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Suddenly, Last Summer

Suddenly, Last Summer

4.7 10
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Montgomery Clift


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In this lush, lurid adaptation of the 1957 Tennessee Williams one-act, Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn play a seemingly insane, young New Orleans debutante and the wealthy aunt who wants to lobotomize her. Dr. John Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) is a gifted Chicago brain surgeon stymied by the primitive operating conditions at the New Orleans asylum where he


In this lush, lurid adaptation of the 1957 Tennessee Williams one-act, Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn play a seemingly insane, young New Orleans debutante and the wealthy aunt who wants to lobotomize her. Dr. John Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) is a gifted Chicago brain surgeon stymied by the primitive operating conditions at the New Orleans asylum where he works. Society matron Violet Venable (Hepburn) offers a solution in the form of a million-dollar grant -- as long as Cukrowicz will treat her niece, Catherine (Taylor). Catherine, it seems, has been institutionalized since the sudden death of her cousin, Violet's son, Sebastian, overseas the previous summer. As the young doctor tries to get to the bottom of what happened to Catherine, Violet's steely demeanor and devotion to Sebastian present a formidable barrier. Catherine herself doesn't offer much help, her recollections jumbled by medication and the trauma of Sebastian's demise. Under pressure to seal the deal and cut into Catherine's brain, Cukrowicz's principles (and attraction to the young woman) prevent him from proceeding until he uncovers what actually happened to Sebastian. In his memoirs, Gore Vidal claims to have written the screenplay for Suddenly, Last Summer single-handedly, although Williams took half the credit. Vidal toned down the original play's allusions to pedophilia, cannibalism, and incest, but the film nonetheless provoked heated controversy. As for the cast, an unhappy Hepburn reportedly was threatened by the attention lavished on Taylor by director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, whom Hepburn had hired to produce The Philadelphia Story two decades earlier. Mankiewicz, for his part, allegedly hated Clift, whose drinking and partial paralysis from an auto accident prevented him from working more than half a day at a time.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Brian J. Dillard
From its gothic settings to its potent female stars and its lurid subject manner, Suddenly, Last Summer presents a mixture of operatic Southern passions and high-camp excess unequaled in American cinema. The sight of Katherine Hepburn coyly descending from on high in an ornate elevator to preside grandly over her prehistoric garden is itself enough to scare away viewers looking for anything approaching quotidian naturalism. Audiences who can stomach Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal at their most overheated, however, will be rewarded by a film rich in nuance, beautiful language, and vivid production details. Costume and set designer Oliver Messel takes the script's over-the-top vision and runs with it; unfortunately, the film's two primary settings -- a Grand Guigol mansion and an insane asylum presided over by vicious nuns -- lose their impact after so many scenes of arch dialogue. Luckily, director Joseph L. Mankiewicz works in a few set pieces involving rooms full of drooling lunatics and a memorable finale that superimposes impressionistic flashbacks across Elizabeth Taylor's haunted face. Taylor would bring Mankiewicz down with her during the Cleopatra debacle a few years later, but here the actress' overripe sensuality and neurotic shrillness are pitch-perfect; her gurgling screams at the climax of the film provoke the sort of chills of which few performers are capable. Hepburn's duplicitous matriarch isn't as nuanced as the morphine-addicted mother she would play in her next film, 1962's epic A Long Day's Journey Into Night, but it's certainly a lot more fun, full of biting humor and scathing psychological insight. As for Montgomery Clift, his booze-soaked solemnity imbues young Dr. Cukrowicz with an almost ancient gravity. Full of studio veterans exercising their craft on a larger-than-life script whose concessions to morality do little to dull its savage power, Suddenly, Last Summer comes off like the overgrown cousin of better-groomed, more celebrated Williams fare like The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Elizabeth Taylor Catherine Holly
Katharine Hepburn Mrs. Violet Venable
Montgomery Clift Dr. John Cukrowicz
Albert Dekker Dr. Hockstader
Mercedes McCambridge Mrs. Holly
Gary Raymond George Holly
Mavis Villiers Miss Foxhill
Patricia Marmont Nurse Benson
Joan Young Sister Felicity
Maria Britneva Lucy
Sheila Robbins Dr. Hockstader's Secretary
David Cameron Young Blonde Intern
Roberta Woolley Patient

