So many times on audience may be disappointed that a literacy work-whether it is a novel or a play-is drastically altered when developed into a film. The personalities of characters with which the reader feels familiar may be so changed that, to a film viewer, the characters are actually unrecognizable! Perhaps, as in many films adapted from novels or plays, entire scenes may be discarded in the interest of time or feasibility. However, in his 1951 film of Tennessee Williams' 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire, Elia Kazan brought to life the characters of Williams' imagination. Two specific actors in this movie--Marlon Brando (Stanley Kowalski) and Vivien Leigh (Blanche DuBois)--deserve special commendation for their performances.
Brando's film portrayal of the often-violent Stanley Kowalski is precisely the type of man that is cast into the mind's eye of the reader of A Streetcar Named Desire. Brando is able to catch and depict Stanley's many moods--from the desperate but turbulent love he has for Stella (Kim Hunter) to his viciousness toward Blanche. Brando's rough and rugged handsomeness, coupled with his boyishly endearing smiles, creates a complex Stanley--just as Tennessee Williams had depicted him.
Tennessee Williams develops Stanley as a heavy drinking, card-playing brute, who, when he is sober, is soft enough to be in love with his wife, Stella. Williams shows many sides of Stanley's personality as he creates the relationships between Stanley and Stella, Stanley and Blanche, and Stanley and his buddies concurrently. Brando captures the differentiation between the ways Stanley treats each of these people in his life. He brings out the stormy affection between Stanley and his wife, while expertly playing the antagonist to Blanche. His "buddies"--who Stanley obviously feels are the only ones on his level--are treated with more actual courtesy the either of the women. For his expect depiction of Stanley Kowalski, Marlon Brando deserves an Oscar.
In addition to Brando's excellent performance,Vivien Leigh also recreated Blenche DuBois in expert consistency with Tennessee Williams' play. In her performance in the film, Leigh brought out the "brokenness" of Blanche. Williams developed Blanche as insecure with a penchant for either not caring about truth or not realizing what was truth. Leigh depicts Blanche as fervently needing acceptance and security--which she has looked for in all the wrong places. When Blanche's sanity finally goes over the edge after she is raped by Stanley, Leigh does an excellent job of
portraying a mentally--ill woman who is trying to make sense of a world she no longer understands. Vivien Leigh's performance as Blanche definitely deserves an Oscar.