Friday, March 7, 2008

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1976)

The 1976 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Laurence Olivier, Robert Wagner, Natalie Wood and Maureen Stapleton is a lesser-known, yet still outstanding version of this classic play. Natalie Wood plays Maggie the Cat, a middle-aged woman married to an ex football star who is no longer in love with her and has turned to alcohol to deal with the death of a friend. Robert Wagner is Maggie's husband Brick, who just wants some peace and quiet so he can relax and drink his whiskey. Brick and Maggie are visiting Brick's father Big Daddy, played by Laurence Olivier, who has just been diagnosed with cancer on this his sixty-fifth birthday. Big Daddy is a multi-millionaire who owns a 28,000-acre plantation in Mississippi. Big Momma is having a birthday party for Big Daddy so the entire family is at the estate and everyone is creating drama. Big Daddy’s eldest son Gooper and his wife Mae and their five children seem to be the cause of most of the drama. This isn’t their intention of course, it’s just that they are very loud and very brash and don’t exactly keep to themselves and aren’t exactly cordial. Gooper and Mae aren’t alone at fault, as Big Daddy himself has a few outbursts and Brick and Maggie’s marital problems are very obvious whenever they are together. At first it is kept from Big Momma and Big Daddy that Big Daddy has cancer, they are told that his tests were negative in order to let Big Momma enjoy the birthday party. It is inevitable however that they tell Big Momma the truth about Big Daddy’s cancer something that kind of hangs over their heads throughout the story. The film is done with Tennessee Williams' screenplay and has outstanding performances by Olivier and Wood. The film is really shot and acted more like a stage play and not like a movie. What I mean to say is that it is very theatrical and not cinematic. This isn’t a problem of course; it just takes a couple minutes to get used to. I didn't think Robert Wagner was all that great, he is more of a film actor and less theatrical but he got better as the film went on. This version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is definitely worth watching, especially if you're a Tennessee Williams fan. Overall 3.0/4 Stars Grade = B

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