A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951) B/W 122m. dir: George Stevens
w/Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, Shelley Winters, Anne Revere, Keefe Brasselle, Fred Clark, Raymond Burr, Herbert Heyes, Shepperd Strudwick, Frieda Inescort
This adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy exerts a melancholy, foreboding power. Clift plays the poor relation of a wealthy manufacturer who falls in love with a beautiful socialite (Taylor), while at the same time having an affair with a factory girl (Winters) who becomes pregnant. Clift gives a stunningly sensitive performance as a man who knows his social class has doomed him, and Taylor is perceptive as his dream girl. (She has stated that this performance was the first time she felt she actually knew what acting was about.)
From The Movie Guide: "Dreiser's story was first filmed in 1931 by Josef von Sternberg in a much starker, more realistic manner. This version is almost cartoony by comparison, with Elizabeth Taylor, at the peak of her MGM-sorority loveliness, balanced against an unbelievably plain Shelley Winters. It's as if there were no middle ground in this small town, just extremes of wealth and poverty, beauty and drabness. Taylor was only 17 when Stevens cast her in her rich-girl role, but the studio tried to promote a romance between the young actress and Clift. The liaison didn't require much prompting; Clift fell in love with his leading lady and helped her through her most difficult scenes, with spellbinding results. Meanwhile, A PLACE IN THE SUN marked the beginning of Winters' journey from B-bombshell to character actress. Though Stevens at first refused to consider her for the role (he couldn't see beyond the brassy blondes she had played for years), she became indelibly linked to this part and was asked to play many similar types in the future. A PLACE IN THE SUN also marked the last screen appearance for Revere, who was branded a communist by the House Un-American Activities Committee and blacklisted."
The film was awarded six Oscars: Best Director, Screenplay (Michael Wilson and Harry Brown), Score (Franz Waxman), Cinematography (William C. Mellor), Editing (William Hornbeck), and Costume Design (Edith Head). It was also nominated for Best Picture, Actor (Clift), and Actress (Winters).