Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is the story of a family that stands at a critical turning point. "Big Daddy" (the Academy Award nominated role for Burl Ives), the father of the family is diagnosed with cancer and his two sons arrive for a celebrating of his birthday party. The elder married with a stereotypical breeding machine of a wife with four (or five, can't recall how many) kids and another one in the making, the younger Brick Pollitt (Newman) married to Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor) and 'on the rocks' with each other. Big Daddy and Big Momma are both kept in the dark by the doctor about Big Daddy's terminal cancer and the celebrations of his birthday proceed as normal. The overall twist is the money Big Daddy shall leave behind after him which the elder son, Cooper (Jack Carson) along with is wife, are deeply interested in. Brick however has no interest in anything whatsoever, including his wife, his father's estate and his teeming alcoholism.
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: We've still got one thing on our side. No, two things. Are my seams straight? Big Daddy dotes on you, Brick. He can't stand Brother Man and Brother Man's wife. That fertility monster, she's downright odious to him, I can tell. That's the second thing we've got on our side. He likes me. The way he looks me up and down and over, he's still got an eye for girls.
Brick Pollitt: That kind of talk is disgusting.
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Did anybody ever tell you you're a back-aching Puritan, Brick? I think it's a fine thing that a man on the doorstep of death can still look at a woman like me with what I call deserved appreciation.
Brick's story is only half tragic. He is an alcoholic ex-football player who has lost his will to live after the suicide of his close friend "Skipper" whom he accuses Maggie to have had an affair with. Maggie tries to talk to Brick about it but he does not want to discuss anything since his loss of faith in most things in life after Skipper, including Maggie and her love for him. Maggie, desperate for his attention, tries to seduce him, reason with him, yell at him in coming back to her and having her talk over the matter to no avail, is frustrated with her situation but continues to plow at it with all her might.
Brick Pollitt: What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof?The truth of the story isn't in Brick and Maggie's marriage however. It lies deeper and interconnects all of the Pollitt family. Cooper's dissatisfaction in finding him always second-best even when he has complied to each and every wish of his father from career to personal choices. Mae's persistence in showing just how perfect she is in producing heirs and thus deserving for a fair share of the estate. Big Momma's deniail that works with everything, her love of her husband and the family. Maggie's troubled and one-sided relationship with her husband. Brick's unique bond with his father that somehow includes estrangement and resentment as a key factor. Big Daddy's intervention that somewhat clears the air between Brick and Maggie. Big Daddy's own fight against life, against circumstance. These themes are powerful, universal attractors. They rivet in the watcher as he/she sees relationships strayed around all over the place instead of the cohesive whole that you expect a family to be. What's more important is how it starts from the opposite end: from dilapidated ties to a stronger bond.
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Just staying on it I guess, long as she can.
Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: - It's easin' somewhat now. When you got pain, it's better to judge yourself of a lot of things. I'm not gonna stupify myself with that stuff. I wanna think clear. I want to see everything, and I want to feel everything. Then I won't mind goin'. I've got the guts to die. What I want to know - do you have the guts to live?So this movie has done a number of things that are good. It's got my faith back in some things. It's made me a Paul Newman fan. And it has put a smile on my face again. Granted not as big as one as Wall-E. But a smile nonetheless.
Brick Pollitt: I don't know.
Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: We can start by helping each other up this stairs.