A Place in the Sun

1951, Drama, 2h 2m

37 Reviews 5,000+ Ratings

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critics consensus

Director George Stevens' stately treatment of A Place in the Sun buffs out some of the novel's nuance with blunt moralizing, but riveting performances by Montgomery Clift and company give the drama a bruising punch. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

In this classic version of Theodore Dreiser's novel "An American Tragedy," George Eastman (Montgomery Clift), the nephew of a wealthy industrialist, is excluded from high society and given a blue-collar job at his uncle's factory. While ascending the ranks of the company, George becomes romantically involved with co-worker Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters). However, when he is introduced to socialite Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor), he quickly falls for her, leading to a tragic love triangle.

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Critic Reviews for A Place in the Sun

Audience Reviews for A Place in the Sun

  • Jul 07, 2021
    What's this? Based on a true story from the early 20th century, here is a curious tale, a drama, that just so happens to touch on important talking points that keep it relevant beyond the mere story now 120 years later. A poor sod from the wrong side of the tracks gets offered an opportunity to advance economically and socially by well-to-do relations. And THEN he meets two women: one poor, one rich. Which woman does he choose? The stars and the director work the messages as questions, making no obvious call either way, leaving it for the viewer to decide...or do they? Interesting filmmaking nonetheless and certainly intelligent. Shelley Winters again typecast but throwing her heart into her thankless role and Montgomery Clift in perhaps his best role: an unthinking clod cast about by societal tides beyond his limited understanding.
    Super Reviewer
  • Feb 09, 2020
    In many ways the movie is typical melodrama of its era, however George Stevens' direction and the editing are anything but. Also, there's no real moral center of the story which only enhances the tension.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 25, 2014
    You know it's coming, so, "There's a place in the sun where there's hope for everyone, where my poor restless heart's gotta run!" Interesting how this film is much older than that song, but hey, we are talking about the first winner of the Golden Globe for Best Drama here (Cue confetti cannon). "An American in Paris", the first winner for Best Musical/Comedy, may have been mighty entertaining, but I like me some drama, and am glad that it's at least not having to compete with the Oscar's Best Picture winner, which I guess means that the Golden Globes have always been a more satisfying film award ceremony to me... and I don't even know if I like this film better than "An American in Paris". I don't know if this film is nearly "A Streetcar Named Desire" or "Quo Vadis", so maybe the gave this film and "An American in Paris" the awards because the American film critics were really hankering for adventure back in 1951, and wanted to live vicariously in Paris and the sun. Man, I've heard of a hot bachelor pad, but I'm definitely going to be skipping out on this condominium sales pitch. Actually, I can go on and on with my lame jokes about how they should have just gone to Paris and picked up some French chicks, but if the stars of this film are Elizabeth Taylor, a skinny Shelley Winters, and, for that matter, Montgomery Clift, then one can understand why the sun is so hot. As you've probably guessed by now, this adaptation of a novel which is delightfully titled "An American Tragedy" isn't so cheesy that it is literally set on the sun, although I'm still debating whether or not it's as cheesy as "An American in Paris", which isn't to say that that's the only detriment to its dramatic effectiveness and, for that matter, momentum. The pace of this film has been described as "sporadic", and while I don't know if this film is quite that all over the places, it is disjointed, reaching a questionable runtime of a pinch over two hours with a touch too much material, before coasting, if not making up for time lost with expository shortcomings. You get to know the characters just fine after something of an underdone immediate development segment, but the motivations of flawed and potentially layered leads feel a tad undercooked, perhaps to the point of superficializing the depths of this drama, whose characterization is not the only thin aspect. Hollywood gets to this film, which touches on some edgy themes, then tap dances about really fleshing them out, certainly not to where they're completely obscured, but nevertheless to where dramatic bite is hindered by superficialities which melodramatics cannot compensate for. Plenty of highlights in the storytelling and acting grace this fluffy drama with some genuine resonance, but they can do only so much with