On 1951’s Powerful “A Place in the Sun”

This is the one that borrows the plot of An American Tragedy, the Theodore Dreiser novel.

George Eastman (Montgomery Clift, more interesting here than in I Confess), a poor man with rich relations, courts a blue-collar girl named Alice (Shelley Winters) and is desirous enough, early on, to kiss her relentlessly.  Before long, he gets her pregnant, but unexpectedly George meets and begins to love the beautiful socialite, Angela Vickers, acted by Elizabeth Taylor.  Since the love is reciprocated, George grows desperate to break away from Alice but cannot bring himself to fulfill his intention of murdering her.  As it happens, however, he is charged with the said offense and a trial gets underway.

Happily, A Place in the Sun (1951) is a powerful Hollywood film, though much of that power resides in the dark nature of the work.  It is as convincing about George’s increasing affliction as, say, the Chilean Gloria is about Gloria’s affliction.  Thus it is practically an uncommercial work, but not quite.  Directed by George Stevens, Place features many memorable touches, from George’s departure from Alice’s modest house as soon as night segues into dawn to Angela fainting in her bedroom after hearing of George’s arrest.  Then there’s the laid-back dude who, while standing in the woods, calmly but firmly informs George that he’s under arrest.  Somehow it’s an inspired moment.

Stevens is an Old Hollywood master, and such films as A Place in the Sun and Shane are proof of it.

Cover of "A Place in the Sun"
Cover of A Place in the Sun

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