Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tennessee Williams's third significant play (following The Glass Menagerie  and A Streetcar Named Desire ), was a huge commercial success, running for 694 performances on Broadway. It won Williams his third New York Drama Critics' Circle Award and his second Pulitzer Prize (his first being for Streetcar). Elia Kazan produced and directed the play in 1955 at the Morosco Theatre, after asking Williams to revise the third act to improve its dramatic progression. The published play script includes both the original version and the one revised for Kazan, appended by a preface in which Williams defends his original version. He continued to prefer the original, even after making further changes for a 1974 revival.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is rather loosely based on Williams's short story "Three Players of a Summer Game," a narrative that reveals the influence of D. H. Lawrence on the playwright's early work. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, however, has all of the earmarks of Williams's unique dramas, involving as it does his emotionally biographical themes of ambivalence in sexual orientation, disaffection, and difficulty in maintaining intimate relationships. The play concerns a young man's disaffection and descent into alcoholism following the death of his college friend, and his wife's efforts to make him stop drinking so that he can take over his dying father's plantation.
Although criticized as being overly "violent" and maudlin, the powerful second act, in which the father, Big Daddy, confronts his alcoholic son, Brick, about the nature of his relationship with his friend, Skipper, is considered a hallmark of contemporary drama—Williams at his best. In that one long and vivid scene, the playwright portrays a profound relationship of mutual trust and respect, one that nevertheless fails to bridge the two men's weaknesses.