material that actually offers plenty of just, which simply peaks with melodramatics that get to be seriously overblown at times, and never seem to transcend familiarity. All of this uneven pacing, superficiality, and melodrama would be so much easier to get past if the film wasn't so blasted familiar, with a story concept that isn't especially fresh, and a script that is even less so, hitting as many tropes as it can, until the final product stands as borderline predictable. The film's story concept is so juicy that you can't ever truly see what's coming, but that just makes it all the more frustrating that the storytellers seem to work hard at establishing predictability, through contrivances and conventions along an either undercooked or overdrawn path. The final product is pretty underwhelming, maybe even a little forgettable as a '50s melodrama, but it does have its strengths, including aesthetic ones. Adequately recurrent and lively, when not rather biting, Franz Waxman's score is decent as a compliment to the film's entertainment value, but looking at its conventions and contrived aspects, I can't say that it's especially impressive, at least compared to cinematography by William C. Mellor that earned its Oscar, with impeccable lighting that ranges from hauntingly crisp to almost noirishly, tensely shadow-heavy. Through a black-and-white palette that the filmmakers would have had to pay a pretty penny to do away with back in the beginning of the '50s, Mellor's cinematographic tastefulness is both held back and thrives, for its bleakness makes for some memorably handsome visuals, while doing a more consistent job than the storytellers at doing justice to weighty subject matter. The story concept itself isn't especially unique, and its interpretation is very formulaic, almost as much as it is overblown and superficial, to where the final product collapses as pretty decidedly underwhelming, but not exactly on paper, for this gripping story about a man who, on his way up the ladder, finds himself caught between two women, and eventually finds himself in the middle of a tense, emotional case that could cost him his love and his free life establishes potential. Screenwriters Harry Brown and Michael Wilson do a great injustice to such potential, and George Stevens' direction has its flaws, while never managing to do as good a job as it ought to at compensating for written shortcomings, but Stevens was always a gifted storyteller, and although he got better at showing that much later on in his career, if there is subtlety and grace to the storytelling of this film, then it derives from Stevens' palpably inspired direction. There are occasions of penetrating tension and powerful resonance throughout this film which is always tightly paced enough to entertain through and through, maybe even pick up a little momentum after a while, and even though momentum doesn't pick up enough for the final product to truly reward, it has a kick to it, anchored by a cast which Stevens works with as well as anything. It takes a moment to get into the characters and their superficial, if not melodramatic handling, but they do come to life at times, thanks to the performances, with Shelley Winters capturing the fear and anguish of a woman guilty about submitting her life to a man who may not love her, while the, as usual, incredibly beautiful Elizabeth Taylor charms and eventually moves as a loving woman who is in for some rude awakenings about her lover, and Montgomery Clift really stands out, not just from this cast, but at the time, using hauntingly subtle layers to portray an initially charming, well-intentioned young man's gradual deterioration into confusion, anxiety and fear, over being caught as a man with two lovers who may have to go to extreme lengths to secure a comfortable future. If there is a reason to see this film, then it is Clift, but he's not the only driving force of this drama, as this is a plenty entertaining and generally engaging drama with a couple highlights, but only a couple. In conclusion, disjointed pacing alternates between draggy and too thin for the sake of expository depth, which suffers from a superficiality that is applied to a number of storytelling elements, including the melodramatics which combine with familiarity to bland the final product into decisive underwhelmingness, still challenged well enough by decent score work, haunting cinematography, effective highlights in direction, and strong performances by the sympathetic Shelley Winters, the stunning Elizabeth Taylor, and the show-stealing Montgomery Clift to secure George Stevens' "A Place in the Sun" as a fair drama with powerful moments, just not enough to be particularly memorable. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Feb 06, 2014
    I love this sordid tale. You drown Shelley Winters so that you can end with Elizabeth Taylor. Montgomery Clift is great at the execution. Delightfully sinful.
    John B Super Reviewer

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