Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

In director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's melodramatic and lurid adaptation of Tennessee Williams' 1958 play and Gore Vidal's screen adaptation (toned down due to allusions to homosexuality, cannibalism, pedophilia, and incest):

  • Mrs. Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn), a prominent, rich and elegant Southern belle widow in New Orleans, descended in an elevator into the lobby of her Byzantine-decorated front lobby to speak to Dr. Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) about her foundation's financial gift to the state hospital, in exchange for the promise of a lobotomy to be performed on her institutionalized niece, New Orleans debutante Catherine Holly (Elizabeth Taylor)

Mrs. Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn) Descending in Her Elevator

Dr. Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) Meeting with Mrs. Venable

In the Garden, Mrs. Venable's Description of Catherine's Madness
  • as she toured through her deceased, idolized son Sebastian's outdoor primordial jungle with the doctor, Violet kept hinting about the circumstances of his death (in Catherine's presence in Spain), and how Catherine's "obscene babbling" and lies about her son needed to be silenced by a lobotomizing brain surgery
  • Mrs. Venable recalled an earlier trip to the Galapagos Islands (Encantadas) with Sebastian as they witnessed the horrible devouring of newly-hatched young sea turtles by black vultures in the sky, as they dangerously navigated their way back to the sea
  • Mrs. Grace Holly (Mercedes McCambridge), Catherine's avaricious mother, and Catherine's brother George Holly (Gary Raymond) arrived to follow through on Aunt Violet's generous offer to gather up Sebastian's clothes and wardrobe for the college-bound George
  • Catherine described for Dr. Cukrowicz her recollections of a Mardi Gras ballroom incident in which she 'lost her honor' with a married man (who admitted his wife was pregnant); it was the first time that Sebastian noted the power of Catherine's attractiveness
  • after being transferred by Dr. Cukrowicz to Lions View (with the implicit understanding that her transfer was in exchange for submitting to a lobotomy), she was visited by her mother and brother, who were there to have Catherine sign papers (demanded by Violet) so they could receive $100,000 in inheritance money - of course, Catherine was horrified and refused
  • in a stunning scene, the hospitalized Catherine walked across a catwalk in Lions View, where other 'crazed' male inmates reached out to touch her legs from below
From Below a Catwalk, Institutionalized Male Inmates Reached Out for Catherine's Legs as She Screamed in Horror
  • in the concluding scene set in the Venable home's jungle-garden, there were impressionistic flashbacks of Catherine's recounting of her day at the beach the previous summer in Spain (Cabeza de Lobo), after her homosexual cousin Sebastian (unseen fully in the film) had bought her a white one-piece bathing suit that became transparent when wet - deliberately used to lure in males for his own pleasure
Catherine's Alluring One-Piece White Bathing Suit
The Cannibalistic Murder of Sebastian by Spanish Youths
  • Catherine continued by delivering a climactic monologue and accounting of a surreal murder scene - a horrifying incident (cannibalistic homicide by ravenous Spanish youths) after Sebastian was chased up a steep set of streets to the ruins of an ancient stone temple where he was ravaged by the young boys (who was assumed to be seeking revenge after being exploited by Sebastian for homosexual encounters)
  • in the film's conclusion, Mrs. Venable became delusional while Catherine was cured and spared from being further institutionalized and lobotomized

Violet's Horrifying Recollection of Newly-Hatched Sea Turtles Devoured by Birds

Catherine's Mother Mrs. Grace Holly (Mercedes McCambridge)

Catherine Holly (Elizabeth Taylor) - in St. Mary's Before Her Transfer

Catherine's Fragmented Recollections of Her Last Summer Beach Trip with Sebastian

Mrs. Holly and George Visiting Catherine at Lions View

Catherine: Spinning Her Final Climactic Tale About Sebastian

The Murder of Sebastian

Catherine: Cured and Spared from a Lobotomy


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