I think I may have mentioned before that one of my favourite films is Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, the toned-down 1958 adaptation of the original and far more daring Broadway production by the American playwright Tennessee Williams. Today the movie is primarily seen as a vehicle for the acting abilities of the male stars, a young Paul Newman and a scene-stealing Burl Ives. However I’ve always thought that Elizabeth Taylor had the more interesting role as a wife contending with a dysfunctional marriage made worse by her infidelity and her husband’s burgeoning alcoholism and homoerotic relationship with a recently deceased friend, a crucial facet of the theatrical version barely hinted at in the cinematic release. She certainly has some of the best lines. (It’s incredible to think that during the shooting of the film a painfully thin Taylor was literally grieving for the death of her own husband, the producer Mike Todd, who had died in a plane crash just a few weeks into the production.)
Below is a 1976 British television production from a series called Laurence Olivier Presents starring the actress Natalie Wood who like her predecessor makes the tragic character of “Maggie the Cat” and her tortured hopes and regrets the centre of the narrative, outshining her rather more wooden or miscast costars, including her husband Robert Wagner. If the small screen, low budget adaptation is not the best, Wood certainly is, displaying the thespian skills that made her justly famous before her accidental death in 1981. A matter that remains the subject of controversy and speculation to the present day.
If you enjoyed the cinematic original and don’t mind the lower quality, or the old fashioned presentation and dynamics between characters of differing gender and race, it’s worth watching for Natalie Woods whirlwind performance alone. As I said, the women in this story deservedly get some of the best lines.