Reflections in a Golden Eye is a 1967 film directed by John Huston based on the 1941 novel of the same name by Carson McCullers that deals with the theme of repressed homosexuality. The film starred Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Brian Keith and Julie Harris.
It is a tale of six central characters, their failures, obsessions and darkest desires. Set in a military camp, it tells the story of Captain Weldon Penderton and his wife Leonora. Other central characters are Major Morris Langdon and his sick wife Alison, the Langdons' houseboy Anacleto and a mysterious soldier, Private Williams.
The film was to have starred Montgomery Clift, but he died on July 23, 1966 of a heart attack before cinematography commenced on the film. The role subsequently went to Brando, after Lee Marvin had turned it down.
Originally released in a version in which all scenes were suffused with the color gold, with one object in each scene (such as a rose) normally-colored. This was in reference to the houseboy's drawing of a golden peacock in whose eye the world is a mere reflection. But that version puzzled audiences, so it was withdrawn and a normally-colored version released.
The story begins at an Army base in the 1940s. Maj. Penderton assigns Pvt. Williams to a private house call instead of his usual duty, which is maintaining the stables. Meanwhile you are introduced to Maj. Penderton's wife, Leonora, who is about to go horseback riding with Maj. Langdon. From the first scene with Leonora the viewer is aware of her extramarital affair with Langdon, as well as her strong bond with her horse, Firebird. Also a point made in the film is Williams's strong bond with all the horses in the stable.
Leonora and Penderton have an argument that same night which Williams witnesses through a window of their home, which develops into Williams spying on them from outside at first, then breaking into the house and watching Leonora sleep at night. As the nights continue Williams starts to sift through her feminine things, and caresses her lingerie.
Penderton takes Leonora's horse and rides into the woods, but he falls off and is dragged a distance by the horse. He then beats the horse. Pvt. Williams while naked comes to the horse and brings him back to the stable to tend the horse's wounds. Penderton starts to follow Williams around the camp. Upon finding out about her horse, Leonora interrupts her own party and repeatedly strikes her husband in the face with her riding crop.
Alison Langdon, the wife of Maj. Langdon, is recovering from having sliced off her nipples with a pair of pruning shears, the apparent result of depression following the death of her newborn child. Alison's only bond is with her extremely effeminate Filipino houseboy. Alison being very aware of her husband's adulterous behavior decides to divorce him, but is then forced into an asylum by her husband as she tries to leave him. Langdon falsely tells Leonora and Penderton that Alison was going insane. Soon Penderton is informed that Alison died of a heart attack, but in truth she committed suicide.
One night Penderton looks at his window to find Williams outside his house. He realizes Williams is about to break in, and thinks that Williams is coming to see him, but instead watches Williams enter his wife's room. He then enters his wife's room and shoots Williams.
- Elizabeth Taylor - Leonora Penderton
- Marlon Brando - Weldon Penderton
- Brian Keith - Morris Langdon
- Julie Harris - Alison Langdon
- Zorro David - Anacleto
- Robert Forster - L.G. Williams
Usage of images in Apocalypse Now
Still photographs of Brando in character as Major Penderton were later used by the producers of Apocalypse Now who needed photos of a younger Brando to appear in the service record of the younger Colonel Walter Kurtz. Coincidentally, In some ways, the characters of Kurtz and Penderton are similar since Kurtz was stated to be a leading tactician in his youth and Penderton is shown in the beginning of the film teaching a class on military tactics. Both characters also deal with personal problems and both appear to be mentally unstable.