Movie Mirrors Index

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

(1958 c 108')

En: 7 Ed: 8

Adaped from the play by Tennessee Williams, an alcoholic son, who is married to a beautiful woman, has a confrontation with her and his dying father, who cares little for his other son and that family.

            At night drunk Brick Pollitt (Paul Newman) throws away an empty bottle in a track stadium and tries to run the hurdles, but he falls and hurts his leg.

            The next day Brick is laying on a couch inside while outside Maggie Pollitt (Elizabeth Taylor) gets out of a car and tells Gooper Pollitt (Jack Carson) to keep his little girl Trixie from putting her hands in the ice cream. Trixie throws some on Maggie’s ankles, and Maggie rubs some in the child’s face and goes upstairs, telling her husband Brick that a “no-neck monster” threw ice cream on her. Brick is drinking from a bottle. Maggie wipes off her legs and puts on stockings. She tells Brick they are cutting him out of his father’s estate. Brick asks if Big Daddy is dying. She says they have to face things. She says they are talking about Rainbow Hill, where they take care of alcoholics. She blames him for allowing them to take the estate away from him. She says Big Daddy likes her more than Gooper and his wife Mae (Madeleine Sherwood) who had screamed at Maggie when she was putting ice cream on her daughter’s face. Maggie tells a story about Mae getting tobacco juice squirted in her face and laughs. Brick does not laugh, and Maggie asks him why he is looking at her that way. She comes to him, but he gets up and says no. He says she is not the same woman anymore. She realizes that she has been transformed. She says she gets lonely and takes a sip of his drink. He makes another drink as she says he cannot stand to drink out of the same glass. She thinks he has got better looking and says he was a great lover. She says if he would no longer make love to her, she would kill herself. She asks him how long he is going to punish her. She feels “like a cat on a hot tin roof.” He tells her to jump off and take a lover. She wishes he would get fat or ugly. She says she is determined and will win. He asks what, and she says she will stay on that roof as long as she can.

            At an airport Gooper and his family see a plane landing. Maggie joins them. Dr. Baugh (Larry Gates), Big Momma Pollitt (Judith Anderson), and Big Daddy Pollitt (Burl Ives) get off the plane and are welcomed with music by the children, Gooper and Mae. Big Momma Pollitt says that Big Daddy is not seriously ill.

            They drive home, and Big Daddy tells Maggie that he is going to live. On the plantation a black servant is hanging paper lanterns. Big Daddy tells Maggie that he wishes she had a child after three years. Maggie goes up to her room and tells Brick that Big Daddy is going to live. Brick says they can drive back to New Orleans then. She says Big Daddy asked about him. She takes off her dress and asks Brick to put on his silk pajamas and come down to the party. She caresses him and says he needs  cologne rubbed on. He says he is not going down there. She has a wrapped present and asks Brick to write on the card, but he refuses. They argue, and he says he agreed to conditions for living with her. She speaks more softly and says he has not raised his voice to her in a long time. She closes the doors for privacy, and he says she is making a fool of herself over him. He says she agreed, and she embraces him. He tells her to let go and limps into the bathroom and closes the door. Big Momma is knocking on the door, and Maggie unlocks it. Big Momma tries to get into the bathroom, but it is locked. A boy sees Maggie, and she yells at him as he runs off. Maggie puts on a white dress, and Gooper comes to get Big Momma and leaves. Big Momma asks Maggie if Brick is still drinking. She asks if she makes Brick happy. Big Momma says something must be wrong and points to the bed. She is called and goes out. Dr. Baugh comes in and tells Maggie that he wants to check Brick’s ankle. Brick comes out with a crutch and is dressed. Maggie asks him to write out the card. Brick offers the doctor a drink, but he declines and examines the ankle. He says Brick was a good football player with Skipper. The doctor tells him that Big Daddy’s cancer is terminal. He says he lied to the others, and Brick confirms that he is going to die. They hear the kids celebrating, and Brick asks what kind of truth is that. The doctor goes out.

            They are dining outside as the children sing. Maggie tells Big Daddy they practiced for him. Deacon Davis (Vaughn Taylor) shows them a basket of telegrams. Mae says a dynasty is going to take over, and Maggie objects to the idea that Big Daddy is going to die. They are celebrating his birthday.

