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"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof": Son Rejects Father's Materialism

The film Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, with Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor, is based on Tennessee Williams's play about a wealthy dying patriarch named Big Daddy. While his children and in-laws squabble about the family inheritance, Big Daddy and his second son, Brick, try to come to terms with his failed fathering and his misplaced priorities.

In the basement of their family home, Big Daddy (Burl Ives) and Brick (Paul Newman) talk honestly among the clutter of discarded paintings, sculptures, and boxes of family heirlooms. Big Daddy looks around the room and says, "You know what I'm going to do before I die? I'm going to open up all these boxes." He tells Brick his wife bought most of the stuff during a trip they took years ago in Europe. He boasts he's worth ten million dollars in cash and blue chip stocks; not to mention, he owns 28,000 acres of prime land.

Brick says in a cynical tone, "Well, that is pretty rich to be."

Big Daddy removes the cobwebs from an old clock and says, "There's one thing you can't buy in a fire sale or any other market on earth. That's your life. Can't buy back your life when it's finished."

Brick wonders why Big Daddy allowed Big Momma to buy all the stuff. Big Daddy, picking up an old suitcase, answers, "The human animal is a beast that eventually has to die. If he's got money, he buys, and he buys, and he buys. The reason why he buys everything he can is because of the crazy hope that one of the things he buys will be life everlasting."

Big Daddy then asks his son why he never came to him when he wanted something, why he didn't lean on the people who loved him. He angrily asks, "What was there that you wanted that I didn't buy for you?"

Brick, raising his voice in anger, interrupts, "You can't buy love! You bought yourself a million dollars worth of junk! Look at it! Does it love you?"

Big Daddy, equally angry, answers, "Who do you think I bought it for? Me? It's yours! The place. The money. Every rotten thing is yours!"

Brick answers, "I don't want things!" He pushes a sculpture and large vase to the floor. With a steel rod Brick continues smashing things, including a life-sized photograph of himself in a football uniform. He laments, "Worthless. Worthless. Worthless." He stops smashing things and breaks down crying.

Big Daddy pleads with Brick to stop crying. A moment later Brick stops and says, "Can't you understand? I never wanted your place, or money, or to own anything. All I wanted was a father, not a boss. I wanted you to love me."

Elapsed time: Measured from the beginning of the opening credit, this scene begins at 01:28:55 and ends at 01:33:04.

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