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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MGM Home Entertainment

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Deborah Kerr
as Laura Reynolds
John Kerr (II)
as Tom Robinson Lee
Leif Erickson
as Bill Reynolds
Edward Andrews
as Herb lee
Norma Crane
as Ellie Martin
Dean Jones
as Ollie
Jacqueline de Wit
as Lilly Sears
Kip King
as Ted
Jimmy Hayes
as Henry
Mary Alan Hokanson
as Mary Williams
Byron Kane
as Umpire
Mary Ellen Hokanson
as Mary Williams
Paul Bryar
as Alex
Sol (Saul) Gorss
as Burly Man
Dale Van Sickel
as Burly Man
Peter Leeds
as Headmaster at Bonfire
Del Erickson
as Ferdie
John Kerr
as Tom Robinson Lee
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Critic Reviews for Tea and Sympathy

All Critics (4)

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | October 28, 2008
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | March 24, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | May 13, 2007

Remarkable early report on The War on Homosexuals.

Full Review… | August 26, 2006
Classic Film and Television

Audience Reviews for Tea and Sympathy

Amazing. Beautifully directed. It's a shame the play had to be chopped up just to be accepted as a film project.

Katie B
Katie B

Tea and Sympathy (1956) -- [6.5] -- Vincente Minnelli sheds a bright light on gender politics in this story of a bullied teenager who finds solace with his housemaster's wife. It is fascinating to watch a film deal with mysogyny and homophobia at a time when these words were barely in our collective vocabulary. It's even more remarkable that this film, made during the height of rigid gender codes, asks the audience to identify with a male protagonist whose sexuality is constantly being questioned or assaulted. While I admire the movie's intentions, many of the scenes come off overwrought or a tad campy. Deborah Kerr does a fine job playing the housemaster's wife and John Kerr (no relation, I hope) does an admirable job as the harrassed boy. Both roles are surprisingly complex and vulnerable for a flick from the '50s. The movie's opening and closing theme music was later reworked by Elvis Presley into the song, "Can't Help Falling in Love."

Scott Schirmer
Scott Schirmer

I recorded this movie off TCM a long time ago and finally watched it after around six months. I have always liked Deborah Kerr, and also John Kerr from South Pacific. The movie started off like a corny old movie but I stuck with it and after a half hour or so realized I was really enjoying it, and by the end felt I had just watched a really great movie. You know, like the ones they just don't make anymore. The underlying storyline was really well done and can relate to any era, i.e. the machismo jock culture versus the tender man with a little bit of the feminine side, but a man no less. If you like great old movies, this is really a hidden jem and I thoroughly recommend it.

Jay B
Jay B

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