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Theatre: Suddenly Last Summer

My son, Sebastian and I constructed our days. Each day we would carve each day like a piece of sculpture, leaving behind us a trail of days like a gallery of sculpture until suddenly, last summer.
-Violet Venable

Suddenly, Last Summer was originally a 1958 one act play written by Tennessee Williams. The play is very simple in its structure. It consists of two monologues, one by Catharine and the other by her aunt Violet, concerning the death of Sebastian during the passed summer.

In 1959, it was made into a film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn and Montgomery Clift. The movie expands the story and plot quite a bit. Dr. John Cukrowicz (Clift) is a brain surgeon who specializes in lobotomies and has been recently hired at the State hospital to perform his procedures on patients. However, because the equipment and operating conditions are very poor, he is having a difficult time fulfilling his duties. A wealthy widow named Violet Venable (Hepburn) offers to fund the hospital so that it can build a new wing. But, there is one condition: he must perform a lobotomy on her niece Catherine Holly (Taylor).

Catherine is currently in a mental hospital after returning from a disastrous trip in Europe with her cousin Sebastian. Their trip in the summer had ended rather badly with the death of Sebastian. Catherine, who is suffering from dementia, cannot remember exactly how he died. But, she knows a dark secret about him that Violet wants to keep hidden away.


Tropes used in Suddenly Last Summer:

  • Alliterative Name: Violet Venable.
  • Arc Words: "...Suddenly, last summer..."
  • Bowdlerize: The movie screenplay was carefully scrubbed of any overt mention of homosexuality or cannibalism.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Violet. She seems to be living in a rather idealized world view of her and Sebastian when he was alive. She later regresses into that world after The Reveal. She even goes on to call Dr. Cukrowicz "Sebastian" after she remarked how similar they looked earlier.
  • Color Motif: the color white is associated with danger and death. For example, white is Sebastian's favorite color, he was wearing a white suit when he died and Catherine describes the day Sebastian died as being "white-hot".
  • Depraved Homosexual: Sebastian. His trips every summer are not just writing for poetry. He uses his mother, later Catherine, as bait to attract local boys and young men so that they will have sex with him.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: What happens to Violet when she learns the truth surrounding Sebastian's death.
  • Heroic BSOD: Catherine goes through one after she is raped and then another one after after she witnesses her cousin death at the hands of cannibals. And all of this before the movie even begins.
  • I Am A Humanitarian: Sebastian is killed being beaten and eaten by a large crowd of poor island boys.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Catherine's suicide attempt at the hospital after her meeting with Violet.
  • Lobotomy: Violet wants Dr. Cukrowitz to perform one on Catherine.
  • Parental Incest: It is hinted that Violet's love for Sebastian was more than familial.
  • Rape as Drama: Implied to be what happened to Catherine at the Dueling Oaks.
  • Third-Person Person: After the traumatic experience, Catherine started writing her diary in the third person.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Cathy goes through before and during the movie beginning with her rape at the Dueling Oaks. Things seem to be looking up when her cousin, Sebastian, takes her with him on a to Europe only to discover that that he was using her lure men in order to proposition sex from them and then witnessing that same cousin get beaten and eaten alive by enraged village boys, the same ones he used for sex. She has a nervous breakdown and is confined to a mental institute, only to once again be sexually assaulted by one of the male personnel. When she tells the sisters, they don't believe her and instead believe she was the one who tried to seduce him. Then she gets transferred to a state hospital where she discovers that her mother and brother are planning to have her committed and eventually lobotimized in order to collect her cousin's inheritance from her aunt. And the doctor whom she is just beginning to trust and develop feelings for? He's the one who is going to perform the lobotomy. All so her aunt could conceal the sordid truth about her son's personal life. Yeah, it really sucks to be Cathy.
  • Truth Serums: Dr. Cukrowicz uses one on Catherine so she remembers what happened to Sebastian.
  • Vapor Wear: The infamous white swimsuit that Catherine is forced by Sebastian to wear.
  • What Beautiful Eyes: Both Catherine and Violet comment on how lovely and blue Dr.Cukrowicz's eyes are.
  • Yandere: Violet for her son, Sebastian. She is jealous and resentful of her neice when he elects to take her with him for the summer, instead of his mother whom he previously traveled with. And she is ready to have Catherine lobotimized in order to protect her son's seedy, personal life.

Steel MagnoliasTheatrical ProductionsTachyon Drift
SterneFilms of the 1950sTeenagers from Outer Space

alternative title(s): Suddenly Last Summer
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