A Year: Day to Day Men: 14th of August, Solar Year 2018

Tropical Paradise

August 14, 1951 was the release date for the film “A Place in the Sun”.

“A Place in the Sun” is a 1951 American drama film based on the 1925 novel “An American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser. It was directed by George Stevens from a screenplay by Harry Brown and Michael Wilson. The starring roles were played by Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters; supporting actors included Anne Revere and Raymond Burr.

This noir masterpiece merges suspense and romantic tragedy with director George Stevens composing each shot and scene with an eye for detail. Montgomery Clift plays George Eastman, a financially poor but personable young man, who lands a job in his wealthy uncle’s business. He begins dating Alice, played by Shelley Winters, who works on the factory floor. Clift, however, falls in love with a beautiful socialite, played by Elizabeth Taylor, and must rid himself of the affections of Alice. Her death ensues from a boating trip and the detective, played by Raymond Burr, appears with questions.

Montgomery Clift reached the peak of his Hollywood career with Steven’s “A Place in the Sun”, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. His physical beauty and the emotional intensity of his performance as the doomed lover, especially in his scenes with costar Elizabeth Taylor, confirmed his status as a romantic screen idol. Clift’s performance is regarded as one of his signature method acting performances. He worked extensively on his character. For his character’s scenes in jail, Clift spent a night in a real state prison to seek the right mood.

Although the film was released in 1951, it was shot in 1949. Paramount Studios had already released its blockbuster “Sunset Boulevard” in 1950 when this film wrapped. The studio did not want another possible blockbuster competing for Oscars with “Sunset Boulevard” so it waited until 1951 to release “A Place in the Sun”. This wait actually pleased director George Stevens as he would use the extra time to edit the film. His painstaking methods of producing resulted in more than 400,000 feet of film to edit. Stevens and editor William Hornbeck worked on cutting the footage for more than a year.

The film “A Place in the Sun” was a critical and commercial success, winning siX Academy Awards and the first-ever Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture-Drama. However to many, the film’s acclaim did not completely hold up over time. Reappraisals of the film find that much of what was exciting about the film in 1951 is not as potent now. Critics cite the soporific pace, the exaggerated melodrama, and the outdated social commentary as qualities present in “A Place in the Sun” that are not present in the great films of the era, such as those by Hitchcock and Kazan, although the performances by Clift, Taylor, and Winters continue to receive praise.

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