When George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) arrives in town, he doesn’t seem to have much compared to his rich uncle who owns a large factory. The whole Eastman family seems very high class compared to simple young George. His uncle gives him a job in the factory and as his cousin goes over a few rules one seems extra important: don’t get involved with any of the women. All the Eastman men should keep a respectable business distance with the working class so they can be more social at their high class parties.
Well, poor George seems a little lonely at the end of his conveyor belt and doesn’t get out much. When he runs into a coworker at the movies, Alice (Shelley Winters), they hit it off real quick. Maybe it’s the forbidden fruit idea, maybe it’s the loneliness, but George and Alice start dating, knowing that they can’t let anyone at work know or they’ll both be fired.
Just when things have heated up with Alice, George is finally invited to one of his uncles fancy parties. But George isn’t all that social, so he sneaks off to the pool table and meets Angela (Elizabeth Taylor). She’s young, flirty, much more exciting and prettier than dull old Alice. Besides, she’s within the approved circle of dating for George. So they have a romantic evening of dancing that goes on later than George meant to. Of course, this party conflicts with a special dinner Alice has prepared where she breaks shocking news to George: she’s pregnant.
Well sucks to be George. How can he support Alice and still keep up appearances with Angela? Sooner or later he’ll have to chose which girl to stay with but how can he get rid of the other? It’s exciting to watch George live a double life for a while and when his decision is made, watching him deal with the consequences, well let’s just say there are a lot of consequences.
There are some great suspenseful moments in the second half of the film. We hold our breath at times when George’s entire family is just inches away from learning about Alice. The rowboat scene is a great nail-biter that keeps you guessing until the end.
The film tries to milk the secret remorse as long as it can. George must suffer on his own while his mind won’t let go of what he’s done. Though I sincerely enjoyed the film, it’s more tragic than entertaining. The whole film feels like it finds more and more opportunities to rake George over some hot coals. After a while, that lost its pizzazz.
“You’re an Eastman and expected to act accordingly.”