07 February 2011

Review | A Place in the Sun

Those who know me, know that I'm a sucker for an old black and white movie. Throw in the beauty of Elizabeth Taylor and the costumes of Edith Head, and you've got the perfect Sunday afternoon, with or without the rain.

A Place in the Sun tells the story of George Eastman (Montgomery Clift), a young boy from the poor side of the tracks who takes a job at his rich uncle's factory. Desperate for some warmth in his life, he starts a relationship with a fellow factory worker, simple, trusting Alice (Shelley Winters). Soon after, he starts to fall in love with the glamorous and beautiful Angela (Elizabeth Taylor), as well as developing a hankering for her family's rich and carefree way of living. Despite his best efforts, George is unable to escape Alice, who is desperate for George to marry her. As he falls further in love with Angela, George finds himself going to more extreme lengths to rid himself of his former conquest, with devastating consequences.

The film manages to blend both scenes of romance with a serious, threatening edge. Clift succeeds in making us feel sympathy for the plight of George, even when he is leading on both Alice and Angela. This is a story of the "American Dream", with George desperate to make something of himself and escape the poor of his youth. With their attitude of "anything is possible", Americans have constantly been encouraged to seek a better life for themselves, often at whatever cost. As we see in A Place in the Sun, the chasing of a better life can make us blind to the consequences our actions are creating.

Perhaps we also feel sympathy for George because of our k
nowledge of what befell Clift in reality. Considered a lost and troubled soul, Montgomery Clift struggled his whole life with his sexuality and died at the young age of 45 from a heart attack. His friendship with Elizabeth Taylor lasted until his death, and their scenes together demonstrate a strong, undeniable chemistry.

If it's a good black and white film you're after, look no further. Sixty years on, it's still fresh as a daisy.