "George Eastman" -- he arrived at this by combining his own first name with the first part of the corporate-sounding Eastman-Kodak Company. Michael Wilson and Harry Brown are credited with the script for A Place in the Sun, although there were additional contributions from Stevens and from his trusted associate producer, Ivan Moffat.

For the pivotal role of protagonist George Eastman, Stevens cast 27-year-old Montgomery Clift. At the time of the casting, Clift had only two movies in release, Fred Zinnemann's The Search (1948) and Howard Hawks? Red River (1948), but he was already a major star. Years in the theater helped shape his skills, and his smoldering, moody nature and boyish good looks ensured that he would be a major force in films. Indeed, he became one of the only men ever nominated for a Best Actor Oscar® for his first movie role.

Shelley Winters actively campaigned for the role of Alice Tripp. Initially, her agents could not get Paramount or director Stevens to even agree to meet the actress, known at that time almost exclusively for her "blonde bombshell" parts. Winters later wrote extensively in her autobiography about this episode of her life. She said that it was writer Norman Mailer who first alerted her to the role, and then coached her in the intricacies of Dreiser's novel, and "...the inner workings of that girl's soul and mind and what Dreiser wanted the reader to feel about the whole American syndrome of success at any price. Norman knew so much about Dreiser that I got the feeling he had been his protg, figuratively and perhaps literally."

Winters was determined to audition for the part of Alice Tripp and not take "No" for an answer. She contacted Stevens's lawyer, and found out that though Stevens didn't want her to come and audition at the studio, he would agree to meet her in the lobby of the Hollywood Athletic Club. Winters embarked on some research. "I rushed out to the Firestone Tire factory and looked at all the girls on the assembly line. ...I rushed back to my apartment, dyed my hair brown, took the polish off my nails, combed my hair flat with sad little curls on the end below my ears, with two bobby pins on the side, and washed my face clean of makeup. Then I made myself a sandwich and put it in a brown paper bag." Winters also borrowed plain clothes from her sister Blanche, and so disguised, sat in the lobby of the Club -- lost amongst the ordinary people going to and fro. Stevens arrived and did not recognize her. Winters caught his attention as he was about to leave. "Slowly he walked over to me, touched the little bobby pins on the side of my head and said the words that changed my life: "Shelley, if I test you for this role and you get it, will you let me photograph you like this??" Not only did Winters allow the director to photograph her however he wanted, she also wore her sister's clothes for most of the film.

Elizabeth Taylor was loaned out from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for the film; her salary at MGM was $1,000 a week and they charged Paramount $35,000 for her ten weeks of work, netting $25,000 in profit. Shelley Winters was borrowed from her home studio, Universal-International.

by John M. Miller

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teaser A Place in the Sun (1951)

Filming on A Place in the Sun began in October 1949. Exteriors were shot on location at Lake Tahoe as well as on Cascade Lake in Nevada. It was already cold in the Sierras, and before Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor could frolic on the lakeside, the crew had to use hoses to spray snow off of the ground and from any tree branches that appeared in the shots. Following this excursion, shooting continued on the soundstages at Paramount Pictures.

A Stevens set was typically a very quiet set, so that the actors could concentrate and not be distracted; even the technicians and crewmen tried to move equipment, sets and lights as silently as possible. Stevens also liked to play music on the set between takes to keep actors in the mood. Franz Waxman had already written several cues and themes for A Place in the Sun, so on the Paramount stages Stevens would play portions of his score, particularly the "party theme." While not a taskmaster, Stevens was a methodical, careful director, and admitted to being detail-oriented: "I'm one of those directors who believes every element that goes into a picture affects the viewer, although the viewer may not realize the impact of tiny minor things."

In her autobiography, Shelley: Also Known as Shirley, Shelley Winters described Stevens' way of working: "He would discuss the scene, but not the lines, and would photograph the second or third rehearsal so the scene had an almost improvisatory quality. ...Stevens would print the first take, then spend the next three hours minutely rehearsing the scene, then film it again. He explained to me that in this way he often got actors' unplanned reactions that were spontaneous and human and often exactly right. And often when actors overintellectualize or plan their reactions, they aren't as good." Stevens was also a firm believer in running rushes at night, and having the actors in attendance. As Winters said, "Stevens would print several takes of each scene and then explain to us why one was better than the other. The whole experience was a joy."

With A Place in the Sun, Elizabeth Taylor found herself in the most demanding role of her career. Stevens asked much of her in take after take, but Taylor appreciated the challenge. She was quoted in Donald Spoto's A Passion for Life, saying"[Stevens] didn't make me feel like a puppet. He was an insinuating director. He gave indications of what he wanted but didn't tell you specifically what to do or how to move. He would just say, ?No, stop ? that's not quite right,' and make you get it from your insides and do it again until it was the way he wanted it." Stevens himself saw what Taylor was up against: "If she thought I was more severe than needed, she'd spit fire. But the following morning she had forgotten it completely....She had enormous beauty but she wasn't charmed by it. It was there. It was a handicap and she discouraged people being overimpressed with it. She was seventeen, and she had been an actress all her life. The only thing was to prod her a bit into realizing her dramatic potential."

