The first half of our lectures will be closed by the classic melodrama “A Place in the Sun”, directed by George Stevens (1904-75), which is based on novelist Theodore Dreiser’s “An American Tragedy”. The story is about a career-oriented young man of poor origins whose plain and pregnant girlfriend becomes source of his distress after meeting the blue-blooded girl of his dreams.
The stars of this film are Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor (2 times Academy Award winner), Shelley Winters (2 times Academy Award winner), Raymond Burr and Anne Revere (Academy Award winner).
Charlie Chaplin praised as “Place in the Sun” to be “the greatest movie ever made about America” and it won six Academy Awards (Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Score, Best Cinematography, Best Costumes and Best Editing) and a Golden Globe for the Best Picture (at the institution’s first installment it became the first motion picture in history to win this price).
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 what was sure to be another blockbuster in this film competing for Oscars with “Sunset Boulevard” so it waited until 1951 to release this film, which actually pleased the director, as he would use the extra time to spend editing the film.
Montgomery Clift was a method actor and top male star in the 50s, competing with Marlon Brando. He was planned to play Joe Gillis of Sunset Boulevard, but turned the role down to be too close to his real life (the role was written for him). In general, he was very picky for his roles and therefore stood out with great performances in great movies, for example in “Red River” (with John Wayne, 1948), “I Confess” (directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1951), “Raintree Country” (with Elizabeth Taylor again, 1957), The Young Lions (with Marlon Brando, 1958), Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), The Misfits (with Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, 1961) and Freud (1962). However, his private life was not a happy one (probably mainly because he was struggling to hide his homosexuality). During the filming of Raintree Country he experienced a serious car accident, which almost got him killed and from which he had never psychologically recovered. After plastic face surgery, he became dependent on painkillers and alcohol. When he appeared with Marilyn Monroe in “Misfits”, she famously described him in an interview as “the only person I know who is in even worse shape than I am.” Clift passed away at the young age of 45 in 1966.
On a side note, Anne Revere who plays Clift’s mother in A Place in the Sun, became of the victims of the “Second Red Scare” blacklisting because of her supposed “liberal” politics. After this film she did not appear in another movie until 1970.