Because I look at movies from a writer’s standpoint, I have to say that the best movie ever made, as far as I’m concerned, is Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. There is something in this movie for both writers and non-writers to love.
The first time I watched Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, and Burl Ives, I was taken by the layers of conflict involved in every scene. Little nuances such as the husband not wanting to drink after the wife to an all-out shout-fest between father and son, these all drew me in. So fascinated was I with this movie that I thought for years how great it would be to use the film to teach a writing workshop.
And I did. I called it Characters and Conflict. Then two years later, while preparing for another conference workshop, I was tempted to use it for one of the four days as a discussion on conflict. That’s when I realized that the screenplay had to have been written by someone who understood the art of fiction. Every facet of storytelling is alive in the screenplay, including how not to use back story. In fact, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is all about back story—done correctly. The audience learns the backstory in the present. There is not one cheap flashback (or information dumps). The conflict brings the past into the present in a powerful way—the way an author should present it in his books.
As I mentioned, you don’t have to be an author to enjoy the story. This film has it all. Characters you love, characters you hate; and a story that doesn’t let go of all of its secrets until the end … and a very satisfying ending it is. Oh and then there’s that dress that Elizabeth Taylor wears. For me, it is a character all its own. I have longed dreamed of owning one just like it.
And Paul Newman … who could get tired of looking at that man’s blue eyes?
Yes, there’s something for everyone in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
|Fay Lamb Author, Editor, Writing Coach|