Previously filmed in 1931 under its original title, Theodore Dreiser's bulky but brilliant novel An American Tragedy was remade in 1951 by George Stevens as A Place in the Sun. Montgomery Clift stars as George Eastman, a handsome and charming but basically aimless young man who goes to work in a factory run by a distant, wealthy relative. Feeling lonely one evening, he has a brief rendezvous with assembly-line worker Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters), but he forgets all about her when he falls for dazzling socialite Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor). Alice can't forget about him, though: she is pregnant with his child. Just when George's personal and professional futures seem assured, Alice demands that he marry her or she'll expose him to his society friends. This predicament sets in motion a chain of events that will ultimately include George's arrest and numerous other tragedies, including a vicious cross-examination by a D.A. played by future Perry Mason Raymond Burr. A huge improvement over the 1931 An American Tragedy, directed by Josef von Sternberg, A Place in the Sun softens some of the rough edges of Dreiser's naturalism, most notably in the passages pertaining to George's and Angela's romance. Even those 1951 bobbysoxers who wouldn't have been caught dead poring through the Dreiser original were mesmerized by the loving, near-erotic full facial closeups of Clift and Taylor as they pledge eternal devotion. A Place in the Sun won six Oscars, including Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Cinematography, although it lost Best Picture to An American in Paris.
by Hal Erickson synopsis