The Story (continued)
A Place in the Sun (1951)
The 15th of the month arrives. As guests enjoy the catered, formal party at the mansion surrounded by glamorous wealth, George knows no one and immediately feels out of place as a poor boy with no innate gifts. Dressed inappropriately in a dark suit instead of black tie, he takes refuge away from the other guests by himself at the pool table. There, the radiant and stunning Angela in a strapless white gown discovers the skinny newcomer, in one of the film's most memorable sequences. When they first meet and share a conversation all alone together, she is intrigued by his expert pool playing and tries to draw him out:
Angela: I see you had a misspent youth.
George: Yes, it was.
Angela: (as she circles around the table toward him) Why all alone? Being exclusive? Being dramatic? Being blue?
George: I'm just fooling around. Maybe you'd like to play.
Angela: Oh, no. I'll just watch you. Go ahead.
She watches him intently and makes him nervous and self-conscious. Shy but handsome, George tells her he has seen her before, and read about her in the social columns of the newspaper - the scene moves in for larger close-ups of each of them as they become better acquainted:
Angela: You look like an Eastman. Are you one?
George. Hmm-mmm. A nephew. My name's George.
Angela: I'm Angela.
George: Vickers. I saw you here last spring.
Angela: I don't remember seeing you before.
George: No. You've been away, haven't you? Took a trip with your parents.
Angela: How did you know?
George: I read about you in the papers.
Angela: (curiously) What else do you know?
George: The usual things.
Angela: (flirtatiously) You look unusual.
George: (nervously chuckling) Hah! That's the first time anybody ever said that.
Angela: You keep pretty much to yourself, don't you?
George: Yes, sometimes.
Angela: Blue, or exclusive.
George: Well, I'm neither right now.
Their first meeting is interrupted when Charles enters and insists that he call his mother from a nearby phone at the bar and tell her about his job and recent promotion: "Have you written to her about your promotion? (To Angela) I kicked him up a notch the other day. Smart boy....Never neglect your mother, my boy." George attempts to place the call quietly, concealing his phone connection to the Bethel Independent Mission in Kansas City. When the phone rings in the mission, his poor, mission-employed, widowed, puritanical mother, Hannah (Anne Revere, who had played Taylor's mother in National Velvet (1944)) takes the call - in a room filled with needy souls and a wall hanging reading: "HOW LONG SINCE YOU'VE WRITTEN YOUR MOTHER?" Angela lingers in the background and then slowly strolls over to George's side and pops a loud champagne cork - it is surprising to his mother that he is with a girl. George's mother is relieved that her son has found some security in his life with his promotion, yet she wants him to be a good God-fearing boy: "I know you'll be a good son."
When the phone call is finished, Angela invites him to go dancing to cheer him up on his birthday:
Angela: Did you promise to be a good boy? (George grins) Not to waste your time on girls.
George: I don't waste my time.
Angela: Will she let you go out tonight? Will she let you go dancing? Come on - I'll take you there, on your birthday - blue boy.
They slow dance in each other's arms late into the evening, and are among the last remaining guests. Of course, George misses his promised birthday dinner with Alice - the camera pans across the open window of Alice's cramped, one-room rental - with a birthday cake and fancy place-setting prepared on the table. Later, he finds Alice in her room - quite a contrast to where he's been all evening - and apologizes for being three hours late: "Isn't that the limit? The party just broke up a few minutes ago." Hurt by his unexpected absence for four hours, she corrects him, sarcastically complains at him, and senses his distance:
Alice: Four hours. You must have paid him an awful lot of respects.
George: I think he's really gonna do things for me, honey. Said, 'I got my eye on you.' I think he really means it too.
Alice: That's fine. I think you could have phoned me.
George: (He turns off the radio) Yeah, I know, I know, I could have phoned.
Alice: Never mind. (She gestures) A present's waiting for you on your plate...Happy Birthday.
George: Thanks. (He looks at the gift - a fancy pen) Hey, that's wonderful. Why, I'd sure use that on my new job, huh?
Alice: (As she serves melted ice cream) Were there many young people there tonight?
George: A few, why?
Alice: ...Was your cousin Marsha there? All those other pretty girls you read about in the papers?
George: Some of them were, yes. They're not all pretty.
Alice: Was Angela Vickers?
