A Place in the Sun Review
A Place in the Sun is a 1951 drama film partially based on the 1925 novel An American Tragedy. It is directed by George Stevens and stars Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in the lead roles. It received six Oscars and was nominated for Best Picture.
It is a story that is adapted loosely from the novel. And while some may take issue with the adaptation, I honestly think it worked wonders for the film to have only the second half of the book emphasized. And clocking in at just two hours, it runs at a smooth pace and is never boring. I am not a big fan of its beginning as it is rather abrupt and uninspired when compared to the rest of the picture, but the ending is superb as is the second act which is a standout. This story is of course a fantastic one and it is propelled by some very sophisticated themes and it deals with its subject matter wonderfully. I like the approach with Angela in that the movie is told from different angles which is great as well.
The characters are phenomenal across the board. George Eastman is the highlight as this troubled central character and his drama and his conclusion is so emotional and really well handled, so dramatic. His character and actor drives this movie. Angela Vickers is again very well portrayed and having the film show the pain felt from her side, you do feel for her. Alice Tripp is also superb and she is such a tragic figure who has the saddest parts in the movie. All three are superb thanks to outstanding character development.
The acting is excellent with a couple of terrific performances. Elizabeth Taylor is stupendous here in what is arguably one of her finest of the earlier roles. But Montgomery Clift is naturally the highlight and he not only gave a superb naturalistic performance, but the casting director also did a stellar job as he is the perfect guy for this kind of role. And what he did with his performance is magnificent not only in dialogue but also physically with the look in his eyes being the most poignant and dramatic. On the other hand, Shelley Winters is not good and is definitely the weak link in A Place in the Sun. Some of her delivery was really subpar and this was one of her worse roles in my opinion. She did not deserve an Oscar nomination and I don’t know what they were thinking. This role just wasn’t for her.
This is a visually stunning film. The naturalistic photography is fascinating with some beautiful scenery and the boat scene is the highlight, visually magnificent and incredibly intense. The directing is very polished and one of the best things about the film with George Stevens proving to have been one of the best directors of the 1950s. It is a nicely paced film as well with rarely a rushed or prolonged scene. The boat sequence is prolonged, but that just works to its advantage and was highly needed. The score is also superb with some beautiful pieces. And the movie is very emotional and heartbreaking at some points. The dialogue is excellent and the screenplay is impeccably adapted.
A Place in the Sun is a really strong film and it was a strong contender for Best Picture. It was also one of the best nominees from the slate, but ‘A Streetcar Named Desire‘ is even better and ‘An American in Paris’ is a worthy winner. It shouldn’t have won Best Picture and it didn’t, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the film as it is excellent and the year of 1951 is evidently one of the decade’s very best.