Taylor was also initially intimidated by the intense scenes she had to play with Montgomery Clift,"...because Monty was the New York stage actor and I felt very much the inadequate teenage Hollywood sort of puppet that had just worn pretty clothes and hadn't really acted except with horses and dogs." Clift put her at ease, and the two began a life-long friendship on the set of A Place in the Sun.

Montgomery Clift showed up for the shoot with his drama coach, Mira Rostova. This did not cause friction on the set because Stevens simply barred Rostova from the premises, so Clift had to consult with her well out of Stevens' sight. Clift kept up such intensity as George, he would find himself drenched in sweat at the end of a scene. He told Taylor that "that's the worst part about acting ? your body doesn't know you're acting. It sweats and makes adrenalin just as though your emotions were real."

The well-known initial love scene between George and Angela was filmed in extreme close-up, using a six-inch lens. Stevens rewrote the dialogue for the sequence at the last moment and surprised Clift and Taylor with the revised pages. Stevens later said, "I wanted the words to be rushed ? staccato. Monty had to let loose ? he was so enormously moved by her. Elizabeth must be compelled to tell him how wonderful and exciting and interesting he is all in the space of a few seconds. ...Anyway, it had to be like nothing they had ever said to anyone before." Taylor bristled when she saw that the lines she was to say included the words "Tell mama ? tell mama all." As Stevens recalled, "She thought it was outrageous she had to say that ? she was jumping into a sophistication beyond her time." Taylor may have also objected because her own mother, Sara Taylor, was chaperoning her relentlessly on the set, and Elizabeth may have winced at the idea of calling herself "mama." Stevens prevailed, of course, convincing Taylor that "I wanted to get the feeling of them both being totally lost in each other." In editing, Stevens first viewed the actors' uninterrupted close-ups side-by-side on a screen, so that he could time the cuts so that they flowed from one face to another.

While Taylor and Winters had nothing but praise for Stevens as a director, Montgomery Clift found him lacking and unimaginative, labeling him a mere "craftsman." Biographer Patricia Bosworth quotes him as having said that "George preconceives everything through a viewfinder". Clift's biggest disagreement with Stevens did not deal with the character of George, but with Shelley Winters' character, Alice Tripp. He thought that Tripp should be much more sympathetic, and that Winters was playing her all wrong. As quoted by Bosworth, Clift said, "She played her tragedy from the minute you see her on screen. She is downbeat, blubbery, irritating." Stevens and Winters went ahead with their interpretation, of course. Apparently, Stevens relished the contrast between Alice and Angela; he later said that he was interested in "...the relationship of opposing images. ...Shelley Winters busting at the seams with sloppy melted ice cream... as against Elizabeth Taylor in a white gown with blue ribbons floating down from the sky... Automatically there's an imbalance of images which creates drama."

The novel contains a scene in which Alice goes to a country doctor and tentatively asks about an abortion. Winters relates in her autobiography that Stevens initially planned to drop the scene because "it's rather censorable, but I think if we handle it delicately, it will illuminate the factory girl's terrible plight." Winters was given the new script pages one morning and asked to memorize the lines; Stevens planned to rehearse once, then immediately film the scene for spontaneity. "When he called, ?Action!' I was already crying," Winters wrote. "I twisted my white handkerchief into a shredded ball. The scene was nine minutes long. A full camera load. Boy, did I ever act!" Stevens had Winters do the scene again after letting her realize that tears would only frighten the doctor, and that Alice must try and refrain from crying. "Of course, when we saw the two takes the next day, the one in which I followed his exact direction was remarkable, even if I say so myself. ...Every time I've seen that scene in a theater, every man in the audience groans and every woman weeps. George had taught me another lifelong acting lesson: don't indulge yourself ? make the audience weep."

Shooting on A Place in the Sun wrapped in March, 1950. The painstaking methods of director Stevens resulted in a final budget of $2.3 million and more than 400,000 feet of film to edit. Stevens and editor William Hornbeck worked on cutting the footage for more than a year. The film premiered in Los Angeles on August 14, 1951. Unlike their experience with the 1931 version of the book, on this occasion Paramount saw not only an enormous critical success, but a financial one as well ? the picture earned $3.5 million on its initial release alone.

by John M. Miller

back to top
teaser A Place in the Sun (1951)

Filming on A Place in the Sun began in October 1949. Exteriors were shot on location at Lake Tahoe as well as on Cascade Lake in Nevada. It was already cold in the Sierras, and before Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor could frolic on the lakeside, the crew had to use hoses to spray snow off of the ground and from any tree branches that appeared in the shots. Following this excursion, shooting continued on the sound stages at Paramount Pictures.

