18.6.12. Last night marked a triumphant return to MNFC after what seems like an awfully long time. The sun was out (sort of), our newest recruit – Comrade Smith, Di – attended her first Monday, and Jess broke the mould by not showing a British film and by being only the second brave person to show a film that they hadn’t seen before. Her motives were admirable though, as she sought to fill in one of our missing decades. As it turned out, she went for the ’50s and the classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I suspect the fact that it had ‘cat’ in the title also had something to do with her choice! During the film we all enjoyed some takeaway pizza, eating like P-I-G hogs.
The film starred two of the most beautiful people in the world at that time – and possibly ever! Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor played Brick and Maggie Pollitt, son and daughter-in-law of the wealthy Big Daddy Pollitt, who have come to the family home to celebrate Big Daddy’s birthday. As well as fighting with each other, the couple also find time to squabble with Brick’s brother Gooper and his wife Mae over who will inherit Big Daddy’s estate. Brick spends most of the film trying to get as drunk as possible to forget the suicide of his best friend Skipper, while Maggie does battle with the ‘no-neck monsters’ and Brick’s indifference to her sexually. Both actors were nominated for Academy Awards for their roles in the film, though neither took home the statuette.
The screenplay was adapted for the screen from the original play by Tennessee Williams. As a play adapted for the big screen, the ‘action’ of the film can appear quite slow, and it is up to us as the viewer to look for hidden subtext. The girls all picked up on the hints of homosexuality in the relationship between Brick and Skipper (blank faces from the boys!) although it was never discussed outright. As it turns out, the screenplay for the film version differed significantly from the play in this respect. In the play it is revealed that Skipper confessed his true feelings for Brick to him on the phone, and was driven to suicide by Brick’s rejection of him. Such direct references to homosexuality were prohibited by the Hays Code which controlled what was deemed acceptable to be shown on screen at the time, so they written out, much to the disgust of Tennessee Williams.
For more on the themes and subtext of the play and film you can read what some clever people have put together here. Although I question quite how clever they are if the best name they can come up with for a website is ‘Shmoop’.
Those of you who particularly enjoyed the film may wish to purchase this delightful item.
Other discussion topics included how much medical ethics have changed in the last 50 years, the nature of plays on the big screen, the patriarchal nature of the family in the film, whether Gooper was another man’s child and, my personal favourite, the beauty of Paul Newman. And Elizabeth Taylor, obviously, but her beauty was slightly marred by her pointy boobs. To quote Comrade Smith (Lucy), she didn’t have cleavage she had out-widge! Interestingly, in the 1950s it was standard practice for ‘artistic’ films to be shot in black and white, but the decision was taken to film Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in colour so that the piercing blue and striking violet eyes of Newman and Taylor would be visible.
During our discussions two comrades revealed some surprising tendencies towards animal cruelty. I’m talking about Comrade Jess ‘Fish-Boiler’ Reeves and Comrade Adam ‘Mouse-Defenestrator’ Matich. It was shocking, simply shocking.
Moving swiftly on, the next MNFC has been set for 9th July at the house of our newest recruit. Instructions will be sent closer to the time. It will be followed by 30 July in Brixton courtesy of Adam, then 20 August at a location yet to be decided (Matt?!).