Okay, okay. I get it: I’m slow on the uptake. But I only just recently watched the film classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, and Burl Ives (based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Tennessee Williams play).
Now, I know that this blog is about rediscovery, so me ranting about how I just watched an old movie for the first time doesn’t really seem to fit the bill, but let me give you a little backstory.
I was recently visiting my parents, and decided to raid their movie collection. Watching movies is something that we did together as I was growing up. We watched movies rather than TV, in fact, so even now I find myself watching more movies than TV shows. Anyway, digging through my parents’ movies I found many a-treasure that I hadn’t even thought about since I was a kid, such as John Wayne’s Hatari!, Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton in Becket, and Shirley Temple’s Little Miss Broadway. Unfortunately, a lot of my childhood movies were on video cassette (goodness, I’m old), which have since bit the dust. However, among all the old favorites, I found a few gems that had dangled on the periphery of my vision from elementary school onward. And that includes the Tennessee Williams classic film.
And so, Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman found their way into the pile of movies that I “borrowed,” and were slowly forgotten. Until I made my way to the bottom of the pile, that is.
Last night, on a whim, I popped in the movie as I busied myself with little chores–something that I have done on numerous occasions with as many movies–and found myself glued to the screen. AND WHO WOULDN’T BE?
There is a reason Paul and Elizabeth each received a nomination for an Academy Award for their performances in this movie. They are stunning, and in more than just looks. Their acting taps into the fervor and feel of the story, giving depth where others would be flat, not to mention highlighting all the beautiful intricacies of Williams’ play on love and life.
I’m not going to give a full movie review because Cat on a Hot Tin Roof came out in 1958: plenty of people have written reviews, analyses, and parodies, even books, so I don’t have any amateur piece of observation to add to the general conversation. Instead, my take-away is a little more personal.
Watching these Hollywood legends’ acting chops made me remember the enjoyment I had growing up in watching classic movies. There were so many things that I enjoyed wholeheartedly in these old-style movies: the skilled cinematography of the black and white films of the ’40s, the witty and original scripts of the ’50s, and the madcap pictures of the ’60s and ’70s. Not to mention the actors! Who could compete with the regal beauty of Grace Kelly, the perfectionist motions of Fred Astaire, the adventurous blood in Errol Flynn, or the Irish fieriness of Maureen O’Hara?
Thinking back, I stopped partaking in the classics when I went to college. When one is surrounded by peers who are ranting about contemporary movies (or movies from the last 30 years), it’s a bit difficult to assert that Arsenic and Old Lace should be the film of the night. Not that I regret watching movies of my own generation. Watching movies with my friends and peers gave me greater appreciation for where the medium is now, rather than simply romanticizing the past. But, now? Now, I am bogged down with an ever-growing list of modern movies and TV shows that “You have to watch, Wilber!”
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof reminded me that I don’t have to do that. I don’t have to keep watching these films and shows when they don’t actually give me enjoyment. I can start watching classic films that I haven’t seen before that I will enjoy on my own terms, and not because someone said I would.
So, I have started compiling a list of films to watch.
I watched The Birds when in 3rd grade, but I haven’t seen most of Hitchcock’s iconic works. So now Rear Window, Rebecca, and Suspicion are on the list. I love the comedy (and acting) genius of Jack Lemmon, so his films The Apartment and Days of Wine and Roses have been added. Elizabeth Taylor’s Raintree County and Suddenly, Last Summer; Errol Flynn’s The Sea Hawk; Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, Jane Eyre, and The Long, Hot Summer; Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront; this list can go on and on and on.
So I’d like to take this moment to say thank you to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Thank you for inspiring me to get away from what I have been doing for other people, and get back to enjoying movies simply because I enjoy them.