            Maggie brings a tray of food for Brick, but he says he is not hungry and that they are leaving. She says they cannot leave the birthday party and asks Brick why he hates Big Daddy. Brick tells her that Big Daddy is going to die. She says she is fond of the old man and does not want to tell him. She tells Brick he will need his money for his drinking. She says they must stay to keep Gooper from getting everything. She says she has been poor all her life. She does not want to be old without money. She asks him what mistake she made and asks him to make that drink his last so he can go to the party. Brick gets angry and and goes out on the balcony shouting. He comes back in, and she asks him to face the truth. Brick calls to the others to bring the party upstairs. Brick threatens her with his crutch, and she avoids him. She declares she is alive. He swings his crutch and falls down. A little girl comes in and shoots her cap gun. The little girl asks why Brick is on the floor, and he says he tried to kill Aunt Maggie but failed. She asks why he tried to jump hurdles. He says he liked to do that, and people like to do what they used to be able to do. The girl says Maggie cannot have babies and goes out. Maggie says she went to a gynecologist, and there is no reason why they cannot have a child. Brick asks how she can have a child by a man who cannot stand her. She says she will work out that problem.

            Big Daddy and others walk up the stairs. Mae is pregnant again. Brick congratulates Big Daddy on his birthday. Maggie puts on some music, and Big Daddy and then Big Momma say to turn it off. Big Momma tells how they came to get married. Big Daddy tells her to keep quiet. Mae carries in a large birthday cake as the children sing, “Big Daddy’s a jolly good fellow.” Big Momma says she is happy and cries. Maggie asks Brick to give Big Daddy his birthday present. Big Daddy sends out the others so that he can talk to Brick. In the bedroom Maggie tells Mae she has never seen a cashmere robe before. Gooper asks the Deacon what he gets out of charity work. Big Daddy says goodnight to the Deacon and asks Brick what he was doing on the athletic field. Brick admits he was drunk. Maggie drinks some champagne. Big Daddy says his wife started taking over when they thought he was dying. He says he built that place and will run it until he dies. He says  he has only a spastic colon. He yells at his wife and orders her to blow out the candles. She says he never believed she loved him. She walks out carrying the cake. Gooper and Mae tell the Deacon that Big Daddy should make plans. Maggie kisses Brick and leaves him with Big Daddy, who asks him why he wiped off her kiss. He says she has a better shape than Gooper’s wife. Brick says they are waiting for him to kick off, but Big Daddy says he is not dying. Big Daddy finds Mae on the balcony and tells her not to spy on them. She goes out.

            Big Daddy asks if Brick sleeps on the sofa. Brick pours himself another drink, and Big Daddy heard that he had quit. Big Daddy asks for a drink, and Brick gives him a whiskey. Big Daddy enjoys it and says he can breathe. He is contemplating pleasure and says he still desires women at 65. He is going to pick a woman and buy her things. He asks Brick what he wants, and he says he is waiting for a click in his head that gives him peace. Big Daddy says he is an alcoholic, and Brick agrees. He tries to leave, but Big Daddy stops him and throws his crutch aside. He keeps Brick from leaving. Brick says they have nothing to say to each other. Brick falls down by the stairs and says he is in pain because Big Daddy stepped on his foot. Big Daddy demands Brick tell him something before he can have more liquor. They go down the stairs.

            Brick goes to the bar, and Big Daddy sends Gooper out of the room. Big Daddy says his wife bores him. He has lived with mendacity, and Brick can too. Big Daddy asks Brick why he does not kill himself. Brick says he likes to drink. Brick suggests he turn his estate over to Gooper and Mae, but Big Daddy does not like them. He says he has not made his will yet. Brick asks him to drive him to the station. Big Daddy says this is his home. Big Daddy says they talk around things, but he wants to talk straight. He asks why Brick is disgusted and offers to get him his job back announcing sports. Brick laughs at the idea. Big Daddy says he is passing the buck. He started drinking when his friend Skipper died. Brick asks what he means. Brick says Skipper and he were friends and says Big Daddy is dragging them in the gutter. He lunges at him and falls again. Big Daddy offers him a hand, and Brick rejects it. Brick says he could depend on Skipper. Big Daddy asks why Skipper fell apart. Brick says they are having that talk now and will not stop. Brick admits that Skipper was a crutch for him. Brick tells him to ask Maggie why Skipper cracked up. Big Daddy asks what was going on and calls in Maggie.

