I have heard many times that the book is always better than the movie. These people would say that the book gives more details, it allows for more imagination, and it does not have to cut out parts of the story because of time limits. I wondered if it was possible for a movie to be faithful to a book or play, be entertaining, and not push the attention span of the audience.
I believe that I have seen a movie that fits these requirements almost perfectly. A Streetcar Named Desire, written by Tennessee Williams in 1947, is an excellent play to read. The dynamic characters kept my attention throughout the entire story. One minute I hated Stanley and felt sorry for Blanche. The next minute I liked Stanley and just wished Blanche would stop whining.
The movie version, directed by Elia Kazan in 1951, was just as good. I was afraid that it would disappoint me as so many movies do when one loves the written story so well. It did not. The movie followed the play script almost perfectly. The characters were acted so well that there was never a dull moment.
There were some slight variations that the movie director had to implement. In the play, Blanche tells the story about catching her husband in bed with another man. This blatant mention of homosexuality could not be put into the movie because of censorship issues. Homosexuality was not something that would have been accepted in 1951 when the movie was released. I do not believe that this hurt the overall story due to the fact that I had read the original play. For those that had not, leaving out the issue of the sexual orientation of Blanche's (Vivien Leigh) husband did not take away from the story enough to be a big deal.
Another change in the movie was also done for censorship purposes. At the end, Stella (Kim Hunter) runs upstairs saying that she will never go back to Stanley (Marlon Brando) again. In the play, she goes back to him. I did not like the ending in the movie as well as in the play. The way that the character of Stella had been portrayed throughout the entire movie, I did not think that it was believable that Stella would leave Stanley. I believe that her character would have stayed with him. Again, for censorship purposes, the director had to punish Stanley in some way and he chose to do this by having Stella leave him.
This was not as big of a change as the director could have made it. Though Stella says she will never go back to him, I really did not believe her. Earlier in the movie, she had gone upstairs to get away from him. She eventually went back to him. So, to get past censorship, the director had Stella leave Stanley. But I believe that Kazan allowed a big enough window for the audience to believe that Stella would eventually go back.
The movie was not perfectly faithful to the original play due to censorship. However, the changes that were made did not take away from the overall story. The ending also still allowed the audience to wonder what Stella will eventually do. It is very hard to follow an original work perfectly and adapt it to the screen. However, if it is done
properly, it will end in a great play or book being made into a great movie. I believe that A Streetcar Named Desire is one of them.