A Stevens set was typically a very quiet set, so that the actors could concentrate and not be distracted; even the technicians and crewmen tried to move equipment, sets and lights as silently as possible. Stevens also liked to play music on the set between takes to keep actors in the mood. Franz Waxman had already written several cues and themes for A Place in the Sun, so on the Paramount stages Stevens would play portions of his score, particularly the "party theme." While not a taskmaster, Stevens was a methodical, careful director, and admitted to being detail-oriented: "I'm one of those directors who believes every element that goes into a picture affects the viewer, although the viewer may not realize the impact of tiny minor things."

In her autobiography, Shelley: Also Known as Shirley, Shelley Winters described Stevens' way of working: "He would discuss the scene, but not the lines, and would photograph the second or third rehearsal so the scene had an almost improvisatory quality. ...Stevens would print the first take, then spend the next three hours minutely rehearsing the scene, then film it again. He explained to me that in this way he often got actors' unplanned reactions that were spontaneous and human and often exactly right. And often when actors over-intellectualize or plan their reactions, they aren't as good." Stevens was also a firm believer in running rushes at night, and having the actors in attendance. As Winters said, "Stevens would print several takes of each scene and then explain to us why one was better than the other. The whole experience was a joy."

With A Place in the Sun, Elizabeth Taylor found herself in the most demanding role of her career. Stevens asked much of her in take after take, but Taylor appreciated the challenge. She was quoted in Donald Spoto's A Passion for Life, saying "Stevens didn't make me feel like a puppet. He was an insinuating director. He gave indications of what he wanted but didn't tell you specifically what to do or how to move. He would just say, 'No, stop -- that's not quite right,' and make you get it from your insides and do it again until it was the way he wanted it." Stevens himself saw what Taylor was up against: "If she thought I was more severe than needed, she'd spit fire. But the following morning she had forgotten it completely....She had enormous beauty but she wasn't charmed by it. It was there. It was a handicap and she discouraged people being over-impressed with it. She was seventeen, and she had been an actress all her life. The only thing was to prod her a bit into realizing her dramatic potential."

Taylor was also initially intimidated by the intense scenes she had to play with Montgomery Clift, "...because Monty was the New York stage actor and I felt very much the inadequate teenage Hollywood sort of puppet that had just worn pretty clothes and hadn't really acted except with horses and dogs." Clift put her at ease, and the two began a life-long friendship on the set of A Place in the Sun.

Montgomery Clift showed up for the shoot with his drama coach, Mira Rostova. This did not cause friction on the set because Stevens simply barred Rostova from the premises, so Clift had to consult with her well out of Stevens's sight. Clift kept up such intensity as George, he would find himself drenched in sweat at the end of a scene. He told Taylor that "that's the worst part about acting -- your body doesn't know you're acting. It sweats and makes adrenalin just as though your emotions were real."

The well-known initial love scene between George and Angela was filmed in extreme close-up, using a six-inch lens. Stevens rewrote the dialogue for the sequence at the last moment and surprised Clift and Taylor with the revised pages. Stevens later said, "I wanted the words to be rushed -- staccato. Monty had to let loose -- he was so enormously moved by her. Elizabeth must be compelled to tell him how wonderful and exciting and interesting he is all in the space of a few seconds. ...Anyway, it had to be like nothing they had ever said to anyone before." Taylor bristled when she saw that the lines she was to say included the words "Tell mama -- tell mama all." As Stevens recalled, "She thought it was outrageous she had to say that -- she was jumping into a sophistication beyond her time." Taylor may have also objected because her own mother, Sara Taylor, was chaperoning her relentlessly on the set, and Elizabeth may have winced at the idea of calling herself "mama." Stevens prevailed, of course, convincing Taylor that "I wanted to get the feeling of them both being totally lost in each other." In editing, Stevens first viewed the actors' uninterrupted close-ups side-by-side on a screen, so that he could time the cuts so that they flowed from one face to another.

While Taylor and Winters had nothing but praise for Stevens as a director, Montgomery Clift found him lacking and unimaginative, labeling him a mere "craftsman." Biographer Patricia Bosworth quotes him as having said that "George preconceives everything through a viewfinder". Clift's biggest disagreement with Stevens did not deal with the character of George, but with Shelley Winters' character, Alice Tripp. He thought that Tripp should be much more sympathetic, and that Winters was playing her all wrong. As quoted by Bosworth, Clift said, "She played her tragedy from the minute you see her on screen. She is downbeat, blubbery, irritating." Stevens and Winters went ahead with their interpretation, of course. Apparently, Stevens relished the contrast between Alice and Angela; he later said that he was interested in "...the relationship of opposing images. ...Shelley Winters busting at the seams with sloppy melted ice cream... as against Elizabeth Taylor in a white gown with blue ribbons floating down from the sky... Automatically there's an imbalance of images which creates drama."

