Censorship of A Streetcar Named Desire

         The freedom possessed by movie makers of the 1950's pales in comparison to the overabundance of freedom allocated to contemporary film makers now. The best example I have seen of a movie having to maneuver around the film censors is Elia Kazan's 1951 A Streetcar Named Desire, which is based on the 1947 play, written by Tennessee Williams. The play was really quite graphic, providing excellent details and astounding character development. Nevertheless, there were quite a few key details that failed to make it onto the big screen as a result of the restrictions placed upon the makers of the movie. I keep going back and forth trying to decide if the movie would have been better had there been no restraints on the content. My conclusion is as follows: no changes should be made to the movie; it is a timeless classic that I would never modify if given the opportunity. However, I believe that reading the play should definitely be a prerequisite to watching the film for the simple fact that it is the only way to understand everything that unfolds throughout the movie.

         As I have previously stated, there were quite a few details that were included in the play that did not necessarily get incorporated into the film. We learn that Blanche (Vivien Leigh) was once married when she was young and that her husband had shot himself; but, due to the explicit nature of the events that led up to his suicide, we never learn why he did it in the film. If one were to read the play beforehand, it is understood why Blanche feels such incredible guilt in relation to his death, and why she behaved so erratically all the time.

         Another aspect of the play that was toned down dramatically in the movie was the rape scene that transpired between Stanley (Marlon Brando) and Blanche. I do not disagree with the film maker's portrayal of the scene in the slightest; however, what had actually occurred between the two of them in the film while Stella was in the hospital would have been hard to determine had I not previously read the play.

         There is so little left to the imagination in modern-day films, and it is often rather refreshing to watch "an old black and white movie" to escape the "in your face" tactics of a lot of films that are out there. However, with A Streetcar Named Desire, it is wise to do your homework in order to fully appreciate and understand the film.

Kasey Wilson

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