A Place In The Sun (1951) was directed by George Stevens (Giant) and starred Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, and Shelley Winters. The screenplay written by Michael Wilson and Harry Brown is based on the novel 'An American Tragedy' by Theodore Dreiser and Patrick Kearney's stage adaptation of the book.
The film opens with a solitary Montgomery Clift, his back to the camera trying to hitch a ride. After no luck, he slowly turns in a Brandoesque way toward the camera revealing his movie star good looks. Then the camera slowly closes in forcing the viewer to take notice and also establishes early on the importance of the close-up on the faces of the two stars. When Clift turns back toward the road, a white convertible drives by. The car is driven by Elizabeth Taylor. From the look on Monty's face, the viewer is made aware that seeing her has changed something in him.
Monty is delivered to the Eastman factory in a jalopy, and we soon find out that he is George Eastman, nephew of Charles Eastman, one of the most powerful men in town. He is soon invited out to the family house to discuss his uncle giving him a job. It's at the Eastman house, that he again sees the beautiful Miss Angela Vickers (Taylor).
The shy, awkward George is given a job on the factory floor, stacking and hauling away boxes of swimsuits. Over time he finds himself becoming attracted to one of the girls he works with named, Alice Tripp, though his heart still belongs to Angela. After Alice and George run into each other at a movie one night, they begin too secretly date one another, which is against company policy.
After dating for awhile the two spend a rainy night together in the room Alice rents. Soon after George is promoted by his uncle from the assembly line to a white collar position more suited for an Eastman. And with his promotion at work, comes a social promotion as well. George is invited to his first party at the Eastman house, where he again comes across the beautiful Angela Vickers. At this party George and Angela dance together all night, all the while Alice is waiting for him at her place. During the ensuing argument that happens after George arrives at Alice's four hours late, Alice reveals that she is pregnant with George's child.
Shortly after their first encounter at the Eastman party, Angela invites George to be her date at another party. As the two dance, the chemistry between them grows. Soon George reveals to Angela that he loves her and has since the first moment he saw her. At first Angela is speechless, then just before she can saw she loves him back, she turns toward the camera with glistening, passionate eyes and says, “Are they watching us?” before taking George by the hand and leading him out onto the balcony.
Then one of the most memorable moments in film history occurs. Angela and George, Liz and Monty, are alone on the balcony. She tells him, she loves him too, but it scares her. Now with the camera locked in a tight close up, alternating between their faces. Monty the male the equivalent of Liz, Liz the female equivalent of Monty, they let their passions over take them.
Even though the passionates fire of love burns between the two, George still has the harsh reality of Alice and her pregnancy to deal with, and soon the two are headed to a doctor to take care of the problem. Unfortunately for George, the doctor won't preform the procedure and Alice is now forcing George to marry her.
George runs off with Angela for a week at the lake with her family and friends. Alice sees a picture George and Angela together in the paper and goes up to the lake to confront George about his lies. George is forced to leave dinner with the Vickers to meet up with Alice after she phones George at the Vickers. When the two go to the courthouse to get married, they find it closed and an ominous feeling takes over the film. George takes Alice up to the secluded Loon Lake where they can spend the night before heading back to the courthouse in the morning.
When they get to the lake, George rents a boat from a man who deduces that George gave him a false name; the man's suspicions are aroused more when George asks him whether any other boaters are on the lake. While they are out on the lake, Alice confesses her dreams about their happy future together with their child. George takes pity on her and decides not to carry out his murderous plan. But when Alice tries to stand up in the boat, it to capsizes, and Alice who can't swim, drowns.
George swims to shore, and drives back up to the Vickers's lodge. He says nothing to anyone about having been on the lake or about what happened there. Alice's body is soon discovered and her death is treated as a homicide. George is arrested and charged with Alice's murder after witness reports place him at the seen. George's furtive actions before and after Alice's death condemn him, despite the fact that it was an accident. His denials are futile, and he is found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.
A Place In The Sun was both a critical and commercial success earning six Academy Awards including Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Director, Best Editing, Best Music, and Best Screenplay. The film was also nominated for Best Picture and Montgomery Clift and Shelley Winters were nominated for Best Leading Actor and Actress.