Technical Credits
Joseph L. Mankiewicz Director
A.G. Ambler Sound/Sound Designer
Malcolm Arnold Score Composer
Dave Aylott Makeup
John Cox Sound/Sound Designer
Joan Ellacott Costumes/Costume Designer
Gerry Fisher Camera Operator
Norman Hartnell Costumes/Costume Designer
Jack Hildyard Cinematographer
Bluey Hill Asst. Director
William W. Hornbeck Editor
Tom Howard Special Effects
William Kellner Art Director
Jean Louis Costumes/Costume Designer
Oliver Messel Costumes/Costume Designer,Production Designer
Buxton Orr Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Scott Slimon Set Decoration/Design
Sam Spiegel Producer
Thomas G. Stanford Editor
Peter Thornton Sound Editor
Gore Vidal Screenwriter
Tennessee Williams Screenwriter


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Suddenly, Last Summer 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Another reviewer has commented that the garden scenes would be more lush (and one assumes, entertaining) if the film had been colorized. How about using one's imagination? I think we know what color plants are. The impact of the garden is not meant to be lush, at least in a pleasant way, but oppressive and menacing--and black and white assists in creating that mood, as it does in the asylum scenes. Black-and-white film was sometimes an economic choice but also was often an artistic one. I thought the colorization-craze (initiated by Ted Turner, whose artistic judgment is dubious, at best) was well behind us. The idea that black-and-white films cannot be as entertaining as color films is born of an immaturity, which in turn (to be fair) has been created by an overstimulating media culture where entertainment equals motion, speed, and style (over substance). That being said, this film is perhaps the best film adaptation of Williams's work. The asylum scenes are admittedly corny (they play like stock footage from THE SNAKE PIT), but the script--despite Gore Vidal's claims to contrary--does not compromise the subject matter or original script by cutting so-called objectionable material. Great films were made of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, but the egregious deletions of references to homosexuality make crucial scenes not only confusing but infuritating. The film script of SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER is actually an improvemen over the one- act's, which was somewhat terse. Vidal and Williams have elaborated on key moments, filled out scenes and created others that only enhance the plot and characterization. In terms of acting, this is some of Taylor's, Clift's, and Hepburn's best work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Repellent, mesmerizing, exotic, and riveting, this adaptation by Gore Vidal of Tennessee William's 1956 macabre one act play is a knockout. Cast against type, Katharine Hepburn gives an unforgettable, over the top portrayal as Violet Venable. This is easily one of her finest movie moments. Elizabeth Taylor shines also in the very difficult and demanding role as Hepburn's deeply disturbed niece. Montgomery Clift is sympathetic as the doctor who delves into what happened to Taylor 'suddenly last summer'. Mercedes McCambridge and Gary Raymond round out a fine supporting cast. Jack Hildyard's cinematography and William Kellner's art direction only add to the creepy atmosphere of this haunting film. As a companion piece, try to catch the BBC TV adaptation of SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER that starred Maggie Smith, Natasha Richardson, and Rob Lowe. It's equally as good as this 1959 film.
oldmovies More than 1 year ago
I never heard of this movie and found it by accident, what a fortunate break for me. I love this movie it has inherited a permanent spot in my DVD library.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is powerful movie it made me cry and happy at the same time lovely is this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
what color should the garden be? Really? cause besides Liz, no one who was there could know. The film is what it is. In glorious black and white. The dreariness adds, and why are you letting children watch films about cannibals and pedophiles and lobotomies?
Guest More than 1 year ago
First i must tell you what i was doing before i watched this movie; I had gotten really drunk and couldn't find my way back home from a party (i'd just moved to the area) so i followed a couple people and ended up in a hotel room. I turned on the tv and this is what was coming on, so i kept it there. Well, the people i was with broke out some cocaine and did a couple lines. I, never trying coke before, decide i might as well indulge in experimentation. So i did a line. During the movie i got completely enthrawled in the movie. Elizabeth Taylor gave an absolutely flawless performance in her rollercoaster of emotion. The tale she tells about her previous summer is absolutely chilling. Katherine Hepburn, as usual gave an elegantly enchanting performance keeping the experience dignified, remaining seemingly uneffected by the psychotically climaxing tale. I realize some may only think i thought the movie entrhawling because of my drug induction, but that's far from it. After seeing it I spent a week trying to figure out what it was called, and have rented it many times since, remaining each time are the chill bumps it always sends tingling down my spine. This movie is a MUST-SEE for any mildy intelligent person looking to broaden an evening with a good movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is Hepburn at her best--full of strength and power. Her performance will give you chill bumps. This is the stuff good drama is made of!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
this movie seems to only be out in black and white and lavish garden scenes in black and white make for a dreary look. The stars in this movie ...liz, hepburn, and monty, do a great job keeping you entertained as the story unfolds. put the kids to bed.. they couldnt sit thru it anyway...and watch as hollywood struggles with one of its first controversial films. i wonder whats on the cutting room floor.