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22nd Feb 2019(Fri)
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"Cat On A Hot Tin roof" 1958 @
Starring Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Burl Ives, Jack Carson, Judith Anderson. Directed by Richard Brooks. 1958, 108 mins. Screened in 35mm.

$8 Adults; $6 Seniors & Kids. Combo pricing for seeing more than one film in a weekend series.

The Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre at 54 JSQ is directly across JFK Blvd from the JSQ PATH Station. Discount parking for Theatre patrons in Square Ramp Garage located on Magnolia Ave. off of Tonnelle Ave. behind the Loew’s. (201) 798-6055 www.loewsjersey.org.

Tennessee William’s stock in trade was to bring angry, unhappy and otherwise tortured characters together – often as family members, and often in the South, stir in depression, greed, dishonesty, fear and other human frailties, leave things to simmer in a claustrophobic, hothouse setting, and then let intense, fearsome and fearless melodrama bubble and pour out.

In “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof”, Williams tells the story of a decidedly dysfunctional wealthy southern family that includes a domineering patriarch aptly called Big Daddy who is dying of cancer, his one son and daughter-in-law who have dutifully produced a pack of grandchildren and are shamelessly campaigning to inherit Big Daddy’s fortune, and his alcoholic ne' er do well other son and his wife, whose marriage is falling apart because of suspicion and jealousy.

It’s a very adult melodrama that includes themes of infertility, adultery, alcoholism, greed and even homosexuality – all topics that were taboo on screen and beyond in 1950s America. So how did Hollywood make a movie of this incendiary play? The answer, perhaps not surprisingly, is with some editing, but – and this may surprise – despite this, very successfully. While the homosexual references in Williams’ play were toned down and buried so deeply between the lines that they are barely there, the other themes are all pretty much intact and on display, remarkably so for a mainstream feature film of its era.

The most important factor in the film’s surprisingly successful adaptation of Williams’ incendiary material is the powerful, commanding, and implication-filled performance that all of the lead actors turn in.

Burl Ives, best known to Baby Boomers and the generations that followed for giving both his voice and bearded countenance to the snowman narrator in TV’s stop-motion version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, is a force of nature as Big Daddy –the role he had in the Broadway production of the play.

Judith Anderson finds a way to make Big Mama a character that is not lost amid all the other riveting performances.

Paul Newman, in a role that brought his first Academy Award nomination and effectively cemented his place in the acting pantheon of his generation, brought extraordinary depth to a fragile and haunted character that could easily have sunk into caricature.

And Elizabeth Taylor, in one of the best performances of her adult career, conjured a surprisingly sophisticated mix of love and anger, devotion and jealousy, genuine-ness and deception, vulnerability and manipulation.

Most importantly, together Taylor and Newman – both gorgeous looking on screen – strike sparks as the sexually unfulfilled wife and her tortured husband that even audience in the 1950s could not help but feel the heat from.

 

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