I realised something watching this movie, I’m guilty of writing off older movies when it comes to darkness and grittiness. Sure, there are gangster pictures, murder mysteries and war movies, but I sometimes assume they all come with a naïve innocence that makes them more like a cute attempt at darkness. Then I see something like A Place in the Sun and am reminded that old movies can be just as dark and cynical as anything made today.
Eventually, a little old fashion nepotism leads to George rising up the corporate and social ladder where he takes to the upper class life of his uncle a little too easily. Especially when he meets the sex on legs society girl Angela Vickers, played by Elizabeth Taylor. Soon, George is mixed up with both women and even manages to get the poor one knocked up. With one pregnant and demanding he marry her, he decides the best way to confront the problem is to ignore it, and take off on holiday with the other. Once Tripp becomes aware of George’s double life, it’s time for him to sort these two birds out, obviously with pretty terrible consequences for everyone concerned. All just because George has a wondering schvonce.
The matter of fact way A Place in the Sun treats the pregnancy is what really surprised me. I didn’t expect a movie this old to address something like at all. But to do it as casually as it did surprised me even more. It leads to the climactic events of the third act and becomes a major plot point that really drives a lot the story, but the initial reveal almost makes it a throw away aspect of the story. I think that made the ultimate impact that much stronger.
A Place in the Sun is a pretty tried and true story. A poor man with only the best intentions is quickly corrupted once he gets a taste of the good life. A man goes from sending almost all of his money home to his mother, to contemplating the ultimate of evil acts in exchange for a life of money and leisure.
This movie is long and at times a little slow, but it really is worth a look. Names like Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor became such an entrenched part of classic Hollywood cinema, it’s easy to assume you’ve seen them and know what they did to become such household names. Then you actually see a movie like A Place in the Sun, you see with them doing the things that made then icons, and you realise how they became those icons, with names still so recognisible all these years later.
A Place in the Sun
Directed By – George Stevens
Written By – Theodore Dreiser