Academy Award winners Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman star in the classic screen adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
As the family of a wealthy Southern patriarch (Burl Ives–The Big Country) informs his children that he is dying of cancer, lies and secrets surface that threaten to rip the family apart. The doctors say the growing cancer is in remission. One self-seeking son claims to love his father. And favorite son, Brick (Newman–Road to Perdition), drinks, won’t have sex with the beautiful wife (Taylor–Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) who adores him . . . and refuses to honestly confront the reason why.
More on Paul Newman (courtesy of Biography.com):
Newman made his Broadway debut in William Inge’s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy Picnic in 1953. During rehearsals he met actress Joanne Woodward, who was serving as an understudy for the production. While they were reportedly attracted to each other, the happily-married Newman did not pursue a romantic relationship with the young actress.
Around this time, Newman and his wife welcomed their second child together, a daughter named Susan. Picnic ran for 14 months, helping Newman support his growing family. He also found work on the then-emerging medium of television.
In 1954, Paul Newman made his film debut in “The Silver Chalice” for which he received terrible reviews. He had better success on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning The “Desperate Hours” (1955), in which he played an escaped convict who terrorizes a suburban family. During the run of the hit play, he and his wife added a third child — a daughter named Stephanie — to their family.
A winning turn on television helped pave the way for Newman’s return to Hollywood. Working with director Arthur Penn, he appeared in an episode of Philco Playhouse, “The Death of Billy the Kid,” written by Gore Vidal. Newman teamed up with Penn again for an episode of “Playwrights ’56” for a story about a worn-down and battered boxer. Two projects became feature films: “Somebody Up There Likes Me” (1956) and “The Left-Handed Gun” (1958).
In “Somebody Up There Likes Me” (1956), Newman again played a boxer. This time he took on the role of real-life prizefighter Rocky Graziano — and demonstrated his considered acting talents to movie-goers and critics alike. His reputation was further magnified with Penn’s “The Left-Handed Gun,” an adaptation of Gore Vidal’s earlier teleplay about Billy the Kid.
That same year, Paul Newman starred as Brick in the film version of Tennessee Williams’ play, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1958), opposite Elizabeth Taylor. He gave another strong performance as a hard-drinking former athlete and disinterested husband who struggles against different types of pressures exerted on him by his wife (Taylor) and his overpowering father (Burl Ives). Once dismissed as just another handsome face, Newman showed that he could handle the challenges of such a complex character. He was nominated for his first Academy Award for this role.