The novel contains a scene in which Alice goes to a country doctor and tentatively asks about an abortion. Winters relates in her autobiography that Stevens initially planned to drop the scene because "it's rather censorable, but I think if we handle it delicately, it will illuminate the factory girl's terrible plight." Winters was given the new script pages one morning and asked to memorize the lines; Stevens planned to rehearse once, then immediately film the scene for spontaneity. "When he called, 'Action!' I was already crying," Winters wrote. "I twisted my white handkerchief into a shredded ball. The scene was nine minutes long. A full camera load. Boy, did I ever act!" Stevens had Winters do the scene again after letting her realize that tears would only frighten the doctor, and that Alice must try and refrain from crying. "Of course, when we saw the two takes the next day, the one in which I followed his exact direction was remarkable, even if I say so myself. ...Every time I've seen that scene in a theater, every man in the audience groans and every woman weeps. George had taught me another lifelong acting lesson: don't indulge yourself -- make the audience weep."

Shooting on A Place in the Sun wrapped in March, 1950. The painstaking methods of director Stevens resulted in a final budget of $2.3 million and more than 400,000 feet of film to edit. Stevens and editor William Hornbeck worked on cutting the footage for more than a year. The film premiered in Los Angeles on August 14, 1951. Unlike their experience with the 1931 version of the book, on this occasion Paramount saw not only an enormous critical success, but a financial one as well -- the picture earned $3.5 million on its initial release alone.

by John M. Miller

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teaser A Place in the Sun (1951)

Critical reaction to A PLACE IN THE SUN

"...This second screen edition of Theodore Dreiser's monumental novel, 'An American Tragedy' ...is a work of beauty, tenderness, power and insight. ...There may be some belief that Montgomery Clift, as the tortured George Eastman, is not nearly the designing and grasping youth conceived by Dreiser. But his portrayal, often terse and hesitating, is full, rich, restrained and, above all, generally credible and poignant. He is, in effect, a believable mama's boy gone wrong. Equally poignant is Shelley Winters' characterization of the ill-fated Alice. Miss Winters, in our opinion, has never been seen to better advantage than as the colorless factory hand, beset by burgeoning anxieties but clinging to a love she hopes can be rekindled. Elizabeth Taylor's delineation of the rich and beauteous Angela also is the top effort of her career. ...Despite the fact that this version of Dreiser's tragedy may be criticized ? academically, we think ? for its length or deviations from the author's patterns, A Place in the Sun is a distinguished work, a tribute, above all, to its producer-director and an effort now placed among the ranks of the finest films to have come from Hollywood in many years." ? Bosley Crowther, the New York Times, August 29, 1951.

"A Place in the Sun, judging by the competition so far, is the picture to beat for 1951's Academy Awards. [It] is at once a faithful adaptation of the novel, an artful job of moviemaking and an engrossing piece of popular entertainment. ...Moviemaker Stevens, working with an intelligent script by Michael Wilson and Harry Brown, captures the power of the novel without its heaviness, the insight without the inventories. The story still flows inexorably from the springs of character and environment. And though Stevens concentrates on its poignant love affairs, he neither overlooks Dreiser's implied social comment nor oversimplifies it with trite labels. ...In the pivotal role, actor Clift's sensitive, natural performance gives the film a solid core of conviction. Actress Taylor plays with a tenderness and intensity that may surprise even her warmest fans. In a film of less uniform excellence, Shelley Winters' mousy factory girl would completely steal the show. Shy, petulant, or shrilly nagging by turns, she makes the most of her unconventional role and of the movie's boldest scene, when she gropes, on a choked-up brink of tears, for a tactful way to ask a doctor for an abortion. ...[Stevens] makes imaginative use of his soundtrack: the cry of a loon, the distant whine of sirens, the barking of dogs become recurring motifs bound up with the action. His camera is effectively restrained; it peeks through doorways or stands patiently in the corner like a hidden witness; and when it moves suddenly into close-ups, the effect of intimacy is breathtaking." - Time, September 10, 1951.

"Like the 1931 screen version of An American Tragedy, this new adaptation is not the social indictment that Theodore Dreiser had in mind when he wrote his famous novel in 1925. His hero, Clyde Griffiths (here called George Eastman), is presented to the audience in full manhood... As a result, both the film and the character lose significance. Unlike Griffiths, Eastman is tentative, even weak, and more to be mothered than censured. But the Michael Wilson-Harry Brown screenplay makes amends to Dreiser for the omissions. And producer-director George Stevens has fashioned it into an intelligent, absorbing movie that is easily one of the most brilliant films to come out of Hollywood in years. ...Aside from having unerringly chosen the right people for his three leading roles, Stevens time and time again injects masterful directional touches ? when George and Alice walk from the movies to her furnished room, their lovestruck faces searched by street lamps and porch lights; when George eagerly follows Angela into her shiny life of Cadillacs and motorboats; when the disintegration of love turns Alice into an ugly woman. ...Considering the fact that George is negative and may be a diffident, even dull, version of the Horatio Alger hero gone wrong ? certainly not what Dreiser had in mind ? Montgomery Clift turns in a thoughtful and intelligent performance." - Newsweek, September 10, 1951.

