SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER, CATHERINE KNEW SHE WAS BEING USED FOR SOMETHING EVIL!
In 1937, New Orleans surgeon John Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) is called to the mansion of a wealthy old lady (Katharine Hepburn); she wants him to lobotomize her niece (Elizabeth Taylor) who witnessed a brutal death and went mad. Another taut, controversial screen adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play, this time with a more obvious homosexual theme. Very intense, with a brilliant performance by Taylor, and one’s curiosity is certainly piqued as to what really happened that day in Mexico. When we do find out, it’s awfully gruesome and the link to homosexuality is certainly dated and even grotesque… but this is nevertheless a gripping drama with acid-laced dialogue.
1959-U.S. 114 min. B/W. Produced by Sam Spiegel. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Screenplay: Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams. Play: Tennessee Williams. Art Direction: Oliver Messel, William Kellner. Cast: Elizabeth Taylor (Catherine Holly), Katharine Hepburn (Violet Venable), Montgomery Clift (John Cukrowicz), Mercedes McCambridge, Albert Dekker.
Trivia: Taylor’s husband at the time, Eddie Fisher, reportedly plays one of the street urchins.
Golden Globe: Best Actress (Taylor).
Trivia: “I’ve buried a husband and a son. I’m a widow and a… Funny, there’s no word. Lose your parents, you’re an orphan. Lose your only son and you are… Nothing.” (Hepburn)
Last word: “I’m not an actress that needs to know everything. I trust what I’m given, and in that case, I was given the play by Tennessee, and then the script, which was based on the play and was intelligent and had clear lines of direction within it. I’d go mad if a writer – in a book or a play or a screenplay – defined and described every motivation or memory or impulse in a character. I have to provide what I feel is important to a character, and so I invested some of my own ideas and traits into Violet, and I hope that audiences did the same. Some people admired her, you know? Very conservative people felt she was some sort of emblem of lost Southern gentility and grandeur, and what she was cutting out of a brain was reality, which was the fallen South. I don’t see that, but what the hell do I know?” (Hepburn, interview with James Grissom)