Suddenly, Last Summer

Suddenly, Last Summer

Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1959
USA | Format: DCP | 114 minutes

Mankiewicz was known for making dialogue-centric films, but this adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s play might be his most hyper-verbal. Elizabeth Taylor is Catherine, the traumatized niece of deranged Southern matriarch Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn), who is desperate to eradicate the memory of her son’s horrifying death the summer before; Montgomery Clift is the brain surgeon called in to lobotomize Catherine, the one who remembers. The atmosphere is extreme Southern Gothic and the tone is deeply unhinged: the wildly conflicting emotional energies of Clift, Hepburn, Taylor, Williams, and Mankiewicz collide and sometimes explode, making for an extremely unorthodox and uniquely unsettling movie experience. Clift had difficulty keeping himself together throughout the shoot, Hepburn publicly spat in her director’s face, and Williams claimed to hate it. On the other hand, thanks to the lurid subject matter and an advertising campaign featuring Taylor in a bathing suit, Suddenly, Last Summer was one of Mankiewicz’s biggest hits.

Series: NYFF52 Retrospective – Joseph L. Mankiewicz: The Essential Iconoclast

Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center