Monday, June 13, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Elizabeth Taylor received her second Best Actress nomination for playing Maggie Pollitt, a woman who's desperate to have some connection to her husband in the movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Elizabeth Taylor's second nomination was even more significant than her very first one one year earlier. This time, she played a truly complex character in a movie that's based on a contemporary play and that was nominated for Best Picture. Still, I don't believe that she had a chance of winning over Susan Hayward. She may have got ahead of Roz Russell but Hayward was unbeatable that year. Nowadays, however, many people think that Liz should have won her first award for this performance of hers instead of BUtterfield 8.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a movie that's a milder version of Tennessee Williams' play. Still, I think it's a brilliant movie and I might even give it my vote for Best Picture. The filmmakers had to be very careful with the censors but I still feel that Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is quite a progressive and brave piece of work and everybody can be proud of it. The ensemble cast is just brilliant. Everybody has the so-called 'moment' and everyone is very memorable. Paul Newman might have even become my own Best Actor pick. Burl Ives is, simply, astonishing. I think they mixed up the titles of the movies and that's why he won for the wrong film. Moreover, Judith Anderson was robbed of a nomination and perhaps even a win.

But what can I say about Elizabeth Taylor? I wrote a bit cynical review about her on the day she died (right before that) and that still hurts me a bit. Although as an actress she's not one of my favorites, I love Elizabeth Taylor, the star. Nobody had a star power or a beauty like hers. And yet the celebrity gradually overshadowed the actress and we didn't see her in more great movies in which she could have given great performances. However, she gave an almost legendary performance in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at a time when she was at her prime as an actress.

Her nominated performances (except the last one) consit of several parts: screaming, crying, a big monologue and an effective ending. While these things didn't work with me in Raintree County or Suddenly, Last Summer, they were absolutely fine her, in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Somehow, I felt that she did this part with total, almost brutal honesty and that she really felt for Maggie the cat. When she filmed this movie, a personal tragedy came in her life: she lost her husband, Michael Todd who died in a plane crash exactly when she began filming. I guess that helped a lot. All the sorrows that Liz must have felt came to surface in this part and in a very good way.

In my opinion, Maggie, the Cat is a fabulous character like all the female characters that were created by Tennessee Williams. Somehow, he had an instinct for writing great parts for actresses. Although Liz didn't originate this part, it seems to have been taylor made for her (no pun intended). Her high-pitched voice fit Maggie's personality so well and what could have been really annoying somewhere else worked totally well here. I just loved the way that she handled all the pain and desperation inside Maggie. Liz's performance becomes so strong and intense and as a result, the audience can relate to the character so easily.

Liz has a great monologue at the beginning where she's complaining to her husband about the lack of love (and sex) she receives. We can feel Maggie's sadness but we can also observe her determination to change things. Liz shows that Maggie is an incredibly strong and loving woman who just wants to love and be loved. She does everything possible for her husband. And she fights for his benefits, too if she has to. Maggie experienced poverty (as she says in a wonderful monologue) and she doesn't want that to happen once again.

I have one complaint, though. It's that the greatness of Liz mostly shows itself at the beginning and towards the ending she doesn't get as much spotlight as she would deserve. That's not a minor thing but it's forgiveable as it's not really Liz's fault.

Still, this is a wonderful performance that (at least to me) lived up to its reputation. Elizabeth Taylor is really fantastic as Maggie, the Cat, creating a fascinating, complex, multi-layered character. The fierce emotionality Liz added to Maggie is just brilliant. You can so easily identify with this character thanks to Taylor's greatness in this part. Fantastic work.
Again, a strong 4,5.

What do you think? I think Liz was at her most beautiful here. She was incredibly sexy and beautiful. Gaaah... :) Do you agree?


Louis Morgan said...

Yes she is especially good looking in this picture. I felt about her performance the same way I felt about Newman consistently good, not really great, but always good.

dinasztie said...

I loved them both.

Fritz said...

Again, I am a little less enthusiastic than you.

Anonymous said...

They were the most beautiful of screen couples. The eyes have it!