Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 1959. Columbia Pictures Corporation, , , Screenplay by Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, based on the play by Tennessee Williams. Cinematography by Jack Hildyard. Produced by Sam Spiegel. Music by Malcolm Arnold, Buxton Orr. Production Design by Oliver Messel. Costume Design by Oliver Messel. Film Editing by William Hornbeck, Thomas Stanford. Academy Awards 1959. Golden Globe Awards 1959. Podcasts: Bad Gay Movies.
Tennessee Williams wrote some pretty maudlin plays to deal with his own sexual guilt, but none was ever more laughably ridiculous than this one. Katharine Hepburn plays the mother of a now-dead dandy named Sebastian who died under circumstances she’d rather leave undisclosed. In order to keep her secret safe, she brings her well-informed niece (Elizabeth Taylor) to a psychiatrist (Montgomery Clift), hoping to pass her off as insane and get her lobotomized. You just won’t believe how it all plays out in the end, which may be half the fun of it. What emerges most impressively from the production is Taylor’s fiercely brave performance, which gives such true life to even the most incredible of speeches. Clift is mostly sleepwalking, while Hepburn does a fair bit of good with a stock biddy role.