A Place in the Sun, from 1951, is a powerful romantic drama starring Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelley Winters. Not a feel-good movie in the least, this fabulous film is high on my list of all-time favorites. In fact, it's very near the top, coming in anywhere from #1 to #3 (depending on my mood). I absolutely love this movie and could watch it every couple of months. It's one of those films which I always hope has a different ending than the one it has.
Montgomery Clift is George Eastman, a rather down on his luck young man from the wrong side of the tracks. He arrives in town and at the home of his wealthy uncle, who owns a factory. Though the uncle had told George to look him up if he ever came to town, it is quite obvious that the older man never really expected George to do that. Feeling obligated, though, he gives his nephew a job at his factory---with the strict instruction to not fraternize with the employees. Not really accepted by his wealthy relatives, though, George is lonely and soon finds himself spending time with factory worker Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters).
In short time, George and Alice have begun having a physical relationship, which results in pregnancy. Although Alice hopes to have an abortion, her doctor will not perform one. (Although the actual word "abortion" is not used, you know that's what she is after.) George is extremely distraught at the news of Alice's pregnancy...not only because he doesn't love her...but because he has fallen in love with wealthy socialite, Angela Vickers (played by an amazingly beautiful, 19 year-old Elizabeth Taylor).
After all the loneliness and rejection he's known, George has finally found love and acceptance. But his happiness is quelled by Alice's insistence that he marry her...something he does not want to do. So he begins to ponder a way of getting Alice out of the picture.
Does anything happen to Alice? Does George marry her? What happens to the baby? And what about Angela and George's love for each other? These are the questions which play out in the balance of this incredible film.
The acting in this film is brilliant! Montgomery Clift's performance was beyond fantastic---the way the emotions played across his face and in his eyes as he struggled with his conscience was incredibly vivid. Truly, I think this was the best performance of a career in which all the performances were spectacular. He received a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for his work here, and I, for one, think he deserved the win that year. (Sorry to you Humphrey Bogart/African Queen fans.) Shelley Winters, who received a Best Actress Academy Award nomination, was amazing in her role too. Elizabeth Taylor was perfect as well. Not one of them could have been improved upon.
Just as an aside, I think Montgomery Clift is one of the most beautiful men I have ever seen---at least prior to his May, 1956, car accident. (After his accident, which left his face partly paralyzed, his looks were dramatically different.) He is fabulously good-looking in this movie. And while I'm not an Elizabeth Taylor fan, I think she is stunningly beautiful here. It's easy to see how she became the major star that she did. The two of them, who were very dear friends off camera, have incredible chemistry with one another in this film. Their passion is real and believable...and extremely sensual.
This incredibly moving drama is out on DVD, so it should be quite easy to track down. If you like mature, meaty, thought-provoking dramas, definitely make it a point to see A Place in the Sun.