Alice: Pretty? Did you like her very much?
George: I liked her some. Sure, she's a pretty girl. She wears nice clothes.
Alice: Why shouldn't she with all that money?
George: Honey, why do you have to keep needling me all the time?
Alice: I can't help it. I still don't see why you couldn't tell them you had another appointment.
George: Oh, I can't tell them about you. You understand the fix we're in.
Alice: Yeah, I know. If the family found out about us, we'd both be out of a job.
Alice: George? Maybe you don't want to see me so much anymore. Is that it? Maybe you don't want to see me at all now that you're head of a department.
George: You know I didn't say that. (Alice bursts into tears, and George rises to try and comfort her) Honey, don't cry.
And then George is dealt a real setback when a distressed Alice tells him that she thinks she is pregnant by him:
George, it's awful. I can't tell you now....Oh, I'm so afraid...George, I'm in trouble - real trouble, I think...Remember the first night we came here. Oh, I'm so worried.
Later in his apartment after work - where a large neon sign blinks VICKERS as a constant reminder - George telephones Alice and in a stark conversation assures her that "everything's gonna turn out all right" after he finds a doctor. Then Angela telephones - with tremendous anticipatory excitement in his voice as she invites him to go on a date to an Eastman dance. Angela drives them in her convertible. George, who has learned by now how to be appropriately attired, broods about Alice's pregnancy and asks Angela: "I was just wondering why you invited me tonight." She is excited about her future with him: "Oh, it's going to be such a wonderful summer! Do you ride?...There'll be lots of parties and dances and things like that." He is attracted by the parties, dances, cars, clothes, upper-class lifestyle, and he begins to fall madly in love with the beautiful and wealthy young socialite. Angela's parents, Anthony and Ann Vickers (Sheppard Strudwick and Frieda Inescort) are inquisitive about their daughter's newest acquaintance.
In one of the most romantic performances ever filmed, in an extended scene of their budding romance, the film captures the sensuous and electrifying romantic interplay between them at the dance. In a sensual series of full-face closeups as they dance together, he appears sullen and Angela misinterprets his mood. His inner, secretive, contemplative life holds back impenetrable thoughts and emotions. He doesn't want to spoil their nice evening by telling her about his problems, or by admitting his obsession for her:
Angela: Aren't you happy with me?
George: Happy? Trouble is, I'm too happy tonight.
Angela: You seem so strange, so deep and far away - as though you were holding something back.
George: I am.
George: I plan to. This is nice. I don't want to spoil it.
Angela: You'd better tell me.
In the sensuous scene, he finally confesses his love to Angela - the love of an ideal woman which has now been discovered in her. Breathlessly, Angela begins to confess her love for him in kind, but then becomes totally self-conscious about their surroundings and fears that everyone can read their thoughts. She panics and looks around anxiously, while hesitantly wondering if they have been overheard by others:
George: I love you. I've loved you since the first moment I saw you. I guess maybe I've even loved you before I saw you.
Angela: You're the fellow that wondered why I invited you here tonight. Well, I'll tell you why. I love...Are they watching us?
Embarrassed, she pulls him out to the balcony terrace for more privacy and replies reticently to his confession. In these powerfully-erotic moments, their enormous, extreme closeups fill the screen as they reveal innermost, heightened emotions and inflamed passions, and pledge themselves to each other. The camera witnesses their love - it swoons back and forth between their magnified faces. [This is one of the film's rare close-ups - and one of the most famous closeup images in film history.] They plan to see each other all summer by the lake on the weekends, when he isn't working:
Angela: I love you, too. It scares me. But it is a wonderful feeling.
George: It's wonderful when you're here. I can hold you. I can, I can see you. I can hold you next to me. But what's it gonna be like next week? All summer long? I'll still be just as much in love with you. You'll be gone.
Angela: But I'll be at the lake. You'll come up and see me. Oh, it's so beautiful there. You must come. I know my parents will be a problem, but you can come on the weekends when the kids from school are up there. You don't have to work weekends. That's the best time. If you don't come, I'll drive down here to see you. I'll pick you up outside the factory. You'll be my pickup. Oh, we'll arrange it somehow, whatever way we can. We'll have such wonderful times together, just the two of us.
George: I'd be the happiest person in the world.
Angela: The second happiest.