"In the main, the success of A Place in the Sun is probably attributable to George Stevens, who produced and directed it with workmanlike, powerful restraint and without tricks or sociological harangue. He has drawn excellent performances from Montgomery Clift, who is thoroughly believable as the young man; Elizabeth Taylor, who is remarkably well cast as the daughter of a wealthy social clan; and Shelley Winters, who is particularly moving in the role of the unwanted sweetheart." ? G.A., New York Herald Tribune.

"The Stevens film ...makes Dreiser's clear-cut class demarcations less rigid, and puts as much emphasis upon psychological factors as upon societal. ...Allowing for the elimination of the long section dealing with George Eastman's boyhood, the pattern of the story has been kept relatively close to the book with an ending that is very similar to Dreiser's. A final irony is preserved. The issue is left undecided in the moral sense, even though truth, in the legal sense, would have shown George not guilty and unpunishable. Clift, of course, had George Stevens to discuss and probe with him the nature of the character, and this ability of the director to make his actors see what he wanted paid off astonishingly with the female roles. Elizabeth Taylor is a joy to watch as the charmingly spoiled Angela (one had somehow never conceived of the glamorized creature as an actress)... Shelley Winters (the sexiness hidden, the legs undisplayed) achieves almost a tour de force of naturalness. ...There are scenes that nakedly reveal all that is going on in her mind. ...Scene after scene distills the meaning of events that Dreiser took long pages to unfold. The novel gained it effects largely by its massive accumulation of detail (the writing is for the most part irritating and clumsy); the technique of the movie is vastly different. Here each scene must accomplish its objective with vividness and economy; dialogue is often scrapped in favor of the visual symbol. From moment to moment, in fact, the two distinct kinds of telling, interwoven as they are, can be discerned, as the symbolic image accompanies the realistic level of the happenings. ...Now and then a line of dialogue does get out of key, very occasionally the symbol grows obtrusive, but in each case never enough to seriously disturb. One has, at the end, the feeling of a screen that has been illuminated in a new way by a hand altogether accomplished." - Saturday Review of Literature, September 1, 1951.

"Perhaps because Stevens' methods here are studied, slow, and accumulative, the work was acclaimed as 'realistic,' though it's full of murky psychological overtones, darkening landscapes, the eerie sounds of a loon, and overlapping dissolves designed to affect you emotionally without your conscious awareness. Stevens and his scriptwriters (Michael Wilson and Harry Brown) pre-interpret everything, turning the basically simple story into something portentous and 'deep.' The film is mannered enough for a gothic murder mystery, while its sleek capitalists and oppressed workers seem to come out of a Depression cartoon; the industrial town is an arrangement of symbols of wealth, glamour, and power versus symbols of poor, drab helplessness. ...But whatever one's reservations about this famous film, it is impressive, and in the love scene between Taylor and Clift, physical desire seems palpable." ? Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies.

"Typically slow and stately in the later Stevens manner, this is a shameless travesty of Theodore Dreiser's monumental (if ponderous) An American Tragedy. Most of the book's acid social comment is elided, turning Dreiser's hero's attempt to better himself by latching onto a snobbish society girl into something like a starry-eyed romance; what is left is rendered meaningless by being ripped out of period context into a contemporary setting. Although all three leads are excellent, only the scenes with Winters ...really work." ? Tom Milne, Time Out Film Guide.

"Overblown, overlong and over-praised melodrama from a monumental novel of social guilt; sometimes visually striking, this version alters the stresses of the plot and leaves no time for sociological detail. A film so clearly intended as a masterpiece could hardly fail to be boring." - Halliwell's Film & Video Guide (HarperPerennial).

"This version, brought completely up to date in time and settings, is distinguished beyond its predecessor in every way. Montgomery Clift, Shelley Winters and Elizabeth Taylor give wonderfully shaded and poignant performances." - Variety Movie Guide (Prentice Hall).

"Though hailed by many at the time of its release as one of the best American films, it now seems overblown and pretentious and curious in its romanticized portrait of Angela and her circle." - Georges Sadoul, Dictionary of Films (University of California Press).

"For Stevens, the story of the young man crushed by capitalism became one of the most lush romantic films of the 1950s?If Stevens violates the soul-killing drabness of Dreiser's novel by transforming George and Angela into star-crossed lovers, the glamour of the film is consistent with the director's new reading of the text. The hero's dilemma is conveyed in a nearly expressionistic play of cinematic light and dimension....By the end of A Place in the Sun both the audience and George have been made to submit to the voluptuous raptures of Alice's murder and Angela's kiss." - Charles Affron, The International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers (Perigee).

