Filmsite Movie Review
A Place in the Sun (1951)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

A welcome sight and relief arrive - the appearance of a gorgeous Angela, inviting him to spend his Labor Day weekend vacation at the Vickers' lakeside summer place ("a dream palace...I'm going to end my days there") for swimming, horseback riding and powerboat waterskiing:

Angela: Oh, I've missed you so.
George: Me too. Oh, I can't tell you how much.
Angela: Oh, I have the most wonderful news, so wonderful I had to drive all the way down to tell you. Mother and Dad want you to spend your vacation with us up at the lake. (George shows concern on his face) Well you'll come, won't you?
George: (indecisively) I don't think I can.
Angela: Oh George, no. Look, this is my one chance to show you off to mother and dad. Take my word for it, I've gone to a ...
George: I promised my uncle I'd spend some time with him during my vacation.
Angela: (overjoyed) Well that's perfect. Because your aunt and uncle are both coming up on the 3rd of September. That's when you're coming.
George: Oh darling, I love you so much. So very much.
Angela: (she leans back, starry-eyed) Just think of it. We'll go swimming together, lie in the sun together, go horseback riding through the pine woods, and I'll make your breakfast for you every morning. You can sleep late. I'll bring it into you in your room.
George: And you love me.
Angela: Yes.

After making his choice between Angela and Alice, he calls his nagging girlfriend and postpones his vacation plans with her, with the excuse that it may mean a bonus at work (without telling her the real attraction). He avoids the serious issues he faces with Alice, by deciding to run off with Angela to the Vickers' summer-house:

George: Listen, Alice. Uh, I've gotta ask you a favor. Now look, don't get angry at me. I-I've got to ask you for an extra week.
Alice: I don't have to give you anything.
George: You just got to, Al. You see, the thing is, I just talked to my uncle and he wants me to come up there, up to the Bride's Lake, and spend the first week of my vacation up there with them. It's important to both of us.
Alice: Why is it important to us?
George: You see, I figure, in the way he's been talking, if I go up there, uh, he's gonna give me a bonus. It might be a lot of money, I don't know, two or three hundred dollars. We could sure use that.
Alice: Oh, all right. You go up there for a week, I'll wait here.

Alice's face on the phone dissolves into a view of the lake - another premonition - where Angela is waterskiing behind a motorboat. George enjoys his whirlwind romance with her, while Angela's parents express their concern over him and whether he'll fit in with their daughter's social circles:

Mr. Vickers: I'm not sure I approve of young Mr. Eastman. I certainly don't know what he's doing here.
Mrs. Vickers: Well I do, Tony. He's here because I invited him.
Mr. Vickers: Would you mind telling me why you encourage this?
Mrs. Vickers: Tony, you can be very unperceptive at times. Opposition only makes a boy of that type appear more attractive. I invited him because I wanted to see him set down for twenty-four hours a day among people Angela really knows. She'll see whether he belongs or not.

While on the deserted shore of Loon Lake following a freezing cold swim, Angela - wearing a black swimsuit, describes the geography surrounding the two lakes near her parent's home that are connected by a small channel - it was the location of a recent drowning:

Angela: It's in two parts with a little channel in-between. There's a crumbly old lodge down at the end of the other part, and its crumbly old boats. It's nice now. At night it's weird, especially at sundown. I've never been able to feel the same about it since the drowning.
George: What drowning?
Angela: A man and a girl last summer. Nobody knows exactly what happened. I guess their boat capsized. It was five days before they found the girl's body.
George: And the man?
Angela: They never found him. (The drums begin pounding in George's head) (A loon makes its distinctive bird call)
George: What was that?
Angela: A loon.

Angela senses George's worry again, and tries to interpret and penetrate into his inner-most world. She reassures him that he can overcome his working-class status while she eases him into a life of privilege and security. Angela intends on marrying him and wants to be his wife. Now that Angela has reciprocated George's love, he has also started to win the respect and admiration of her parents:

Angela: George, what are you thinking about?
George: Nothing. Nothing at all.
Angela: And I used to think I was complicated. Are you worried about my family?
George: Yes, I suppose I am.
Angela: Don't. I've known them intimately for several years and they're quite nice. Perhaps they are a little unused to you, but that'll come in time.
George: Suppose it doesn't?
Angela: I'd go anywhere with you.
George: You really mean that? You'd marry me?
Angela: Haven't I told you? I intend to.

