A Place in the Sun

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76%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 29

84%

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User Ratings: 8,513
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Movie Info

In this film, handsome young George Eastman goes to work in a relative's factory. He has a brief rendezvous with assembly-line worker Alice Tripp, but he forgets all about her when he falls for dazzling socialite Angela Vickers. Alice can't forget about him, though: she is pregnant with his child.

Cast

Elizabeth Taylor
as Angela Vickers
Montgomery Clift
as George Eastman
Shelley Winters
as Alice Tripp
Raymond Burr
as Marlowe
Fred Clark
as Bellows
Herbert Heyes
as Charles Eastman
Frieda Inescort
as Mrs. Vickers
Kathryn Givney
as Mrs. Louise Eastman
John Ridgely
as Coroner
Lois Chartand
as Marsha Eastman
Lois Chartrand
as Marsha Eastman
William Murphy
as Mr. Whiting
Douglas Spencer
as Boatkeeper
Paul H. Frees
as Rev. Morrison
Josephine Whittell
as Secretary to Charles Eastman
Frank Yaconelli
as Truck Driver
Ralph Dunn
as Policeman
Bob Anderson
as Eagle Scout
Mary Kent
as Mrs. Roberts
Ezelle Poule
as Receptionist
Billy Sheehan
as Court Clerk
Jay Morley
as Executive
Scott Wallace
as Factory Guard
Al Ferguson
as Bailiff
Robert Anderson
as Eagle Scout
Harold McNulty
as Jury Foreman
Ian Wolfe
as Dr. Wyeland
Marilyn Dialon
as Frances Brand
John Reed
as Joe Parker
Kasey Rogers
as Miss Harper
James Horne Jr.
as Tom Tipton
James W. Horne
as Tom Tipton
Mike Mahoney
as Motorcycle Officer
Hans Moebus
as Butler at Eastman House
Pearl Miller
as Miss Newton
Ed O'Neill
as Deputy
Lee Miller
as Bus Driver
Bill Sheehan
as Court Clerk
Joe Recht
as Prisoner
Martin Mason
as Prisoner
Cliff Storey
as (uncredited)
Harold Miller
as (uncredited)
Pat Combs
as (uncredited)
Marion Gray
as (uncredited)
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Critic Reviews for A Place in the Sun

All Critics (29) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (22) | Rotten (7)

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

    Feb 1, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Gripping from first to last.

    Jan 31, 2013 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • Clift's mesmerising, tragic performance only deepens with time.

    Jan 31, 2013 | Rating: 5/5
  • While to oldsters Dreiser's novelization of the real-life Chester Gillette case may be a bit on the tired side, there's a vast new generation which undoubtedly knows it only very vaguely, if at all.

    Jul 6, 2010 | Full Review…

    Herb Golden

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • 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.

    Nov 13, 2007 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Nov 13, 2007 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for A Place in the Sun

  • 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
  • Oct 15, 2013
    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.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Jun 13, 2012
    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.
    Daniel M Super Reviewer

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