Awards and Honors

A Place in the Sun won Oscars in several major categories:
Best Director: George Stevens
Best Writing, Screenplay: Michael Wilson, Harry Brown
Best Film Editing: William Hornbeck
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White: William C. Mellor
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White: Edith Head
Best Music, Scoring of a Drama or Comedy: Franz Waxman

In addition, A Place in the Sun was nominated for Oscars in these categories:
Best Picture
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Shelley Winters
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Montgomery Clift

A Place in the Sun won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture ? Drama.

A Place in the Sun was named Best Picture in 1951 by the National Board of Review.

A Place in the Sun was placed on the National Film Registry in 1991.

Compiled by John M. Miller & Jeff Stafford

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teaser A Place in the Sun (1951)

Theodore Dreiser's 1925 novel, An American Tragedy, was based on a real-life murder of a poor, pregnant factory girl by her social-climbing fiance. It had been filmed by Joseph von Sternberg in 1931, starring Sylvia Sidney, Phillips Holmes and Frances Dee. George Stevens' 1951 version, A Place in the Sun, focused more on the developing romance between the man and the rich girl, and changed the poor girl's death to an accident, but maintained the psychological motivations and class distinctions of the novel.

George Eastman (Montgomery Clift), the poor relation of a wealthy manufacturer, arrives at the factory and asks for a job. Acutely aware of his lowly position, he longs for the beautiful, rich Angela (Elizabeth Taylor), while drifting into an affair with factory girl Alice (Shelley Winters). When Angela returns his love, George tries to break with Alice, but she demands marriage, and he sees only one way out.

Stevens cast Elizabeth Taylor, not yet 18 and lushly beautiful, as Angela. Stevens claimed he had never seen any of her films, but knew she had exactly the quality he wanted: "Not so much a real girl as the girl on the candy-box cover, the beautiful girl in the yellow Cadillac convertible that every American boy sometime or other thinks he can marry."

Shelley Winters wanted to break out of silly blonde bombshell roles and prove herself a serious actress by playing Alice. But Stevens, knowing only her sexpot image, refused to consider her. Finally, the director agreed to meet her, and Winters showed up for the interview sans makeup, wearing dowdy clothes and an unflattering hairdo. Stevens barely recognized her, and agreed to test her if she would allow herself to be photographed just as she was. Winters agreed, and won the role.

Montgomery Clift was already one of the most important young actors in films, and had been nominated for an Academy Award for his first film, The Search (1948). Intense and neurotic, Clift was ideal for the part of George, but he relied heavily on his acting coach, Mira Rostova, to shape his performances. This infuriated the autocratic Stevens, who could not bear anyone but himself guiding the performances. Throughout the production, Stevens never spoke to Rostova or acknowledged her presence, and instructed his assistants to keep her out of his sight. Clift found Stevens inflexible, and dismissed him as a "craftsman," rather than an artist. But Clift's performance was one of his best, and earned him an Academy Award nomination.

Clift's co-stars, however, blossomed under Stevens' direction. The director insisted on extensive rehearsals, during which he would have the actors run through the scene without speaking their lines, only communicating them non-verbally. Winters later wrote in her autobiography, "He was the greatest director I ever worked for. He made me understand that acting, especially film acting, is not emotion, but thinking."

Elizabeth Taylor had been a film actress for most of her life, but had never worked that way before, and her performance deepened. She had developed a schoolgirl crush on Clift, and fancied herself in love with him. Clift, a homosexual, could not love her romantically, but the two became intimate friends. Stevens observed the intensity of the relationship, and often rewrote dialogue to reflect Taylor's growing maternal tenderness towards the neurotic Clift. Their scenes together throb with barely suppressed emotion, and the rapturous close-ups Stevens uses heighten them even more. One morning, however, Stevens handed Taylor and Clift newly written lines for a love scene, and at first Taylor reacted indignantly to what she had to say. Yet it turned out to be the most breathtakingly romantic moment in the film. In enormous close-up, responding to Clift's inarticulate attempt to declare his love, Taylor whispers passionately, "tell Mama...tell Mama all."

Location shooting took place at Lake Tahoe in October. The weather had already turned cold, and crews often had to hose off newly fallen snow before the actors could pretend to be cavorting in the summer sunshine. Taylor gamely wore a bathing suit and swam in the frigid lake. Later, Winters and Clift refused to go into the water during the drowning scene, and demanded that their doubles do the stunt. Without a word, Stevens, in a heavy coat and boots, jumped into the cold water. Then he got out, and began giving Winters and Clift directions on how he wanted them to play the scene. They did the stunt.

The perfectionist Stevens spent two years working on A Place in the Sun, nearly a year of it editing the 400,000 feet of film he'd shot. The film opened to nearly unanimous acclaim, and was a huge box-office hit. It shows up on most lists of the best American films of all time. Stevens won an Academy Award for best director, and the film also won Oscars for screenplay, cinematography, editing, score and costume design. It was nominated for best picture, but lost to An American in Paris (1951). Clift and Winters were also nominated for best actor and actress.

