It's a family gathering riddled with lies, bubbling with angst, simmering with repressed emotion. It's a hot day in Mississippi. Brick is an alcoholic who started hitting the bottle after the suicide of his best buddy, Skipper, with whom he was sexually involved. It's been too long since he's made love to his wife, Maggie, who aches with loneliness and desire. Tennessee Williams won the Pulitzer Prize and New York Drama Critics Circle award after Cat On A Hot Tin Roof opened on Broadway in 1955. Williams always said this was his favorite play. Three years later, the movie was released, co-written by James Poe and Richard Brooks. Brooks also directed (and would later go on to helm other heavy dramas such as In Cold Blood and Looking for Mr. Goodbar). The casting is impeccable: Paul Newman as Brick, Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie, two Hollywood sex symbols in their prime, doing their best work up to that point in their careers. Reprising his Broadway role as Big Daddy, Burl Ives is a marvel. There are two primary differences between the play and movie: The movie contains no references to homosexuality, and the ending is comparatively upbeat. Williams loathed the movie version. Even so, the film was a commercial and critical success, and was showered with Academy Award nominations, including ones for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress. It's a testament to the creative brilliance of Tennessee Williams that, even though the film is without a couple of the key elements from the original play, it still packs a punch. And you're all invited to the party. 

Tue., Sept. 7, 1 p.m., 2010

LA Weekly