Tea and Sympathy


Tea and Sympathy (1957)



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1956's Tea and Sympathy is a diluted filmization of Robert Anderson's Broadway play. The original production was considered quite daring in its attitudes towards homosexuality (both actual and alleged) and marital infidelity; the film softpedals these elements, as much by adding to the text as by subtracting from it. John Kerr plays a sensitive college student who prefers the arts to sports; as such, he is ridiculed as a "sissy" by his classmates and hounded mercilessly by his macho-obsessed father Edward Andrews. Only student Darryl Hickman treats Kerr with any decency, perceiving that being different is not the same as being effeminate. Deborah Kerr, the wife of testosterone-driven housemaster Leif Erickson, likewise does her best to understand rather than condemn John for his "strangeness." Desperate to prove his manhood, John is about to visit town trollop Norma Crane. Though nothing really happens, the girl cries "rape!" Both John's father and Deborah's husband adopt a thick-eared "Boys will be boys" attitude, which only exacerbates John's insecurities. Feeling pity for John and at the same time resenting her own husband's boorishness, Deborah offers her own body to the mixed-up boy. "When you speak of this in future years...and you will...be kind." With this classic closing line, the original stage production of Tea and Sympathy came to an end. Fearing censorship interference, MGM insisted upon a stupid epilogue, indicating that Deborah Kerr deeply regretted her "wrong" behavior. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Tea and Sympathy

All Critics (10) | Top Critics (4)

Robert Anderson's adaptation of his own legiter keeps the essentials in proper focus.

Oct 29, 2008 | Full Review…
Top Critic

The film's details -- indeed, its very timidity -- still ensure fascinating viewing.

Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

Surprising as it may seem, in the light of the screen's Production Code, which generally compels evasion of the more delicate sexual subjects in American films... Tea and Sympathy has been given a strong and sensitive screen rendering.

Mar 25, 2006 | Full Review…

Dated and bowdlerized but nonetheless sincere.

Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…

The only two dramatic moments in the play have been so expanded, made so explicit, that they lose their impact.

Feb 15, 2019 | Full Review…

Though stale, betraying its theatrical origins (Kazan did it on stage), Minnelli's version still reflects the sexual and social anxieties of the McCarthy era as well as of his own life.

May 13, 2007 | Rating: B | Full Review…

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