Meanwhile, Alice learns of his deception and the time he has spent with Angela through a newspaper picture in the Society section, entitled "SUMMER FUN" - George is pictured in a motorboat next to Angela in a picture captioned: "Miss Angela Vickers and House Guests Take a Spin on the Lake."

On Sunday, September 3rd (the day before Labor Day), in the middle of a summer Hawaiian-theme dinner party at the Vickers' home on the lake, Charles Eastman (who has joined the Vickers for the weekend with his wife), proudly congratulates his nephew and promises more advancement:

Charles Eastman: Well, my boy, I want you to know I'm proud of you the way you've been getting on.
George: I so much wanted to make good, to justify the confidence you've shown me.
Charles Eastman: You're a young man who can meet people and that's an asset we can always use up front. I've been thinking about a place for you up there with us, in administration perhaps where I can keep an eye on you myself.

Shattering his idyllic 'place in the sun' just as he is reaching upwards toward a pinnacle of success, a furious Alice calls George from the local bus station and confronts him. She threatens to blackmail him and expose the pregnancy to his society friends, unless he joins her right away:

Alice: I'm here at the bus station...You lied to me, George, for the last time. Now I want you to come and get me.
George: It's not going to be too easy right now.
Alice: NOW!
George: Tomorrow morning.
Alice: I said NOW! If you're not here in half an hour, I'll come where you are. I'll tell them everything George, I mean it.
George: Yes, I'll leave right away. (To Mrs. Vickers) That was a friend of my mother's. She's not well...I don't know. I, uh, I ought to get home. I'll try and get a plane tonight if I can.

As he leaves, Angela jumps up from the table and inquires about where he is going, while they are serenaded by an Hawaiian group playing a mournful goodbye song:

Angela: George? How long will you be gone?
George: I don't know, darling. I just don't know.
Angela: (breathlessly) You will come back to me, won't you, as soon as you can?
George: As soon as I can.
Angela: (heartbroken) You promise?
George: I promise. (They kiss goodbye)

Tormented that he must meet Alice at the bus station, he drives away with an intense look. When they meet, she threatens negative publicity and suicide unless George promises to marry her immediately at the Warsaw County Court House:

George: Are you crazy, coming up here? Phoning me like that with my whole family listening in.
Alice: You weren't even staying with your family. You were staying with Angela Vickers. George, I'm through waiting for you. Now you're going to marry me tomorrow. Or I'll telephone the newspapers and tell them everything. (raising her voice) And I'll kill myself.
George: Don't talk like that.
Alice: You make me talk like that. Now we'll go to Warsaw in the morning and get married.
George: Let's get out of here.
Alice: I won't get out of here until you say you will. That you're gonna do it.
George: All right, come on.

But early the next morning on September 4th, because it is the Labor Day holiday, the courthouse is closed and the marriage must be postponed for another day, and George is given a reprieve from a distressed Alice: "Look Al, it's not my fault. Besides, one day more is not gonna make any difference." Desperate and tormented, and with his whole life in jeopardy, George contemplates the only course of action that will rid him of his nagging problem forever - the murder of his pregnant soon-to-be wife so that he can be free to marry Angela. He is increasingly torn between duty to the tyrannical Alice, and his heart's desire.

He plans a holiday outing with Alice - in actuality, it is an elaborate plan to go to a lodge at the deserted Loon Lake, rent a rowboat, and then push Alice overboard and drown her:

George: Say, there's a wonderful lake near here, Loon Lake, just the kind of place you've always wanted to go for a honeymoon. We could go up there. Hey, there's a lodge on it too. If you like, we could, uh, spend a day there, and then tomorrow we can come back here. Al, are you listening?...Tell you what, why don't we - let's make a holiday out of it. Everybody else is. Why don't we go get some sandwiches? Then let's have a picnic on the lake. How's that?
Alice: That sounds pretty good.
George: Look, Al, let's, let's not quarrel anymore. Let's try and make the best of it, huh?
Alice: All right, let's make the best of it.

