Each week this month, I'll examine an unusual dual theme in film: romance and horror. Do the two ever compliment each other? Although it seems to be an unlikely combination, in many films, the contrast is just the right recipe for audiences. As a relief from unrelenting suspense, or as an exciting thrill to a predictable love story, romance and horror are sometimes just the right element to keep the movie exciting from beginning to end. Up for review this week is a classic thriller.
A Place In the Sun (1951)
Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, and Shelly Winters
George Eastman is a self-proclaimed nobody. He's poor, unemployed, and uneducated. Like most young men his age, he has nothing, but wants it all - the good life. Drifting along without a plan, George visits some of his extended family who are obviously not happy to see him. Eager to get his "loser" nephew out of his hair, George's uncle gets him a job at the factory in town. There George finally accepts that he will never have the life he's always longed for. So when a co-worker begins to show interest in him, George dates her. Although Alice (Shelly Winters) is a plain, simple girl, George is lonely, so he has a casual affair with her.
As luck would have it, soon George catches the eye of Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor) a beautiful local socialite, who invites him to spend the summer with her and her friends. George is immediately swept away by the wealth, the glamour, and the excitement that seem to be the good life that he always dreamed of having. Angela is uncomplicated and carefree, and the complete opposite of the drab, chronic complainer, Alice. For George, the decision is simple; he decides to drop Alice and pursue Angela, who is already falling in love with him.
George has the time of his life in Angela's world. They water-ski and party, enjoy lavish meals and expensive toys. Although Angela doesn't seem to notice, some of her friends resent George's presence at their events, since he isn't considered to be one of them. He's several classes below them, but George tries hard not to care. Everything he has worked so hard to attain, Angela's love, a shaky place in her world, is at risk when Alice comes back into George's life. Determined not to be ignored, Alice tells George that she is pregnant and if he doesn't do something about it, she'll tell all of his rich new friends every sordid detail. George's desperation not to let anything alter his new lifestyle puts Alice in danger since he'll do anything to keep his secret.
This classic film is just wonderful and is truly once of the best romantic thrillers ever made. Elizabeth Taylor is just 17 years old in this film, and her charm and beauty are breathtaking. Montgomery Clift is so young and handsome, and he's impressively believable as the desperate George, who only wants to belong. The late Shelly Winters is at her best here, as poor Alice, a girl who started out with high hopes for her new relationship, but ended up being forced to beg and threaten George for attention. This movie was based on the bestselling novel, “An American Tragedy” which was considered a shocking story for it’s time. Although we are now familiar with tales of people who will do anything, even kill to protect a secret, in the early 1950’s, such a crime of passion was still extremely rare.
Thriller Factor: 8
Romance Factor: 9.5