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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

Book Vs Movie Podcast

Book Vs. Movie: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
The 1955 Play Vs. the 1958 Classic Film

The Margos are feeling very Southern in this episode devoted to the work of Tennessee Williams and his personal favorite work–Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The 1955 play was based on his 1952 short story “Three Plays of a Summer Game” and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama during its Broadway debut. The story of the Pollitt family in the Mississippi Delta and their personal grievances and torturous secrets was considered incredibly raw and racy for the conservative 1950s.

The 1955 play was directed by Elia Kazan and starred future Dallas star Barbara Bel Geddes as Maggie “The Cat” Pollitt and Ben Gazzara as Brick Pollitt. Burl Ives (“Big Daddy”) and Madeleine Sherwood (“Sister Woman”) would go on to star in the film adaptation in 1958. Bel Geddes and Kazan were nominated for the Tony Award in the original production, and the themes of homophobia, family bonds, and sexism excited audiences then and to this day.

The film was directed and adapted by Richard Brooks during a time known as the “Hays Code,” which meant the homosexual yearnings expressed by Brick Pollitt (played by Paul Newman in the movie) for his recently deceased best friend Skipper had to be downplayed. Also, the character of Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor in an Academy Award-winning performance) is more toned down and “likable” to ensure not to offend movie-goer sensitivities.

What are the other differences between the original play and the film? Which version did the Margos like better? Have a listen!

In this ep the Margos discuss:

  • Playwright Tennessee Williams and how this particular story evolved
  • The censoring of the original work to film
  • Why the play endures.
  • The cast of the 1958 film: Elizabeth Taylor (Maggie Pollitt,) Paul Newman (Brick Pollitt,) Burl Ives (“Big Daddy” Pollitt,) Jack Carson (Gooper Pollitt,) Judith Anderson (“Big Momma” Pollitt,) Madeleine Sherwood (“Sister Woman” Pollitt,) Larry Gates (Dr. Baugh) and Vaughn Taylor as Deacon Davis.

Clips used:

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