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Brick, an alcoholic ex-football player, drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife, Maggie. His reunion with his father, Big Daddy, who is dying of cancer, jogs a host of memories and revelations for both father and son.
Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: I've got the guts to die. What I want to know is, have you got the guts to live?
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Thank you for keeping still, for backing me up in my lie. Brick Pollitt: Maggie, we're through with lies and liars in this house. Lock the door.
Dixie Pollitt: Why is Uncle Brick on the floor? Brick Pollitt: Because I tried to kill your Aunt Maggie. But I failed. And I fell.
Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: This was what my father left me, this lousy old suitcase! And on the inside was nothing, nothing but his uniform from the Spanish-American war. That was his legacy to me! Nothing at all! And I built this place from nothing. Brick Pollitt: That was all he left you? Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: He was a hobo, the best-known tramp on the boxcar circuit. He'd worked once in awhile as a field hand, and I'd tag along. Sat on my bare bottom in the dirt, waiting for him. Outside of hunger, the first thing I remember is shame. I was ashamed of that miserable old tramp. I was riding boxcars with him when I was nine, something you never had to do. You'll never have to bury me the way I buried him. I buried him in a meadow alongside a railroad track. He was running to catch a freight and his heart give out. You know something? That old tramp died laughing. Brick Pollitt: Laughing at what? Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Himself, I guess. Old hobo tramp, not a nickel to his name, no future, no past. Brick Pollitt: Maybe he was laughing because he was happy. Happy at having you with him. He took you everywhere. He kept you with him. Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: I don't want to talk about that. [pause] Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Yeah, I loved him. I reckon I never loved anything as much as that lousy old tramp. Brick Pollitt: And you say he left you nothing but a suitcase with a uniform in it? Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: And some memories. Brick Pollitt: And love.
Brick Pollitt: What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof? Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Just staying on it I guess, long as she can.
Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: There ain't nothin' more powerful than the odor of mendacity!
Dr. Baugh: Sometimes I wish I had a pill to make people disappear.
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Maggie the cat is alive. I'm alive.
Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: What's that smell in this room? Didn't you notice it, Brick? Didn't you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room?
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Look, Mama, he's wearing Brick's birthday present. I haven't given you my present yet, but I will now. I have an announcement to make. Mae Pollitt: What kind of an announcement? Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: An announcement of life beginning. A child is coming, sired by Brick out of Maggie the cat. I have Brick's child in my body, and that is my present to you. Mae Pollitt: Did you ever in all your born days hear such a bold-faced lie? Gooper Pollitt: Shut up. Ida 'Big Momma' Pollitt: [kissing Maggie] Thank you. Thank you very much. Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Yes indeed, this girl has life in her body. And that's no lie. Gooper, I want to talk to my lawyer in the morning. Brick? Brick Pollitt: Yes, Big Daddy? Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: I'm going to go out and look this place over before I give it up. The place and the people on it.
Brick Pollitt: A family crisis brings out the best and the worst in every member of the family. Gooper Pollitt: That's the truth. Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Amen. Mae Pollitt: You want to talk about the truth? You're not pregnant! Gooper Pollitt: Keep still, Mae. Mae Pollitt: She's making it up! Gooper Pollitt: I said shut up. Mae Pollitt: Don't you try to kid us, Maggie! Brick Pollitt: Mae, she's not kidding you. Mae Pollitt: How can she be pregnant by you when you won't even... Gooper Pollitt: Mae, will you be quiet! Mae Pollitt: We occupy the next room and the walls between aren't soundproof. We hear the nightly pleadings and the nightly refusals! Brick Pollitt: Not everybody makes as much noise about love as you do. Mae Pollitt: Brick, I never thought you would stoop to her level! Brick Pollitt: You heard what Big Daddy said. That girl's got life in her body. Mae Pollitt: That's a lie!
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Stop that, ya little no-neck monster!
Brick Pollitt: [Offering Big Daddy morphine] It'll kill the pain, that's all. Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: [Wincing with pain] It'll kill the senses too! You... you got pain - at least you know you're alive. [groans] Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Brick Pollitt: I don't know. Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: We can start by helping each other up this stairs.
Ida 'Big Momma' Pollitt: I'm talking in Big Daddy's languge now. I'm his wife, not his widow. I'm still his wif! Gooper Pollitt: What we've got here... Mae Pollitt: What Gooper's saying is just a plan, a basis. Ida 'Big Momma' Pollitt: I'll tell you what your plan is. Margaret, what is it Big Daddy always says when he's disgusted? Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: He says bull when he's disgusted. Ida 'Big Momma' Pollitt: Yes, that's right. I say bull too, like Big Daddy. Mae Pollitt: Well, coarse language don't seem called for to me. Ida 'Big Momma' Pollitt: Bull!
Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Why did you and Brick suddenly decide to drive up from New Orleans? Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: For your birthday, what else? Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: I had a birthday last year and the year before that. Didn't see you then. Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Well, you know how Brick is sometimes. Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Maybe he thought he'd be coming to my funeral, instead of my birthday. Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: But Brick loves you! He does! Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: But does he love you? Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: What do you want, proof? Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: If I was married to you three years, you'd have the living proof. You'd have three kids already and a fourth in the oven.
Brick Pollitt: Careful Maggie, your claws are showing.
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: This is a deliberate campaign to ruin Brick! Mae Pollitt: He don't need no help. Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: [crying] And for the most sordid reasons on earth! Greed! Avarice and greed! Ida 'Big Momma' Pollitt: Margaret, darling, don't cry. Mae Pollitt: Well, that takes the cake! Who are the tears for? Brick? Big Daddy? Or are they for yourself? Are you crying cause you're childless? You know why she's got no kids? Ask her big, beautiful husband! Gooper Pollitt: Mae!
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: You know what I feel like? I feel all the time like a cat on a hot tin roof. Brick Pollitt: Then jump off the roof, Maggie. Jump off it. Cats jump off roofs and land uninjured. Do it. Jump. Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Jump where? Into what?
Ida 'Big Momma' Pollitt: When marriage goes on the rocks, the rocks are there. Right there!
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: You can be young without money, but you can't be old without it.
Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: So you bought me a birthday present, huh? Brick Pollitt: No sir, Maggie bought it. Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: She's got good taste, that girl. Brick Pollitt: In some things, yes, but not in men.
Gooper Pollitt: I don't give a damn whether Big Daddy likes me, or don't likes me. Or did or never did. Or will or will never.
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Did the storm cause any damage, Big Daddy? Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Which storm you talking about, the one on the outside or the hullabaloo I heard going on in here? Heard some mighty loud talking. What's the powwow about? Mae Pollitt: Nothing, Big Daddy, nothing at all. Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: What's in them important-looking documents you got there, Gooper? Gooper Pollitt: Nothing, sir, nothing much of anything at all.
Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: I'm gonna pick me a choice woman and I'm gonna smother her in minks and choke her with diamonds. Boy, I'm gonna be happy.
Brick Pollitt: Why'd you let Mama buy all this stuff? Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: The human animal is a beast that must die. If he's got money, he buys and buys and buys everything he can, in the crazy hope one of those things will be life-everlasting, which it can never be. I've suddenly noticed you don't call me Big Daddy anymore. If you needed a big daddy, why didn't you come to me? If you needed someone to lean on, why Skipper? Why not me? I'm your father! Why didn't you come to your kinfolk, the people that love you? Brick Pollitt: You don't know what love means! To you, it's just another four-letter word. Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: You've got a mighty short memory! What was there you ever wanted that I didn't buy? Brick Pollitt: You can't buy love! Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Who do you think I bought it for? It's yours! The place, the money, everything's yours! Brick Pollitt: I don't want things!
Brick Pollitt: I'm ashamed, Big Daddy. That's why I'm a drunk. When I'm drunk, I can stand myself. Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: But it's always there in the mornin', ain't it? The truth and it's here right now! [They run outside into the rain] Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: You're just feeling sorry for yourself; that's all it is! Self-pity! [Inside the carport] Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: You didn't kill Skipper. He killed himself. You and Skipper and millions like you are living in a kids' world. Playing games, touchdowns, no worries, no responsibilities. Life ain't no damn football game. Life ain't just a buncha high spots. [He grabs Brick] Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: You're a thirty-year-old kid. Soon you'll be a fifty-year-old kid. Pretendin' you're hearin' cheers when there ain't any. Dreamin' and drinkin' your life away. Heroes in the real world live twenty-four hours a day, not just two hours in a game. Mendacity! You won't... [winces in obvious pain] Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: You won't live with mendacity? Well, you're an expert at it! The truth is pain and sweat and payin' bills and makin' love to a woman that you don't love any more. Truth is dreams that don't come true, and nobody prints your name in the paper 'til you die.
Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Let's go home. Ida 'Big Momma' Pollitt: Don't you want to ride with the children, honey? Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: No! Ida 'Big Momma' Pollitt: [laughing] He's his sassy old self again, all right! Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Be quiet, woman!
Brick Pollitt: People like doing what they used to do, after they've stopped being able to do it.
Brick Pollitt: But, how in hell on earth can you imagine you're gonna have a child with a man who cannot stand you.
Gooper Pollitt: The point is I won't see this place run into the ground by a drunken ex-football hero. Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: You shut up about my husband! Mae Pollitt: You shut up!
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: [to Mae] Not only will I spit on you, I'll claw your eyes out.
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: You've got to. Brick Pollitt: I don't have to do anything I don't want to! Now, you keep forgetting the conditions on which I agreed to stay on living with you. Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: I'm not living with you! We occupy the same cage, that's all.
Brick Pollitt: Big Daddy... What is it that makes him so big? His big heart, his big belly, or his big money?
Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Grown-ups don't hang up on their friends! And they don't hang up on their wives and they don't hang up on life! That's the truth and that's what you can't face! Brick Pollitt: Can you face the truth? Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Try me. Brick Pollitt: Sure, somebody else's truth. Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: So you're running again? Brick Pollitt: Yeah, I am! Running from lies like birthday congratulations and many happy returns when there won't be any! [pause] Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: What did you say? Brick Pollitt: Forget it. Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Won't be any happy returns? Brick Pollitt: Please just let me go home. Leave the place to Goober and Mae. Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Leave the place? Who said I was gonna leave the place? I'll outlive you! I'll bury you!
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: We've still got one thing on our side. No, two things. Are my seams straight? Big Daddy dotes on you, Brick. He can't stand Brother Man and Brother Man's wife. That fertility monster, she's downright odious to him, I can tell. That's the second thing we've got on our side. He likes me. The way he looks me up and down and over, he's still got an eye for girls. Brick Pollitt: That kind of talk is disgusting. Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Did anybody ever tell you you're a back-aching Puritan, Brick? I think it's a fine thing that a man on the doorstep of death can still look at a woman like me with what I call deserved appreciation.
Brick Pollitt: Don't make a fool of yourself, Maggie. Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: I don't mind making a fool of myself over you. Brick Pollitt: Well, I mind. I feel embarrassed for you. Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Feel embarrassed? Well, I can't live on this way. Brick Pollitt: You agreed to accept that condition. Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: I know I did. But I can't! I can't!
Mae Pollitt: Gooper? [calling his name inquisitively] Mae Pollitt: What have all the chil'ens been shot for? Gooper Pollitt: Everything 'cept shootin' chickens, I guess.
Mae Pollitt: [to Big Mama] Gooper is your first born. Why he always had to carry a bigger load of the resposibilities than Brick? Brick never carried a thing in his life but a football or a high ball.
Ida 'Big Momma' Pollitt: I don't like locked doors in my house.
Ida 'Big Momma' Pollitt: Do you make Brick happy? Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Why don't you ask if he makes me happy?
Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Wouldja look at all this stuff? Bought most of it when I took your mother to Europe on that Cook's Tour. Never had such a lousy time in my life. I tell you that Europe ain't nothin' but a wore-out auction, just a great big fire sale, the whole rotten thing. Boy, Big Mama just wild in it, and she just bought and bought and bought. Sure is lucky I'm a rich man, yes, sirree, sure is lucky. Got any idea how much I'm worth, son? Ask Gooper. He knows. He knows to the penny 'less I missed my guess. Close on ten million dollars in cash and blue chip stocks besides twenty-eight thousand of the richest acres this side of the Valley Nile. Brick: Well, that is pretty rich to be. Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: But, there's one thing you can't buy at any European fire sale, [clears cobwebs from broken clock] Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: or any other market on Earth. That's your life. You can't buy back your life when it's finished. Brick: No, sir, no-one can. Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: Feelin' sorry for me, or for you? Brick: For you, Papa. Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: That's good, 'cause you're gonna miss me, boy.
Ida 'Big Momma' Pollitt: We never were a very happy family. There just wasn't much joy in this house. It wasn't Big Daddy's fault. It was just... you know how some families are happy.
Gooper Pollitt: [to Maggie] Why don't you go up there and drink with Brick if the conquerin' hero hasn't passed out already? He may have to pass up the Sugar Bowl this year or was it the Rose Bowl he made his famous run in? Mae Pollitt: It was the punch bowl, Honey, the cut-glass punch bowl.
Gooper Pollitt: You said I never loved Big Daddy. How would you know? How would he know? Did he ever let anybody love him? It was always Brick, always. From the day he was born, he was always partial to Brick. Why? Big Daddy wanted me to become a lawyer. I became a lawyer. He said to get married, I got married. He said to have kids, I had kids. He said to live in Memphis, I lived in Memphis. Whatever he said to do, I did.
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Where did I fail you? Where did I make my mistake?
Ida 'Big Momma' Pollitt: What's all this about? Gooper Pollitt: Doc, Big Mama wants the whole truth about the report we got from the clinic today. Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: The truth, the truth! Everybody keeps hollering about the truth. Well, the truth is as dirty as lies! Ida 'Big Momma' Pollitt: Is there something I don't know, Doc? Dr. Baugh: Well, Ida... Ida 'Big Momma' Pollitt: I want to know! Somebody must be lying! I want to know about my husand! Dr. Baugh: He had the most thorough examination ever given at the Oppenheim clinic. Gooper Pollitt: It's one of the best in the country. Mae Pollitt: It's the best in the country, bar none. Gooper Pollitt: They were ninety-nine percent sure before they even started. Ida 'Big Momma' Pollitt: Sure of what? Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Not now! Mae Pollitt: The test was positive! Gooper Pollitt: Mae, shut up. Dr. Baugh: It's helpless, Ida. He knows it, too.
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: You're a drinker and i'm childless.