            Maggies comes in, and Brick closes the door. Big Daddy asks about Skipper and her, and Brick wants her to tell him. She says Skipper was against their getting married. She says they were always running off to play football and organized their own team. Brick says it was a business, but she says the Dixie Stars never made any money. Brick says she did not like the cheers because she was left out. Brick says she made Skipper drunk and went to bed with him. Big Daddy asks if that is true. Maggie denies it, and Brick asks if that is true. She asks Brick to tell Big Daddy what  happened when Brick could not play. She says Skipper was a bad player without Brick. He asks what happened in Skipper’s hotel room. She says he was sick with drink and was half crazy when she went to him. She suggested he get a job. She says he kissed her. She decided she would prove that his friendship with Brick was a lie by showing that he would make love to her; but she panicked that she would lose Brick and ran away. She says nothing happened. She did want to get rid of Skipper, but she did not want to lose Brick. She tells Brick it is joke because she lost Brick anyway. She says Skipper asked her why Brick turned on him.

            She goes out, and Brick says he is going home. Big Daddy stops him and asks what he is running away from. Big Daddy asks why Skipper killed himself, and Brick says somebody let him down. He says Skipper was scared that Brick would walk out on him. Skipper started crying and told Brick that he needed him. Brick asks how one drowning man can help another. Brick in the hospital heard his phone ringing on and on. Skipper killed himself because Brick let him down. Brick says he feels disgust for himself. He is ashamed and can only stand himself when he is drunk. Brick goes out in the rain, and Big Daddy follows him with a lecture that he is drinking his life away. Big Daddy says he is an expert at living with mendacity. Big Daddy takes off his coat and offers it to him. Big Daddy asks him to face the truth. Brick admits he is running away and sits in the convertible in the rain. Big Daddy says he will outlive Brick, who admits that mendacity is the system in which they live. Big Daddy walks into the house, and Maggie sees Brick start to drive off, but a tire gets stuck in the mud. He gets out and sees his crutch is broken in two. Maggie comes out, and Brick says he hurt Big Daddy really bad. Maggie helps Brick walk back into the house.

            Big Daddy is sitting in the basement, and the doctor goes down to him. He gives Big Daddy morphine and a syringe, warning that the pain will hit him hard. He tells him to take off the wet clothes and hands him the cashmere robe. The doctor goes back upstairs and tells Mae that Big Daddy is in pain. Gooper asks why they can’t go see him, and Big Momma explains and says he loves his family. Maggie says he is probably worn out. Big Momma says Big Daddy ate well. She says his only problem is nerves. She feels bad and sits down. Gooper calls the doctor and says he has something to say about Big Daddy.

            Maggie goes upstairs and tells Brick that Big Momma needs her. Brick is changing his clothes and tells her she can fight for the old man’s carcass. He says her claws are showing.

            Big Momma calls for Brick, and Maggies comes down. Big Momma asks what is going on, and Gooper tells the doctor she wants to know the truth about Big Daddy. She asks the doctor, who says he had a thorough exam at the clinic; but it is hopeless, and he knows it too. Big Momma cries and tells Mae to get away. She wants her only son Brick, but Gooper says he is her son too. Gooper mentions morphine, and she says no. The doctor asks Gooper why he did not give her a chance to get used to the idea, and he leaves. Big Momma asks Maggie if Brick knows, and she nods. Big Momma says they were never a happy family. She holds Maggie’s hand and asks her to help Brick because he must take hold of things. Mae and Gooper come in and object. Mae says that Gooper is more responsible than Brick. Big Momma says he never ran this place. They quarrel with her and Maggie. Brick listens from the stairs and asks a black servant about his father. Maggie accuses them of avarice and greed. Mae asks Big Momma why Maggie has no kids. Gooper says Big Daddy never let anyone love him. Gooper says he did whatever Big Daddy told him to do. He became a lawyer and had kids. He intends to protect his interests and asks Mae to get his briefcase. Mae sees Brick, and he says it was the Cotton Bowl.

