Erik [Auk]’s review published on Letterboxd:
I inadvertently spoiled myself on A Place in the Sun by watching An American Tragedy last year, the first filmed version of Theodore Dreiser's novel. von Sternberg's film was clunky in spots but had such an incredible performance by Sylvia Sidney in the Shelley Winters role and had a story that really stayed with me long after having seen the film, but I also read that Dreiser did not like Sternberg's film and wanted something closer to his novel. I eagerly wanted to watch A Place in the Sun as a result, and now that I have I wonder what Dreiser was so mad about because this film is extremely similar, though executed more consistently.
The three leading players portrayed by Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelley Winters are all strongly performed and George Stevens elevates the film with his wonderful direction and beautiful looking black and white cinematography. A Place in the Sun has a palpable inner emotionality due to these combined efforts and is a great film to watch. The film desperately made me want to rewatch An American Tragedy though, because Sternberg's film did have a few aspects this one misses. There is a greater class consciousness and Sylvia Sidney does a better job at emotionally investing you into the working class girl that Eastman deserts. It is also more apparent that the tragedy lays in Eastman's weak inner character rather than the drowning event, where Clift comes off in this film as more conflicting since his devotion to Taylor is so strong. Regardless, A Place in the Sun is a truly great film with a fascinating story that I imagine I will like even more on a rewatch, and I would certainly recommend the film.