Doomed Romance

Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift star in George Steven’s acclaimed A Place In The Sun. Almost instantly recognized as a true classic of American cinema upon release, the gripping drama won a slew of Academy Awards and became the first motion picture to win the Golden Globe for Best Picture. The haunting social melodrama touches upon class, love, and more taboo issues of its day – abortion foremost among them. But it is the tragic romance on screen between its two stars which is the stuff of cinematic legend, one of the most memorable pairings ever devised by Hollywood.

A Place In The Sun turned Elizabeth Taylor from a child star working for MGM into an international screen icon. Lighting up the silver screen with an impossible to miss glow, the 17-year-old actress dazzles as a love worth killing for by a desperate man. Montgomery Clift’s method performance is one of the most riveting and complex seen during Hollywood’s golden age. The role is the gifted actor’s career peak, a monumental achievement that did as much for the craft of acting as any performance before the 1960s.

Mesmerizing intensity and incredible performances highlight A Place In The Sun

George Steven’s masterpiece was the second adaptation of Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy, originally based on a grisly true crime account from the early 1900s.

Coming from humble origins, George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) strives for something better in life. He is emblematic of the American Dream, a man looking to make his mark in society. Given an entry-level job by a wealthy uncle, Eastman begins seeing a fellow co-worker played by a young Shelley Winters. Forbidden from dating co-workers due to his uncle’s reputation at the factory, they maintain their relationship in secret.

Invited to one of his uncle’s classy high society gatherings, George’s life is changed forever when he meets a beautiful socialite played by Elizabeth Taylor. Angela Vickers is the talk of the town, the belle of the ball. Everyone swirls around the young woman. Falling quickly in love, the couple’s future happiness is threatened by a shameful secret between George and his former girlfriend at the factory.

Mesmerizing intensity and incredible performances highlight A Place In The Sun. The tragic, doomed romance at its core remains as relevant today as it was for audiences in the 1950s. Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor share remarkable chemistry in some of the most romantic scenes ever filmed in American cinema. The two stars would eventually film three movies together, though A Place In The Sun is easily their most unforgettable together.

Video

Cinematographer William Mellor’s masterful work on A Place In The Sun stands out, a striking balance of light and shadow with noirish qualities. The black-and-white Hollywood classic has been given a film-like 4K restoration by Paramount from stable elements in excellent condition.

The moody 1.37:1 presentation exudes a healthy contrast and fair shadow delineation. A Place In The Sun runs over 121 minutes, encoded in top-notch AVC on a BD-50. Outside of issues endemic to the movie’s master, nothing is out of the ordinary which might raise the ire of true cinema lovers.

A Place In The Sun’s distinctive aesthetic presents challenges in overall clarity and definition, including some softness and frequent glamour lighting for Elizabeth Taylor. The stylishly dark cinematography often eschews strong lighting and brightness. Critical scenes are filmed in careful obscurity for emotional impact.

Filmed in 1951, A Place In The Sun doesn’t match the absolute crispness of other top studio productions from the era. Close-ups produce healthy detail and organic texture. Small whispers of halos intrude on select scenes. Otherwise this is a wonderfully faithful and unprocessed film transfer.

Understanding that minor crushing is part and parcel of the elegant black-and-white cinematography, Paramount does fantastic work bringing the Academy Award-winning drama out on Blu-ray. There is very little marginal detail and resolution remaining to be wrung from the original camera negative. Fans will enjoy the classic’s fine video quality on Blu-ray without needing to worry about any future UHD superseding this disc.

Audio

The 1951 Hollywood drama is strangely given a limited 5.1 surround mix, dating back to the 2001 DVD release. That same mix is found here in 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio. Strongly directed towards the front soundstage, there’s adequate dialogue reproduction with thinning higher frequencies. Dialogue is recessed and occasionally distant.

Don’t expect surround elements beyond a hint of the score leaking into the back channels. This is serviceable audio for a dialogue-driven drama but lackluster in most other regards. The musical score holds up in dated but perfectly reasonable fidelity.

Optional English, English SDH, German, Spanish and French subtitles appear in a white font. German, Spanish and French mono dubs are offered in 2.0 Dolby Digital.

Extras

A Place in the Sun is #22 in the Paramount Presents line, retaining the same trade dress as prior releases. Hitting Blu-ray for the first time in North America, a glossy slipcover features the original movie poster in a fold-out design. The included digital copy redeems in HDX on either iTunes or VUDU.

For owners of Paramount’s DVD, the only new special feature here is the Leonard Maltin featurette. The older DVD is now obsolete with no reason to keep it.

Commentary by George Stevens Jr and Ivan Moffat – The famed director’s son and producer Moffat give lucid insight into specific scenes despite a number of silent interludes. Articulate and informative, this is a focused discussion which leaves listeners wishing for more.

George Stevens And His Place in the Sun (22:22 in SD) – A lively 2001 featurette looking back at the movie’s production history and reception. Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters both appear in then-new interview clips.

George Stevens: The Filmmakers Who Knew Him (45:28 in SD) – Another 2001 featurette with a series of interviews by a litany of Hollywood names recalling Stevens and their experiences with the famed producer and director. Names include Warren Beatty, Frank Capra, Alan Pakula and Joseph Mankiewicz among others. I believe this is leftover footage taken from the documentary on George Stevens by his son.

Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on A Place In The Sun (07:35 in HD) – Maltin continues his solid work for the Paramount Presents line with this brief snapshot and overview of Stevens’ acclaimed film. There’s little here that will be new to fans but the concise summary serves as excellent background for newcomers.

A Place In The Sun Theatrical Trailer (02:39 in SD)

Shane Theatrical Trailer (02:03 in HD)

Sunset Boulevard Theatrical Trailer (03:15 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

A Place in the Sun
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

A classic of American cinema, George Stevens’ searing drama starring a young Elizabeth Taylor and dashing Montgomery Clift remains one of the silver screen’s most tragic romances.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 60 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: