Flick Review < Suddenly Last Summer | Tennessee Williams / Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1959


“Somebody said once or wrote, once: 'We're all of us children in a vast 
kindergarten trying to spell God's name with the wrong alphabet blocks!”

Tennessee Williams, Suddenly Last Summer, 1958






Catherine Holly: Truth is the one thing I've never resisted.


“Most people's lives—what are they but trails of debris, each day more debris, more debris,
 long, long trails of debris with nothing to clean it all up but, finally, death.” 

 Tennessee Williams, Suddenly Last Summer, 1958


“The role of benefactor is worse than thankless, it's the role of a victim, Doctor, a sacrificial
 victim, yes, they want your blood, Doctor, they want your blood on the altar steps of
their outraged, outrageous egos!” 

Tennessee Williams, Suddenly Last Summer, 1958



Suddenly Last Summer, 1959
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Writers: Tennessee Williams (play), Gore Vidal (screenplay) 
Cinematography: Jack Hildyard
Stars: Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Montgomery Clift 

* Tennessee Williams was not a fan of the film and hated the way it had reworked his material.



“Man devours man in a metaphorical sense. He feeds upon his fellow creatures, without
the excuse of animals. Animals actually do it for survival, out of hunger…. I use that
 metaphor [of cannibalism] to express my repulsion with this characteristic of man, the
way people use each other without conscience: ‘We all use each other and that’s what
we think of as love.’

It horrified me, the film. [Producer] Sam Spiegel made the mistake of inviting me to a private
 screening of it in his apartment and I walked out in the middle of it. I was so offended by
the literal approach because the play was metaphorical; it was sort of a poem, I thought.
I loved Katharine Hepburn in it, but I didn’t like the film. 

…[The death by cannibalism scene] became so realistic, with the boys chasing Sebastian
 up the hill - I thought it was a travesty. It was about how people devour each other in
an allegorical sense.”

Tennessee Williams, Conversations with Tennessee Williams


Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift on the set of  Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift on the set of  Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor, 1959

* Because of years of alcoholism and prescription drug abuse, Montgomery Clift was considered
 uninsurable due to chronic ill health. Ordinarily that would have meant he would have been fired 
and replaced, but his good friend Elizabeth Taylor saved his job by insisting she would not do
 the film without him.



* The allusion to Herman Melville and the Galapagos islands refers to the "The Encantadas or 
Enchanted Isles", a series of "sketches," or short prose works, about the Galapagos Islands 
written primarily from Melville's own experience sailing around the islands.


Burt Glinn: Katharine Hepburn & Montgomery Clift on the set, 1959                                  Elizabeth Taylor’s famous swimsuit scene 

Tennessee Williams, First edition cover (New Directions)                                       Suddenly Last Summer, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1959


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