Producer/Director: George Stevens
Screenplay: Michael Wilson, Harry Brown, based on the novel An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, and the play by Patrick Kearney
Editor: William Hornbeck
Cinematography: William Mellor
Costume Design: Edith Head
Art Direction: Hans Dreier, Walter Tyler
Music: Franz Waxman
Principal Cast: Montgomery Clift (George Eastman), Elizabeth Taylor (Angela Vickers), Shelley Winters (Alice Tripp), Anne Revere (Hannah Eastman), Keefe Brasselle (Earl Eastman), Fred Clark (Bellows), Raymond Burr (Marlowe).
BW-122m.

by Margarita Landazuri

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teaser A Place in the Sun (1951)

Critical reaction to A PLACE IN THE SUN

"...This second screen edition of Theodore Dreiser's monumental novel, 'An American Tragedy' ...is a work of beauty, tenderness, power and insight. ...There may be some belief that Montgomery Clift, as the tortured George Eastman, is not nearly the designing and grasping youth conceived by Dreiser. But his portrayal, often terse and hesitating, is full, rich, restrained and, above all, generally credible and poignant. He is, in effect, a believable mama's boy gone wrong. Equally poignant is Shelley Winters' characterization of the ill-fated Alice. Miss Winters, in our opinion, has never been seen to better advantage than as the colorless factory hand, beset by burgeoning anxieties but clinging to a love she hopes can be rekindled. Elizabeth Taylor's delineation of the rich and beauteous Angela also is the top effort of her career. ...Despite the fact that this version of Dreiser's tragedy may be criticized -- academically, we think -- for its length or deviations from the author's patterns, A Place in the Sun is a distinguished work, a tribute, above all, to its producer-director and an effort now placed among the ranks of the finest films to have come from Hollywood in many years." - Bosley Crowther, the New York Times, August 29, 1951.

"A Place in the Sun, judging by the competition so far, is the picture to beat for 1951's Academy Awards. It is at once a faithful adaptation of the novel, an artful job of moviemaking and an engrossing piece of popular entertainment. ...Moviemaker Stevens, working with an intelligent script by Michael Wilson and Harry Brown, captures the power of the novel without its heaviness, the insight without the inventories. The story still flows inexorably from the springs of character and environment. And though Stevens concentrates on its poignant love affairs, he neither overlooks Dreiser's implied social comment nor oversimplifies it with trite labels. ...In the pivotal role, actor Clift's sensitive, natural performance gives the film a solid core of conviction. Actress Taylor plays with a tenderness and intensity that may surprise even her warmest fans. In a film of less uniform excellence, Shelley Winters' mousy factory girl would completely steal the show. Shy, petulant, or shrilly nagging by turns, she makes the most of her unconventional role and of the movie's boldest scene, when she gropes, on a choked-up brink of tears, for a tactful way to ask a doctor for an abortion. ...Stevens makes imaginative use of his soundtrack: the cry of a loon, the distant whine of sirens, the barking of dogs become recurring motifs bound up with the action. His camera is effectively restrained; it peeks through doorways or stands patiently in the corner like a hidden witness; and when it moves suddenly into close-ups, the effect of intimacy is breathtaking." - Time, September 10, 1951.

"Like the 1931 screen version of An American Tragedy, this new adaptation is not the social indictment that Theodore Dreiser had in mind when he wrote his famous novel in 1925. His hero, Clyde Griffiths (here called George Eastman), is presented to the audience in full manhood... As a result, both the film and the character lose significance. Unlike Griffiths, Eastman is tentative, even weak, and more to be mothered than censured. But the Michael Wilson-Harry Brown screenplay makes amends to Dreiser for the omissions. And producer-director George Stevens has fashioned it into an intelligent, absorbing movie that is easily one of the most brilliant films to come out of Hollywood in years. ...Aside from having unerringly chosen the right people for his three leading roles, Stevens time and time again injects masterful directional touches -- when George and Alice walk from the movies to her furnished room, their lovestruck faces searched by street lamps and porch lights; when George eagerly follows Angela into her shiny life of Cadillacs and motorboats; when the disintegration of love turns Alice into an ugly woman. ...Considering the fact that George is negative and may be a diffident, even dull, version of the Horatio Alger hero gone wrong -- certainly not what Dreiser had in mind -- Montgomery Clift turns in a thoughtful and intelligent performance." - Newsweek, September 10, 1951.

"In the main, the success of A Place in the Sun is probably attributable to George Stevens, who produced and directed it with workmanlike, powerful restraint and without tricks or sociological harangue. He has drawn excellent performances from Montgomery Clift, who is thoroughly believable as the young man; Elizabeth Taylor, who is remarkably well cast as the daughter of a wealthy social clan; and Shelley Winters, who is particularly moving in the role of the unwanted sweetheart." - G.A., New York Herald Tribune.