George (filled with guilt and repression, confides): Oh, Angela, if I could only tell you how much I love you, if I could only tell you all.
Angela (comforting him with a breath-taking, intimate reply, while pulling him closer to her): Tell Mama, tell Mama all.
They closely embrace and kiss passionately, caught up in an all-consuming relationship over which they have no control. This is the first of many torrid, enrapturing experiences they will have together.
But George must face reality and deal with a demanding, wearying, and desperate Alice. He takes her to Dr. Wyeland's (Ian Wolfe) office, presumably for an abortion, and waits cowardly outside across the street. [The word 'abortion' is never used in the film - it was forbidden by the Hays Code that prevailed at the time.] Because an abortion is considered shameful, Alice uses an assumed name (Mrs. Hamilton) and the pretense that she has been married for three months, but the doctor discovers the ruse and refuses to perform an abortion:
Alice: It's just like this. My husband hasn't much money. And I have to work to help pay the expenses...When I found out I was going to have a baby, we didn't see, uhm, we don't know any doctors...
Dr. Wyeland: What business is your husband in, Mrs. Hamilton?
Dr. Wyeland: Well, now that's not such a bad business. At least, they charge enough.
Alice: We can't afford...
Dr. Wyeland: (interrupting) Of course, there are free hospitals, you know.
Alice: I know. The free hospitals don't solve everything.
Dr. Wyeland: Tell me, how did you happen to come to me, anyhow?
Alice: I heard people say you were a good doctor.
Dr. Wyeland: I see. Mrs. Hamilton, when you went to the altar three months ago, you must have realized you might have to face a situation like this. (She nods) Well now, once you make up your mind to face this bravely, you'll find all these problems have a way of sorting themselves out. Medical bills, clothes. I know, my wife and I worried at first, but now we can look back and realize...
Alice: (breaking into tears) It's not like that. I'm not married. I haven't got a husband.
Dr. Wyeland: All right. That won't do any good. Where's the young man?
Alice: He deserted me. What'll I do. Somebody's gotta help me.
Dr. Wyeland: Miss Hamilton, my advice is go home and see your parents and tell them. It will be much better that way, I assure you. So if you've come here to place yourself under my professional care during your pregnancy, I'll do everything to insure your health and that of your child. On the other hand, if you've just come for (he pauses) free advice on material and financial problems which I can't help you...No, I cannot help you.
Blocked by the doctor's will, Alice sarcastically tells George: "He said he thought I ought to make a very healthy mother." Whining, Alice continues to nag George regarding marriage and demands that he do 'the right thing' by her - she wishes him to marry her so that their child will not be illegitimate. They decide that before she begins 'showing' her pregnancy, they will get married - at the end of the summer. George submits so that he can still enjoy the summer weekends with Angela. A social-climber, George attempts to stall for time, without a will of his own and incapable of taking charge of his own life:
Alice: (insisting) You just gotta marry me, family or no family, this future of yours or no future.
George: Just looking right at that, that settles everything. But we haven't got any money. When this thing comes out, I'm through. I won't even have the little job I got now.
Alice: You're just stalling.
George: I'm not! I'm, I'm trying to think of, I want to figure out some way, maybe. I was thinking. Maybe when I get my vacation, the first week in September.
Alice: Oh, all right, that's what we'll do. When you get your vacation, we'll go someplace way out of town and get married. Do you understand?
George: Yeah, I understand.
He is inwardly appalled by Alice's suggestion to go away together over his imminent vacation, to marry secretly, and probably live in poverty ever afterwards. His life is entirely composed of the demands that the women in his life make on him - Angela, his mother, and Alice. Whether he knows it or not, George's destiny has already been decided.
In his apartment, he circles the date Friday, September 1st - the planned date for their marriage at the start of his extended Labor Day weekend vacation. Hearing a radio report cautioning against accidental drownings at lake resorts over Labor Day holiday ("...so be careful. Remember it may be your turn next or the turn of those nearest and dearest to you...and if you aren't a good swimmer, don't swim from unpatrolled beaches"), an evil alternative comes into George's mind. [In his drab, cheerless room, he has decorated the wall with a print of Ophelia drowning - it is a subtle, unconscious inspiration to commit murder.] He buries his head under his pillow as the soundtrack simulates the pounding in his head.