you're reading...
Drama - Historic

Suddenly Last Summer (1959)

Duration1h 54m
RatingsUK: X, USA: Approved, Spain: 18 (all original ratings) 
Source of storyA short play of the same name by Tennessee Williams
DirectorJoseph L. Mankiewics
Writers/ScriptGore Vidal
StarringElizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn,  Montgomery Clift, Eddie Fisher, Gore Vidal
RatingsIMDb: 7.5/10 by 15,649 people .  Rotten Tomatoes: ?. Review2view: 7/10.

Elevator Pitch: It is 1937 in New Orleans. Catherine Holly an attractive young woman is being held in a private mental hospital, having had a breakdown following an event in a Mediterranean village. Her costs are being paid for by the richest woman in the city Violet Venable, who asks a surgeon Dr Cukrowics to visit her, since she had heard that he is carrying out experimental lobotomies and suggests to him that if he carries out such surgery on Catherine it will stop her “babbling” about the events of last summer, when her son Sebastian who had taken Catherine as his companion on his travels, had died. It is evident that previously Sebastian had taken is mother with him. Catherine’s mother and brother visit the Venable house and it appears that if the mother signs an agreement that Catherine can be lobotomised she will not contest Sebastian’s will and will endow the mental hospital with a surgical wing.

Content: No nudity or sex although it is talked about and Elizabeth Taylor has unfeasibly pointy breasts as was the style in 1959. She also smokes all the time. There are disturbing scenes in the mental hospitals and exchanges between the principal of Lions View and the doctor. Most of the action takes place in the Venable garden which is full of tropical plants. Mrs Venable describes a visit to the Galapagos with Sebastian one of the two major speeches in the film, the other being that when Catherine finally describes what happened to Sebastian, with associated visuals.

A View: I am a fan of the play which is delightfully surreal, Tennessee Williams’s staging instructions themselves worth reading.  But on to the film which was a troubled production not much liked by the critics, some of whom did not like the play either. However the notoriety it achieved on release resulted in it being a hit and making a lot of money. I saw it while at school, and it was Mrs Venable’s shocking speech about her visit to the Galapagos with Sebastian which made me realise that the spoken word can be riveting. Seeing it the other day, the main speeches are still extraordinary, and even though the writing for the cinema has given us problems with the plot, it is still worth watching, but maybe see if you can read the play first.

Only two other Elizabeth Taylor films have been reviewed on this site they are: Cleopatra and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: