Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois

         I would imagine that the only possible annoyance from watching A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Elia Kazan and based on Tennessee Williams' 1947 play, also directed by Kazan, would come to those who wear eyeglasses, for I am certain they would need to repeatedly pause the movie in order to wipe their lenses of any condensation. No joke, the film is just that steamy. In fact, Vivien Leigh, whose talent brings this cinematic marvel to its boiling point with the aid of Marlon Brando, first appears to the viewer in the opening scene as a specter materializing from the steam of locomotives. This specter was indeed the character of Blanche DuBois who finds herself displaced within the heart of New Orleans in a desperate attempt to find solitude in her sister's home.

         It is interesting to note that twelve years before the film production of A Streetcar Named Desire, Leigh had another opportunity to play a southern belle, in that case, the role of Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind. In fact, it is duly noted that the reason she was cast as the sexually exploited Blanche was in part because of her previous work, which had come to such critical acclaim and in part because of her experience in playing Blanche for London's first production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

         Due to decisions made in casting, Vivien Leigh was certainly the oddball of the group when one regards that seven of the actors in the film had originally starred in the New York production of the play. There would have been eight actors in the film from the New York production if only Jessica Tandy had been slated for the role of Blanche. Even though Tandy had starred as Blanche in the New York production and had received rave reviews, Warner, nonetheless, rallied for someone with a little more celebrity status in order to rake in the sales at the box office. Not only that, Leigh had to work alongside actors, most notably Brando who fell into the school of method acting. Despite Leigh's more orthodox orientation, her deliberate and practiced portrayal of Blanche, and despite the primitive brilliance of Brando's garble, she in no way came across as out of place or ineffectual in her bringing to life the tragic character of Blanche DuBois.

John Couris

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