"The Stevens film ...makes Dreiser's clear-cut class demarcations less rigid, and puts as much emphasis upon psychological factors as upon societal. ...Allowing for the elimination of the long section dealing with George Eastman's boyhood, the pattern of the story has been kept relatively close to the book with an ending that is very similar to Dreiser's. A final irony is preserved. The issue is left undecided in the moral sense, even though truth, in the legal sense, would have shown George not guilty and unpunishable. Clift, of course, had George Stevens to discuss and probe with him the nature of the character, and this ability of the director to make his actors see what he wanted paid off astonishingly with the female roles. Elizabeth Taylor is a joy to watch as the charmingly spoiled Angela (one had somehow never conceived of the glamorized creature as an actress)... Shelley Winters (the sexiness hidden, the legs undisplayed) achieves almost a tour de force of naturalness. ...There are scenes that nakedly reveal all that is going on in her mind. ...Scene after scene distills the meaning of events that Dreiser took long pages to unfold. The novel gained it effects largely by its massive accumulation of detail (the writing is for the most part irritating and clumsy); the technique of the movie is vastly different. Here each scene must accomplish its objective with vividness and economy; dialogue is often scrapped in favor of the visual symbol. From moment to moment, in fact, the two distinct kinds of telling, interwoven as they are, can be discerned, as the symbolic image accompanies the realistic level of the happenings. ...Now and then a line of dialogue does get out of key, very occasionally the symbol grows obtrusive, but in each case never enough to seriously disturb. One has, at the end, the feeling of a screen that has been illuminated in a new way by a hand altogether accomplished." - Saturday Review of Literature, September 1, 1951.

"Perhaps because Stevens' methods here are studied, slow, and accumulative, the work was acclaimed as 'realistic,' though it's full of murky psychological overtones, darkening landscapes, the eerie sounds of a loon, and overlapping dissolves designed to affect you emotionally without your conscious awareness. Stevens and his scriptwriters (Michael Wilson and Harry Brown) pre-interpret everything, turning the basically simple story into something portentous and 'deep.' The film is mannered enough for a gothic murder mystery, while its sleek capitalists and oppressed workers seem to come out of a Depression cartoon; the industrial town is an arrangement of symbols of wealth, glamour, and power versus symbols of poor, drab helplessness. ...But whatever one's reservations about this famous film, it is impressive, and in the love scene between Taylor and Clift, physical desire seems palpable." - Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies.

"Typically slow and stately in the later Stevens manner, this is a shameless travesty of Theodore Dreiser's monumental (if ponderous) An American Tragedy. Most of the book's acid social comment is elided, turning Dreiser's hero's attempt to better himself by latching onto a snobbish society girl into something like a starry-eyed romance; what is left is rendered meaningless by being ripped out of period context into a contemporary setting. Although all three leads are excellent, only the scenes with Winters ...really work." - Tom Milne, Time Out Film Guide.

"Overblown, overlong and over-praised melodrama from a monumental novel of social guilt; sometimes visually striking, this version alters the stresses of the plot and leaves no time for sociological detail. A film so clearly intended as a masterpiece could hardly fail to be boring." - Halliwell's Film & Video Guide (HarperPerennial).

"This version, brought completely up to date in time and settings, is distinguished beyond its predecessor in every way. Montgomery Clift, Shelley Winters and Elizabeth Taylor give wonderfully shaded and poignant performances." - Variety Movie Guide (Prentice Hall).

"Though hailed by many at the time of its release as one of the best American films, it now seems overblown and pretentious and curious in its romanticized portrait of Angela and her circle." - Georges Sadoul, Dictionary of Films (University of California Press).

"For Stevens, the story of the young man crushed by capitalism became one of the most lush romantic films of the 1950s. If Stevens violates the soul-killing drabness of Dreiser's novel by transforming George and Angela into star-crossed lovers, the glamour of the film is consistent with the director's new reading of the text. The hero's dilemma is conveyed in a nearly expressionistic play of cinematic light and dimension....By the end of A Place in the Sun both the audience and George have been made to submit to the voluptuous raptures of Alice's murder and Angela's kiss." - Charles Affron, The International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers (Perigee).

Awards and Honors

A Place in the Sun won Oscars in several major categories:
Best Director: George Stevens
Best Writing, Screenplay: Michael Wilson, Harry Brown
Best Film Editing: William Hornbeck
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White: William C. Mellor
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White: Edith Head
Best Music, Scoring of a Drama or Comedy: Franz Waxman

In addition, A Place in the Sun was nominated for Oscars in these categories:
Best Picture
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Shelley Winters
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Montgomery Clift

A Place in the Sun won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama.

A Place in the Sun was named Best Picture in 1951 by the National Board of Review.

A Place in the Sun was placed on the National Film Registry in 1991.

Compiled by John M. Miller & Jeff Stafford

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