One way or another I will get my movie fix. This past week Turner Classic Movie (TCM) Channel presented the 1951 Oscar winning classic A Place in the Sun. It had been eons since first seeing George Eastman (Montgomery Cliff), Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor) and Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters) in this story that pits social class and desire in a life and death arena. I don't remember how old I was the first time I watched it, but after this week's viewing, the one thing I do know is that I completely misremembered the film. I had such a crush on Montgomery Cliff during the first viewing that I remembered the wealthy Angela Vickers being self-absorbed and insensitive, the blue collar worker, Alice Tripp being annoying beyond any one's tolerance, and George Eastman as someone trapped between those two worlds and actually a victim of circumstances. In my memory neither woman deserved to be with him. I am almost ashamed to admit how warped my memory was of the film.
This time around, it was as though I were watching a completely different film, one truly worth watching. Hauntingly chilling Montgomery Cliff plays a despicable sociopath that doesn't recognize the darkness of his own soul. As a matter of fact, I was still so enchanted with him that I almost missed it again. It wasn't until the prosecuting attorney clearly and plainly says that the young man was living a double life that I regained my moral compass. All of the sudden I imagined that this story could be on one of those true life murder mystery shows on any channel during any given time of the day. This time around Angela's angelic heart and the fact that Miss Tripp did not deserve the trip Eastman set up for her were evident. This was a man who caused grief and sorrow to all who knew him, including, his praying mother that loved him unconditionally, who ended up with a notorious son in the headlines.
Yet, I was just as much in love with him as Angela and wanted reality to present a different version. One of the treats in watching a classic on TCM is that the viewers are given background information that adds insight and depth. At the end of the film we are informed that the movie was based on a Theodore Dreiser's 1925 novel An American Tragedy, which was inspired by a real life 1906 murder trial. As the plot line in the novel unfolds the reader is given background information to Eastman's past before arriving in Angela's and Alice's worlds. The character's names are different from both the real life people and the characters in the novel. To add insult to memory, this evening our host at TCM tells us that the real life person sold photos of himself to young female admirers while on trial. A Place in the Sun brought to light my misremembering a moral monster all because he looks so good!
Entertainment: A Social Commentary: