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A Place in the Sun (1951)

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Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 4
Fresh: 1 | Rotten: 3

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Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 8,284

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Movie Info

Previously filmed in 1931 under its original title, Theodore Dreiser's bulky but brilliant novel An American Tragedy was remade in 1951 by George Stevens as A Place in the Sun. Montgomery Clift stars as George Eastman, a handsome and charming but basically aimless young man who goes to work in a factory run by a distant, wealthy relative. Feeling lonely one evening, he has a brief rendezvous with assembly-line worker Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters), but he forgets all about her when he falls for

Aug 21, 2001

Paramount Pictures

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All Critics (28) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (21) | Rotten (7) | DVD (9)

A good example of the kind of soporific nonsense that won rave reviews and armloads of Academy Awards back in the 50s, while the finest work of Ford, Hawks, and Hitchcock was being ignored.

November 13, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Hopelessly inadequate as a reading of Dreiser's great novel, and as usual Stevens seems too preoccupied with the story's monumentality to have much curiosity about its characters.

November 13, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Typically slow and stately in the later Stevens manner.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

One of the great studio dramas of the period and one of this column's favourite films, with haunting performances from Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift.

June 27, 2014 Full Review Source: The Australian
The Australian

Most of Dreiser's acrid social satire is smoothed away by Stevens' grandiose style, and it's all too stately to be affecting.

February 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

George Stevens's meticulously observed 1951 version of Theodore Dreiser's massive 1925 novel An American Tragedy ...

February 3, 2013 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Montgomery Clift's performance as upward-striving pauper George Eastman is a career peak, and Elizabeth Taylor is a gleaming paragon as his high-society paramour.

February 1, 2013 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

Stevens's unsentimental characterisation and the pair's fine performances make this one of Clift's most memorable films.

February 1, 2013 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

Gripping from first to last.

January 31, 2013 Full Review Source: Guardian
Guardian

Clift's mesmerising, tragic performance only deepens with time.

January 31, 2013 Full Review Source: Little White Lies
Little White Lies

The power of A Place in the Sun's plot, and its most noirish element, is its ability to force the viewer to unquestioningly follow this dream logic.

October 14, 2011 Full Review Source: Not Coming to a Theater Near You
Not Coming to a Theater Near You

Though not as powerful as Von Sternberg's first version, it still merits attention for the strong perfromances of Clift, Taylor, and Shelley Winters--and that mega clos-up of a kiss, which broke records of erotic imagery at the time.

March 3, 2008 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

Dreiser's story was first filmed in 1931 by Josef von Sternberg in a much starker, more realistic manner. This version is almost cartoony by comparison.

November 13, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Um melodrama moralista que só sobrevive graças ao desempenho torturado de Clift, à obsessão pateticamente comovente de Winters e à beleza de Taylor.

April 7, 2006
Cinema em Cena

Far less powerful than the novel.

February 19, 2006 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

The classic tragedy, in classic form.

November 5, 2003 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

A compelling, troubling film.

November 5, 2003 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

A timesless treasure. Taylor is at her most beautiful, Clift is at the top of his form and Shelley Winters is great in one of her earliest big parts.

December 19, 2002
Journal and Courier (Lafayette, IN)

A Place in the Sun (1951), a melodramatic film adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's lengthy, best-selling 1925 novel, An American Tragedy, was also

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Tim Dirks' The Greatest Films
Tim Dirks' The Greatest Films

Audience Reviews for A Place in the Sun

A lower class relative of a well-positioned family courts two girls, one a clandestine factory worker and the other a society girl of means, but the unions become problematic when the former gets pregnant.
A little more than loosely based on Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, A Place in the Sun is a thorough and fascinating examination of class and the American Dream. George, Clyde in the book, is full of aspirations and lust, but his lack of acceptance in society prevents a healthy expression of his desires. This is not to say that George is innocent, as the film version makes abundantly clear; it's a credit to both the book and the film that the problem is not myopically treated: George is neither a victim of his position nor is he blameless.
The film, cutting some truly important events and failing to expose the blame religion has in relation to George's tragic circumstance, is not as full as the book and shortens the blanket of the material's scope.
Overall, as adaptations go, this is a very good one though it doesn't live up to the full genius of the original.
October 15, 2013
hunterjt13
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

In my review of High Society, I remarked that it is often the way that the first adaptation of a story often does it the 'tough', 'proper' way, then a second, softer version comes along which has more success but less going for it artistically. This is not just the case with commercial hits - A Place in the Sun won six Oscars at a time when Alfred Hitchcock was beginning to hit a rich vein of form. Looking at it now, it's like many of the films that go on to win Oscars: well-meaning, and in some areas well-made, but also far too safe and a little bit dull.

A Place in the Sun is the second adaptation of Theodor Dreiser's lengthy, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel An American Tragedy, first published in 1925. The novel drew inspiration from the story of Grace Brown, who was found dead in Big Moose Lake, Upstate New York in mid-1906; she was later found to have been murdered by her lover Chester Gillette, who was subsequently sent to the electric chair. The novel was turned into a play in 1926 and filmed under its original title by Josef von Sturnberg in 1931. Prior to this adaptation (of which Dreiser disapproved), there were rumours of a collaboration between Sergei Eisenstein and Charlie Chaplin to bring this story to the screen - rumours which sadly came to nothing.

There is a natural comparison between A Place in the Sun and Gone with the Wind, in that both works take a very long time to say relatively little. Both film adaptations successfully translate the baggy storytelling without explaining the emotional appeal of the books (if there is any). A Place in the Sun may be half as short as its patience-stretching predecessor, but even at 2 hours long there is not enough of a story to fill half that length, at least at the pace of George Stevens' direction.

Stevens, like George Lucas, is a far better producer than he is a director. He is very good at assembling talent, getting Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift in their respective primes. But he is not so adept when it comes to the actual mechanics and language of cinema: he can make sure the characters turn up on time, but he can't really tell a story with them. His editing is very lazy, his lighting if often third-rate (especially the car scenes), and his camera angles and composition are frequently amateurish. During the scene where Shelley Winters go to her doctor, there is all manner of junk cluttering up the foreground which is a distraction from a narratively vital conversation.

Despite being broadly speaking a melodrama, A Place in the Sun is an unusual mix of genres within this. It begins as some kind of rags-to-riches drama, then becomes a love story, then turns into a whodunit in which we already know the culprit, and then finally ends up as a courtroom drama where all the previous events are recapped. You feel like the sensible thing to do would be to pick one genre, use the section set in that genre as a starting point and flesh out the plot either forwards or backwards from there. But in the absence of a more highly skilled director, the material is just allowed to sit on the screen in the hope that at least some of it will take flight.

While the 1931 version was a relatively close adaptation, A Place in the Sun differs quite drastically from the novel in several key areas. Like a lot of 1950s films, whatever rough edges were in the source have been smoothed out or removed entirely, presumably to improve the film's chances of commercial success. While the novel begins with our protagonist being introduced to alcohol and prostitutes while working as a bell-boy, the film begins with George Eastman at the side of the road, going to work in the shirt factory. His past as a bell boy is mentioned very fleetingly in a conversation with the other Eastmans, and there is relatively little in Clift's performance to suggest a dark and shameful past.

While the lead character in the novel is of a genuinely lowly background, George Eastman is merely a distant relative of the man who owns the company. By having him as a long-lost nephew or even black sheep of the family, the film doesn't quite work as a story about social status. Because Eastman is not an outcast from the beginning, there is less of a sense of ambition, he has less to lose, and there is less inherent tragedy to his story. Perhaps the film's success lay in the seemingly scandalous idea that such a crime could be perpetrated by the well-off, but that in itself is not a new idea, nor is it conveyed here better than in other films.

Compared to High Society, A Place in the Sun does attempt to convey what remains of its themes through the central dynamic of its characters. Montgomery Clift isn't as overtly sociopathic as his 1931 counterpart, but he does give a convincing performance as a man who can never be properly accepted by polite society. Because he is no longer a rags-to-riches character in the strictest sense, the dynamic between Clift's character and that of Shelley Winters does work; we understand why Eastman cannot lower himself to her standards. Eastman represents the frustrations of the little man, the lower-middle-class man for whom the Angela Vickers of this world are unobtainable and the Alice Tripps are insufficient.

The film is also a convincing argument against infidelity, if only because the consequences of Eastman's actions are so severe. Clift's performance carries the film, as we see his sense of tribulation and frustration at having to cover his tracks to prevent Alice finding out about him and Angela. Coming from a generation where Fatal Attraction is the core text for the consequences of sleeping around, the reactions of the characters may seem relatively tame. But at least they seem vaguely believable: even though Winters is as annoying as hell, at least she is convincingly annoying.

But as much as it makes a decent fist to convey these ideas, for the most part A Place in the Sun feels just another melodrama about a love triangle. By about the fifteen-minute mark, where we are introduced to Elizabeth Taylor, we've got a pretty good idea of where it's going, and who Clift is going to end up with. The film plays so fully to the conventions of The Philadelphia Story and the like that there is no real dramatic tension, so we spend most of our time willing Stevens to get on with it. Even Alice's death isn't entirely a surprise: we may not have predicted how she would die, but we know who did it, why he did it, and what will happen to him at least half an hour beforehand.

There are also several sections of A Place in the Sun which are, in tone at least, completely silly. Some of this is bound up in the melodrama itself: only in these kinds of films could we cut to a lake shortly after a character mentions that she can't swim. But even if we overlook little things like this, there are moments where Stevens loses control and things get quickly out of hand. The random scene of the whole Eastman clan boarding a speedboat feels like it's escaped from a Gene Kelly film, while Alice's death is very unconvincing; while in the novel she is hit in the face with a camera and then drowns, here she simply falls in.

The courtroom scenes are some of the most uncertain in the film. Courtroom dramas are by their very nature a little ridiculous: the smallest actions have to be made histrionic in order to create drama out of what in real life is usually quite boring. But the trial scenes in A Place in the Sun make even the loudest moments in A Few Good Men look subtle by comparison. Eastman's prosecutor is downright cartoonish: with his sunken-in eyes and hobbling gait, you'd swear he was working for a Bond villain. And that's before he expresses his anger at Eastman by bringing the boat he was rowing into court, raising an oar above his head and then proceeding to smash up the boat while addressing the jury.

A Place in the Sun is a well-meaning but ultimately dull second attempt to adapt Dreiser's novel. Despite the good performance of Montgomery Clift and the few moments in which its themes come to the fore, it settles for soft edges and the safety of convention when it should have been trying to push the envelope. It scores over High Society in actually having something to say, and there is nothing about it that could possibly offend. But like High Society, having nothing with which to offend, or provoke any real response, if perhaps its greatest failing.
July 17, 2012
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

Oscar winning director George Stevens produced and directed one of the most popular films of our time, "A Place in the Sun" starring Montgomery Clift, Liz Taylor and Shelley Winters.

Based on the novel "An American Tragedy" by Theodore Dreiser, the screenplay written by Michael Wilson and Harry Brown tells the tragic story centering around a young, ambitious yet financially poor man named George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) who leaves behind the religious missionary work his parents were a part of and moves out with the hopes of seeking some decent employment with his business tycoon distant uncle Charles Eastman (Herbert Heyes). Initially perceived as socially "misfit" amongst the Eastmans, George is given a menial packaging task on the Factory floor. Early on, George seems to have developed the hots for a beautiful socialite and wealthy family friend of the Eastmans, Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor). But she hardly even notices him in the beginning, and believing her to be way out of his reach owing to his social status, George probably decides to leave it aside.

[img]https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-BgvnA5bC3s0/Tnd5DyvJ8BI/AAAAAAAACBA/TMqSIHSo3Cc/vlcsnap-2011-09-19-22h45m50s178.jpg[/img]

Meanwhile, breaking one essential rule of not mixing with the female co-workers, George gets romantically involved with one Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters). Their romance heats up quickly enough and George also finds himself steadily climbing the ladder in the Eastman industry, thanks to his hard work and last name Eastman! Soon enough he finds himself shoulder to shoulder with some of the who's who in an Eastman party and Angela Vickers finally notices him and predictably enough, falls for his boyish charms! George seizes the opportunity and gets involved in a passionate affair with Angela. Things however take a turn for the worse when Alice declares she is pregnant with George's child.......

"A Place in the Sun" is one of those rare motion pictures which unfold in a predictable fashion, yet manage to hold our attention, thanks to the riveting performances and the superbly written scenes full of exciting drama. So we all know how it's all gonna turn out...at least initially! The romantic relationships build up most predictably and you know very early in the film how the love triangle will eventually take its shape. We all know then that there is bound to be some turbulence when Alice gets pregnant. Now it is post this point that the protagonist starts to take drastic decisions and we immediately begin to sense the outcome for his every action!

[img]https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-iYB1I9rv2lY/Tnd5DcZfoSI/AAAAAAAACA4/8YrxuJP8iCY/vlcsnap-2011-09-19-22h19m29s252.jpg[/img]

Yet George Stevens manages to give us a highly watchable film. A film that starts with sugar-candy-floss romance, soon turns into a bleak noir-like drama! The quality of the film is only enhanced by William C. Mellor's Oscar winning cinematography and William Hornbeck's crisp editing. Stevens takes the helm of this project and ably delivers a solid drama. Only one wishes the romance wasn't as cheesily portrayed and the dialogs weren't as excessively sappy! I mean how many times have we heard "I've loved you since the first moment I saw you"!! And this is said by the protagonist to Angela not long after he has confessed his "everlasting love" to Alice! It is only human to behave like that...succumb to ravishing beauty (especially when you have the likes of Liz Taylor eating out of your hand), but Clift's portrayal of his character looks calm and gentle with a discreet charm, a far cry from being a suave, yet sly womanizer who would two-time two beautiful ladies.

Clift was nominated for an Academy award for his portrayal, yet I felt something was certainly lacking, especially in later scenes where he is required to emote, more so for a person or character who finds himself in the sticky situation he is in! He has done a far better job in some of his other films.

Taylor looks ravishing enough as a high society girl, whose every move makes headlines in the local papers. So even if she goes on a boating trip somewhere, she is captured by the paparazzi and it appears in the morning papers! For a girl spoilt by the media like that, it is quite surprising that she turns out to be such a fool for love, falling for a man whom she hardly knows about and even being ready to marry him! One would think such a girl would have a jolly time with several young men dying to woo her and get close to her!

The only character that is the most realistically portrayed, then, is Shelley Winters' Alice Tripp. It is a spectacular performance that deserved the Academy award nomination. Winters clearly understands her character, that of a poor girl working in a factory; one who's afraid to bring boys to her humble rented apartment, for fear that she would be in trouble if her landlady found out. One who gives her everything to the man she loves; one whose angst is visible when she begins to sense betrayal, just as her lover gets a taste of the rich and famous (read Angela Vickers!). It is a solid performance that deserves most accolades.

Of the supporting cast, it is Raymond Burr's portrayal of the limping District Attorney R. Frank Marlowe, that holds our attention, although he has but a few scenes to his credit.

"A Place in the Sun" is definitely worth checking out. The sappy romance and some unconvincing character traits notwithstanding, it is one of the most accomplished works in American cinema.

Score: 8/10
October 25, 2011
Aditya Gokhale
Aditya Gokhale

Super Reviewer

MWEEEH not what I hoped or expected. Taylor's character was boring and bland, I know that she can do a lot better. Clift annoyed the crap out of me, in his attempt to play the sexy mysterious psychopath (if he really is one).
The so called love interest was just not believable and lacked chemistry, I really didn't get why Angela falls in love with this George. He's probably different from all the other guys she usually meets, but he misses character and depth.
October 23, 2011
Saxia

Super Reviewer

    1. George Eastman: I love you. I've loved you since the first moment I saw you. I guess maybe I've even loved you before I saw you.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
View all quotes (1)

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Foreign Titles

  • Ein Platz an der Sonne (DE)
  • A Place in the Sun (1951) (UK)
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