Maggie The Cat Said It Best: You Can’t Be Old Without Money

Netflix has been showing some old, vintage movies lately and yes, I’ve been watching most of them. There was a special line spoken by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1958 hit movie, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (click here) that peaked my attention. Based on a Broadway play written by Tennessee Williams, the dialogue between all the characters is the real star. Brutal and honest, a family fights over money. Millions of dollars that is going to be left by a rich Big Daddy played by Burl Ives, to one of his sons: Brick, played by Paul Newman or Gooper, played by Jack Carson.

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Elizabeth Taylor pleads with Paul Newman on the importance of money in old age.

In the movie, Elizabeth Taylor, playing Maggie (the cat) pleads with her alcoholic husband, Brick, played by Paul Newman, the value and the importance of doing whatever it is going to take to get Big Daddy to name him as sole inheritor of his estate. Here’s a transcript of Elizabeth Taylor’s brilliant portrayal of a once poor girl now facing a later life without any money:

MAGGIE: Brick, y’know I’ve been so God damn disgustingly poor all my life!- That’s the truth, Brick!

BRICK: I’m not sayin’ it isn’t

MAGGIE: Always had to suck up to people I couldn’t stand because they had money and I was poor as Job’s turkey. You don’t know what it’s like. Well, I’ll tell you, it’s like you would feel a thousand miles away from Echo Spring!- And had to get back to it on that broken ankle… without a crutch!

That’s how it feels to be as poor as Job’s turkey and have to suck up to relatives that you hated because they had money and all you had was a bunch of hand-me-down clothes and a few old moldy three per cent government bonds. My daddy loved his liquor, he fell in love with his liquor the same way you’ve fallen in love with Echo Spring!- And my poor Mama, having to maintain some semblance of social position, to keep appearances up, on an income of one hundred and fifty dollars a month on those old government bonds!

When I came out, the year I made my debut, I had just two evening dresses! One Mother made me from a pattern in Vogue, the other a hand-me-down from a snotty rich cousin I hated! -The dress that I married you in was my grandmother’s weddin’ gown… So that’s why I’m like a cat on a hot tin roof!

You can be young without money but you can’t be old without it. You’ve got to be old with money because to be old without it is just too awful, you’ve got to be one or the other, either young or with money, you can’t be old and without it.– That’s the truth, Brick…

Back in 1958, the author Tennessee Williams knew the value of having money in old age. It wasn’t a coincidence that he wrote Taylor’s old age money fears into her moving monologue as part of his play. People realized they needed money in old age back then and it’s even more prevalent now.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend that you do. In the end, it’s Brick’s honesty and painful, bitter reality, forced out of him by Big Daddy that finally lands him his father’s estate. Big Daddy knew he only had a few weeks to live and he never gave up hope that his alcoholic, most favored son would finally straighten out his life and be heir to his million dollar cotton business. It also was not a coincidence that father and son argue it out in the basement, filled to the ceiling with worthless, meaningless material possessions.

They don’t write movies or plays like this anymore. I guess authors think we can’t handle the truth (where have I heard that line before?)

Here’s the trailer. Don’t miss this movie.

 

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14 comments

  1. Tennessee Williams is from Columbus, Mississippi. I used to drive by his family’s home when I lived there. Love his work!

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      • It has been several years since I drove by there (I now live in Alabama and no longer live in Mississippi) but it was actually a very nice, “Victorian” styled cottage. I use that term loosely because it was not the huge, two store magnificent Victorian homes I see in small southern towns. It was more of a very well restored Victorian cottage. Still big enough, but not huge. There was a sign out front designating it as a historical site. I preferred it over the Victorian mansions. I will see if I can google a pic and then give you the link.

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  2. Yeah, there are pics of it on the internet. I did not realize that it was actually the St Paul’s rectory where he was born. Actually, I think there is another home he lived in that has the historical designation also, because this picture does not look like the home as I recall but I lived there in the late 80’s and it said it was moved to its present site in 1993. If you google Tennessee Williams childhood home in Columbus, Mississippi it will come up. The colors do not look the same but maybe I am just old with faulty memory…..lol.

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  3. I do not know if you like Eudora Welty’s writings but she attended Mississippi University for Women (the “W” as it is known by locals, in Columbus, Mississippi, and she actually lived in Jackson Mississippi in the Belhaven neighborhood. When I attended school in Jackson, I used to see her shopping at the Jitney Jungle grocery store…lol. She was rather old at that time but still did her own shopping! You can probably google her home also. It was more of what I call a Tudor (ish) and rather large. I think it was her father’s house and she inherited it.

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  4. What great symbolism or foreshadowing or something like that, that the father and son were surrounded by mountains of stuff. Says volumes, doesn’t it. As I sit in my loft surrounded by stuff and 2 kitties.

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    • Hi Leslie. It’s an excellent movie. I had no idea. We’ll probably see other things if we watch it over again a few more times.
      They didn’t have any Kitties. LOL. So your little kittens are safe. LOL!!

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