After driving to the lake, George feigns running out of gas before reaching the lodge. They go ahead with his plan of renting a boat from a boatkeeper (Douglas Spencer) for 25 cents an hour and having their picnic out on the lake. After giving a fake name ("Gilbert Edwards"), and catching Alice from rocking the boat as she steps in, George slowly rows to a deserted, darker part of the lake (he's been told "You've got it all to yourself"). Filled with indecision and inner, debating turmoil, he shows the pressure, strain, and sweat on his face in the climactic, menacing scene. She rambles on about how happy they'll be in their future marriage - with a child. [This entire sequence resembles F.W. Murnau's silent classic Sunrise (1927).] The eerie sound of a loon is heard again. At the last crucial moment, he realizes that he cannot bring himself to carry out his plan:

Alice: It's lonely here. It's like we were the only two people left in the whole world. Maybe we are. Maybe when we get back to shore, everybody else will have disappeared. I'd like that, wouldn't you? Then we could go anywhere we wanted. We could live in the biggest house in the world. Only I'd like to live in a little house, just big enough for the two of us. Only there's gonna be more than two of us, isn't there? What's the matter, George? You look sick.
George: Nothing, well, I'm out of breath. I'm not used to rowing.
Alice: Well, rest for a while, dear. We can just drift. After all, we're not goin' anywhere....Oh, look behind ya. 'Starlight, starbright, first star I see tonight. Wish me luck, wish me light. Make my wish come true tonight.' Did you make a wish? What did you wish?
George: Nothing.
Alice: You're afraid it won't come true if you tell.
George: Al, I'm sorry that I've been so nasty to you. I didn't mean it. These things happen and you just don't stay the same. I will make it up to you. I'll stick by you.
Alice: I do love you, George.
George: We oughta get back. It's getting dark.

She attempts to comfort him - seeing the compassionate yet strained anxiety within him. The pitiful and pregnant Alice tells him she wouldn't complain about being penniless and poor in their quiet and loveless marriage - she senses how George feels about marrying her:

Alice: That old man will think we drowned. But let's drift like this for a while, huh? I'm not afraid of the dark. It's so nice. I'll tell you what I wished. I wished that you loved me again. Oh, you'll see, we'll, we'll make a go of it if we give ourselves a chance. We'll go to another town where nobody knows us. And we'll get jobs, maybe together. We'll do things together and go out together. Just like any other old married couple. Oh, George, you'll see. After a while, you'll settle down and you'll be happy and content with what you've got, instead of working yourself up all the time over things you can't have. After all, it's the little things in life that count. Sure, maybe we'll have to scrimp and save, but we'll have each other. I'm not afraid of being poor.
George: (erupting) Stop it, Al!
Alice: Why? What's the matter?
George: Just stop it! (He begins shaking and quivering.)
Alice: George - what did you think of when you saw the star? You wished that you weren't here with me, didn't you? You wished that I was someplace else where you'd never have to see me again. Didn't you? Or maybe you wished that I was dead. Is that it? Do you wish that I was dead?
George: No, I didn't. (He stands up in the rowboat, incensed at her accusation, and moves to the bow away from her.) Now, just eave me alone.
Alice: Oh, George. I know it isn't easy for you. I shouldn't have said that. (She stands up in the boat and begins walking toward him.)
George: Stay where you are.

When she gets up to embrace him, in an ironic turn, she unbalances the boat and causes it to rock and capsize. Things happen very quickly - they both fall in at the same time. [Clearly, his foot doesn't become snagged on a coil of rope - something that is conjectured later in the courtroom scene.] The scene ends in a long shot of the overturned rowboat, and transitions to a dark, blurry dissolve into the next scene. [Off-screen, Alice accidentally drowns. It is unclear whether George hesitated too long and maybe could have saved her. Was he responsible for her death? (Although he seriously considered and willed her death, he technically didn't commit the murder, it appears.)]

George scrambles to shore and collapses. In the dark, he stumbles into a campground, explaining: "I was hiking and lost - do you know where the road is?" He finds his car and returns to the Vickers home after being gone for a day and a half, where Angela in a white tennis outfit confronts him at the bar as he's pouring himself a drink:

Angela: Oh, it's been centuries...I haven't even eaten anything since you've been away, well, hardly anything. Don't go away again, George...How is your mother?
George: Much better, much better. It wasn't as serious as they thought.
Angela: Oh, I'm glad of that. (He yawns) You look very tired.
George: I didn't get much sleep. I was even a little airsick on the plane.
Angela: Oh, poor George. Anyway, I've got good news. Mother and Dad are beginning to melt. You're winning them over with your boyish charm. I think maybe they'll let us make our announcement when I come home from school at Christmas.
George: At Christmas? Let's run away.
Angela: Run away?
George: Let's run away now, right now.
Angela: Oh, but darling, we don't have to. Not the way things are going now. Oh, mother will want a big wedding, and oh, I've always dreamed of having one too for as long as I can remember. All girls do. Here now, don't start getting moody again.

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