One of the top-ten box office hits of 1958, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was directed by Richard Brooks and stars Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Burl Ives and was nominated for 6 Oscars. Newman, Taylor & Brooks were all nominated.
Elvis Presley was offered Paul Newman’s role of Brick in the film but turned it down.
It was originally to be filmed in black and white, the standard practice with "artistic" films in the 1950s.
But once Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor were cast in the leads, director Richard Brooks insisted on shooting in color, because of the striking color of the co-stars’ eyes.
Due to a musician’s union strike, the movie lacks a traditional musical score, composed especially for the picture. Most of the music, including the main theme, was originally written for another MGM movie.
Elizabeth Taylor was 26 when this movie was made, and it was her 26th movie.
Right after production began in February of 1958, Taylor came down with a virus and had to cancel her plans to fly to New York with her husband Mike Todd, where he was going to be honored by the New York Friars'Club.
The plane crashed and Todd and everyone aboard was killed. A month later, a grief-stricken but determined Taylor returned to the set.
Elizabeth Taylor also had a rare genetic mutation.
She was widely known for her violet eyes - but her eyes were actually a deep blue that appeared purple when enhanced by lighting and makeup. While she might not have had actual purple eyes, they were still gorgeous and highlighted by a thick fringe of eyelashes.
According to her biographer, when she was born, Taylor's parents were told that their newborn daughter had a mutation: her eyes had double rows of eyelashes. The eyelash mutation isn't always so cosmetically pleasing and sometimes the extra eyelashes can grow inward and damage the eyes.
And, 7 percent of people with the mutation also suffer from congenital heart disease. Taylor's death was attributed to congestive heart failure, possibly linked to her eyelash mutation.
Director Richard Brooks started out as a sports reporter at several newspapers and then moved into radio in New York. He was a staff writer at NBC in the 1930s before becoming a director.
Brooks won his only Oscar in 1960 for his screenplay for Elmer Gantry, although he was nominated for the films Blackboard Jungle, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Professionals, and In Cold Blood. His last major project was Looking for Mr. Goodbar, with Diane Keaton.
Madeleine Sherwood, playing Mae Flynn Pollitt, may be best remembered as Reverend Mother to Sally Field's Sister Bertrille in TV's The Flying Nun from 1967-1970.
She was blacklisted during the McCarthy era and during the civil rights movement, she met and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. She was arrested in Alabama during a Freedom Walk and her lawyer, a man named Fred Grey, was the first African-American lawyer to ever represent a white woman south of the Mason–Dixon Line.
But he didn’t do too well, because Ms. Sherwood was convicted and sentenced to six months for "Endangering the Customs and Mores of the People of Alabama".
Jack Carson, Gooper in this film, was one of the most popular character actors during the 'golden age of Hollywood'. He started out in vaudeville then went to radio and finally Hollywood and the movies.
He was known for his famous double-take and would often play the nice guy with a heart of gold, who was still a nice guy even when he lost the girl, which he usually did.
During WW II, he volunteered to join the U.S. Army Air Corps but was rejected due to his height (he was 6’2”) and he was turned down by the Army because he had flat feet. He ended up entertaining the troops with the USO.
After the war, he went back to acting but would often disappear from Hollywood for weeks at a time.
Years later Carson revealed his secret: he had joined the Clyde Beatty circus as a clown and would travel with the show. Audiences never knew it was him but he said; "They loved me and my routines."
Big Daddy’s doctor is played by Larry Gates, who soap opera fans may recognize from his long-running role as H. B. Lewis on TV's Guiding Light, for which he received an Emmy. His other film roles included parts in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Death of a Gunfighter and The Sand Pebbles.
Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives, Big Daddy, was an actor, writer and folk singer. After dropping out of college, he traveled around the U.S. as a wandering singer during the early 1930s, earning his way by doing odd jobs and playing the banjo. He was once picked up in Utah and jailed for singing a folk song called Foggy Foggy Dew, that the cops decided was obscene.
In 1940, Ives began his own radio show and over the next decade, he became very popular as a folk singer. His first film appearance was in 1946 and he won an Oscar in 1958 for his role in The Big Country.
1950, Ives was identified and blacklisted as an entertainer with supposed Communist ties. He cooperated with the House Un-American Activities Committee and testified that he was not a Communist but he had attended various union meetings with fellow folk singer Pete Seeger simply to stay in touch with working people.
His statement ended his blacklisting and allowed him to continue acting, but it also led to a bitter split between Ives and many folk singers, including Seeger. They accused him of betraying them to save his own career - it took 41 years before Ives reconciled with Seeger.
Ives' A Holly Jolly Christmas and Silver and Gold are now considered Christmas standards after they were first featured in the 1964 animated special Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The yearly rebroadcast of the popular seasonal special has forever linked Ives to the Christmas season.
In 1990, sixty years after dropping out of what is now Eastern Illinois University, the school named a building after its most famous dropout.
Before he became an actor, Paul Leonard Newman ran the family sporting goods store in Cleveland, Ohio. In WW II, he was the rear gunner of a torpedo bomber - he couldn’t be a pilot because he was color blind.
He made his film debut in 1954, in the awful costume drama, The Silver Chalice.
Newman was so embarrassed by his part in the film that he took out an ad in Variety apologizing for his performance.
He was an actor, director, entrepreneur, humanitarian, race car driver and auto racing enthusiast. He won numerous awards, including an Academy Award for Best Actor and 8 other Oscar nominations, 3 Golden Globe Awards, a Screen ActorsGuild Award, a Cannes Film Festival Award, an Emmy, and many honorary awards.
Newman was also a co-founder of Newman's Own, a food company which donates all profits and royalties to charity which, to date, have exceeded $300 million.
His last screen appearance was as a mob boss in the 2002 film Road to Perdition, although he continued to provide voice work for films.
Oddly enough, his last movie, the animated feature Cars from 2006, was the highest-grossing film of his career.