What is drama? It is being taken on a ride and going on an adventure that one can experience without having to suffer through it firsthand. In Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire there is nonstop, high-speed drama from the first page to the last. The 1951 film adaptation, directed by Elia Kazan, only amplifies the drama. The most worthwhile film-literature combination is A Streetcar Named Desire because of the amount of drama, the casting, and the plot of the play.
As mentioned above, everywhere a person looks in Streetcar, he/she can find drama. The arrival of the promiscuous sister to a happy home with a married couple shouts trouble. From the moment Blanche (Vivien Leigh) asks Stanley to button up the back of her dress, one can see the true nature of this woman. First of all, it is wrong to take a married man or even lust after him; but for that married man to be a brother-in-law is a double no-no. Stanley (Marlon Brando) does not play into Blanche's games; he sees through her like a Windex-cleaned window, never believing a word she says.
Imagine having to go through that drama in real life. The further one reads, the amount of drama increases. Stanley discovers Blanche's past and ruins all hopes of her marrying his friend Mitch (Karl Malden). As a birthday present, he gives Blanche a ticket home where she had been basically ran out of town. Needless to say, the picture has been painted, and there is no doubt in anyone's mind that Stanley dislikes Blanche.
Stella (Kim Hunter), Blanche's sister, does not know who to stand by, but in the end she decides to stand by her man. Her sister is raped by Stanley while Stella is at the hospital giving birth. If Blanche had not wanted it to happen, she should not have flashed herself around him all the time. After the rape, Blanche fully loses her mind, so Stella and Stanley have her shipped off. In the book, despite knowing about the rape, Stella and the baby stay with Stanley; but in order to have the rape scene in the film, an agreement was reached with the censors that Stella had to leave her husband. Either way, the drama flies off the pages and the screen. The ride is a success.
Another aspect of the film-literature combination that makes Streetcar worthwhile is the cast. After viewing the film, I am convinced there is no one better suited for the role of Stanley than Marlon Brando. He is young, handsome, and aggressive. The dinner scene where Stella asks him to help clear the table is priceless. As he grabs his dishes and slings them across the room, he asks if he can clear their areas too since his is cleared. It is classic; it makes a serious dramatic scene a little bit lighter. And Kim Hunter is a perfect fit as Stella. She is a weak character overpowered by the great looks and anger of her Polish husband. Vivien Leigh plays the psychotic Blanche perfectly. There is not a doubt in anyone's mind she is one marble short. Overall, the casting is excellent in the film, and the roles are superb.
One of the last worthwhile aspects of Streetcar is the plot. With the drama and plot, anyone can have played the roles. The story line is classic, and it is copied every day on ABC, CBS, and NBC in the form of soap operas. Sister wants sister's husband. One sister is pregnant and gains weight. Other sister becomes desirable and starts to act a little out of the ordinary. That sister has a past that haunts her. Husband cannot resist and takes advantage of sister-in-law while pregnant wife is away. Raped sister leaves. New mother forgives husband, and they live happily together until he gets drunk and beats her again. Tennessee Williams did not invent the plot; he only renewed it with interesting characters and the enticing New Orleans setting.
After all is said and done, Streetcar is classic in my book. The best was saved for last, and it should remain that way. Tennessee Williams puts the reader on an emotional roller coaster; and, with the handsome Marlon Brando in the picture, it is harder to side with Blanche: I would choose Brando (then) over a psycho sibling any time. I believe the drama, characters, and plot make this combination worthwhile, and it will always have a place in my video library.