Movie Notes: A Place in the Sun (1951)

The director is George Stevens. The lead parts are by Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor.

OK, I didn’t like this one at all and didn’t finish it. It’s really bad. The only good thing about this movie is that Elizabeth Taylor is gorgeous. Especially when she stands completely still and days nothing.

The movie is based on Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, which as everybody here knows I consider to be the great American novel. Dreiser’s book isn’t impossible to bring to the screen. There was a very nice Soviet movie based on it. But the script writers for A Place in the Sun completely botched it. Nothing makes sense. People behave in weird ways for no reason.

And it’s poorly filmed. In the scene where “Alice” (Roberta in the original) tells “George” (Clyde) that she’s pregnant, she’s filmed from the back and we never see her face. The actors all behave like they are from Finland in terms of their extremely subdued affect. They are tortured by flights of sexual fancy but nothing else.

Sexuality is portrayed in a very bizarre way. A very rich and beautiful girl suddenly gets so overcome with desire for some obscure guy she once saw in passing that she hunts him down and practically jumps on him in public. I can see a mature woman in her thirties today doing that, and it’s still a rare woman. But in 1951?

This Montgomery Clift fellow is such a bad actor that even the talentless Taylor looks like an acting genius by his side. But she’s beautiful and has amazing outfits. That’s the only nice thing about the movie. Montgomery Clift would be great for movies about the Italian mafia in New York. But I’m guessing it wasn’t a thing in 1951, right?

I really wanted to finish it because I read that later in the movie an actress appears who was a descendant of Paul Revere. But even that wasn’t enough to entice me to keep watching.

Book Notes: Jane Eyre

So. Jane Eyre. What a masterpiece. I have no idea how it was possible to write something like this without Microsoft Word. You’ve got to be able to go back and forth to make everything connected like Brontë did. Amazing talent.

Now, who’s with me in that Mrs Rochester wasn’t crazy? Nothing she does qualifies as crazy. She never harms anybody who didn’t harm her. She tries to kill the husband who locked her up and the brother who let it happen but she never does anything to Adele, Sophie, or Mrs Fairfax. When she comes into Jane’s bedroom, does she try to hurt her in any way? Nope. She breaks the wedding veil, sending a clear message about what she thinks of marriage. If she were such a raving lunatic as we are supposed to believe, how would she control her craziness so well around Jane? How come she didn’t trash the room or break anything other than the very meaningful veil?

Rochester said himself that Bertha had stretches of lucidity that lasted for weeks. Imagine being completely normal and lucid and being shut up in a small room with no company and nothing to do. Imagine not being completely normal and being locked up. For 10 years! This is torture. Even a true schizophrenic doesn’t deserve never to be outside or to get a breath of fresh air. Only a very robust psyche could bear all that and still make the moral distinction between the people deserving her rage and people who were innocent. If a guy did that to you, wouldn’t you try to shred him to pieces every time you saw him? She’d be insane if she had no rage against her husband.

The only reason to think that Mrs Rochester is crazy is that she looks insane. But how would you look after being locked in a small room without ever being outside for a decade?

Mr Rochester’s story can be disregarded completely because the guy spends the whole novel running hoaxes on people. He’s pathologically dishonest and lies even when it’s utterly unnecessary.

The novel is so good that it gave rise to the only good prequel I have ever encountered, Wild Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. Her Bertha Mason does, indeed, go crazy but it’s a worthwhile novel.