Sex Appeal

     While watching many of the movies in class this semester, I found myself being grateful that many of them were made quite a few years ago. It is nice to sit through a movie and not have to see any M-16s, blood and guts, not to mention kinky sex. I especially liked A Streetcar Named Desire for this reason. Written in 1947 by Tennessee Williams, this play is full of sexual undertones. There is homosexuality (Blanche's husband), an older woman (Blanche) having an affair with one of her young English students. Stella being turned on by her violent and drunk husband (Stanley), and a rape. The 1951 version of this film, directed by Elia Kazan, has very subtle ways of showing the "desires" in this play. Of course, this is so because of the censorship in 1951. I cannot help but think that this film would be rated "X" if it was remade for theaters today. However, I was a bit surprised that some of the scenes were in there.

     The 1951 film, starring Marlon Brando (Stanley) and Vivien Leigh (Blanche) stayed remarkably close to the play. I was very glad about this because, if it had been changed too much, I would not have enjoyed it. The only things that the censors would not allow were a really vivid depiction of the rape scene and the part where Blanche is telling that her young husband was homosexual. I do not think these things were really necessary, since I was rather confused by both, when reading the play. It took reading it a second time before I realized that Blanche's husband was gay, and that the reason he shot himself was that Blanche had caught him with another man and was ashamed. I do not think this was necessary to the plot of the movie, but it does help explain why Blanche is the way she is. I guess the reason she turned into such a slut was that this was a big blow to her ego.

     The rape scene was also not necessary to the plot of the movie. We know, without seeing it, that the reason Blanche goes over the edge is Stanley. Stanley discovers the truth about Blanche, which prevents his friend. Mitch (Karl Malden) from marrying her. I liked Brian Gray's essay in Montage '95 entitled "Your Past Will Always Find You." This is very true and Blanche is a perfect example of this. It is a shame that Blanche was not stronger. I would have liked to see her get some dirt on Stanley. It would have been great if she had gotten some juicy tidbit about his past that would make him have to treat her like a queen. This story would make a good soap opera.

     There was one scene that made me feel rather uncomfortable, and that I was surprised to see in this adaptation. That was the scene where Stanley is drunk and he hits Stella (Kim Hunter). She is so turned on by this that she walks down the stairs, in a zombie-like trance, to go make love to this big drunk ape. The next scene Blanche goes to visit Stella, the morning after. Stella is rolling around, naked, under the sheets, acting very satisfied from the night before. Although both scenes had been tamed in the original version, I was surprised to see that they even made it. It reminded me of the same sort of scene in Gone With the Wind, but Scarlett was wearing clothes under the bed covers. I think that the movie would have been just as good without this scene.

     I also loved the fact that Vivien Leigh was in this movie. She really brought out the "crazy" side of Blanche. It was very clear that Blanche was bipolar, through Leigh's acting. This is the case, perhaps, because Leigh had many of the same problems in her own life.

     Marlon Brando also added great sex appeal to this production. In the play, I had not envisioned him being so sexy. My views on Stanley changed to those expressed in the Montage '95 essay by Brian Gray, "Stanley Kowalski or Marlon Brando."

     I think that watching this movie, proves that a movie does not have to have a lot of graphic sex and violence in it to have sex appeal. The movie, which stayed very close to the play, was very sexy, without seeing the sex. Even though I am not a fan of censorship, I liked the fact that it kept this movie on the right track.

April Russell

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