            Brick goes down to the basement looking for his father and sees the morphine. He finds him doubled over in pain. Big Daddy refuses his hand and walks back to the morphine. Brick fills the syringe, and Big Daddy says no. Brick says he came to apologize. Big Daddy hates apologies and tells him just not to do it again. He asks for a cigar, and Brick hands him one and lights it. Big Daddy asks for the robe and takes off his shirt. Big Daddy asks Brick for a drink and says he wants the clicks. Brick admits that Maggie bought the robe, and they agree she has good taste; but Brick says not in men. Big Daddy drinks it down and says that before he dies, he is going to open all the boxes. He looks at all the crates and sculptures, pulling away cobwebs. Big Daddy says you cannot buy back your life. Brick agrees and asks why he let Momma buy all that stuff. Big Daddy hoped you can buy life everlasting. He asks Brick why he no longer calls him Big Daddy. Brick says you can’t buy love. They shout at each other, and Brick says he does not want things, pushing some over.

            In the living room they hear the noise. Maggie runs to the stairs. Brick destroys a photo of himself as a football player and throws down a trophy, calling it all worthless. He cries, and Big Daddy tells him not to. Maggie turns away. Big Daddy says he never saw him cry before. Brick says all he wanted was a father, not a boss. Big Daddy says he gave Momma everything. He built an empire. Brick says empires die too. Big Daddy says he has Gooper. Brick does not know what to believe in. He asks him to look at him as he really is—a failure and a drunk. Big Daddy says he and Gooper are blaming him for everything. Brick says what Big Daddy owns, but he does not love them. Brick asks why he wanted his sons to have kids. Big Daddy says his father left him nothing but a suitcase and a uniform from the Spanish-American War. He built that place from nothing. Big Daddy says he was ashamed of being poor. His father was a hobo tramp, laughing. Brick says maybe he was happy having his son with him. Brick hands the soldier hat to Big Daddy, who admits that he loved his father. Brick says he left him love. Big Daddy cries out in pain that is heard by the others.

            Maggie says that Brick will help Big Daddy, and Mae makes fun of the idea by talking about football. Maggie quarrels with Gooper and Mae.

            Brick tells Big Daddy that it will kill the pain. Big Daddy says he wants to think clearly. He has the guts to die and asks Brick if he has the guts to live. They decide to help each other up the stairs, and Brick smiles.

            Big Momma asks Maggie what Big Daddy says when he is disgusted. Maggie says he says, “Bull.” Brick overhears Maggie saying that nobody is going to take anything away from Brick. Big Daddy comes in, and Maggie asks about the storm’s damage. Gooper picks up papers from the floor, and Big Daddy asks about the important documents. Big Daddy asks Brick if he can smell the mendacity in the room, and Brick says he does. Big Daddy asks Mae, who says she does not know what that is. Big Daddy says it smells like death. Maggie is consoling Big Momma and says she had a dizzy spell. Maggie announces that she is going to have Brick’s child. She says that is her present to Big Daddy, but Mae calls her a liar. Big Daddy says she does have life in her body. He tells Gooper he wants to see his own lawyer in the morning. He calls his wife to go with him. Gooper asks Brick what he and Big Daddy were talking about. Brick says a family crisis brings out the best and worst in people. Brick limps up the stairs while Mae shouts at him. Brick tells her that Maggie does have life in her body. Gooper tells Mae to shut up. Brick calls Maggie to come up there, and she gladly obeys. Gooper says she does have life in her.

            Brick tells Maggie that he does not approve of liars in that house and tells her to lock the door. She walks over to him, and he kisses her and gives her a warm embrace.

            This drama about a southern family portrays an ex-football star who has turned to drinking after losing his best friend. His sexy wife wants to have his child to please his dying father, and her husband finally has a meaningful talk with his father helping him to understand that he wants his love more than his wealth.
Copyright © 2012 by Sanderson Beck

Movie Mirrors Index

BECK index