At the censors’ insistence, Williams’ Pulitzer Prize–winning drama — about an impotent ex-college football star with the punishingly ironic name of Brick (Newman) and his simmering, frustrated wife Maggie (Taylor) — was shorn of its homoerotic melancholy and given a hopeful ending. The play wasn’t denuded, exactly; instead, it was turned into the story of a married couple locked in frustration (hers) and hatred (his).
Scorn was one of Newman’s prime rhetorical gifts, and here he got to deliver dialogue in spit-takes, as if he’d just realized someone had laced his whiskey bottle with urine. “How in hell on earth can you imagine you’re gonna have a child with a man who cannot stand you?” Brick asks Maggie, who acknowledges that their marriage has disintegrated into a rancorous formality — “I’m not living with you! We occupy the same cage, that’s all” — but still loves the guy. She has to; he’s Paul Newman. And he must finally satisfy her; she’s Liz Taylor. That was the battle that ’50s Hollywood waged with its own teetering standards.
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