Two Deteriorating Characters

                     The characters in Tennessee Williams’ 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire are some of the most fascinating characters literature has to offer. Director Elia Kazan, as well as Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando, did an excellent job of bringing those characters to life on the movie screen in their 1951 production, and perhaps even added to the richness and depth of the characters.

                      I think the main reason Williams’ play is so well loved is that the characters are so complex and multi-faceted. Appearances are not what they seem in the play; nor is that the case in the film. Vivien Leigh does an excellent job of capturing the two different sides to the character of Blanche DuBois, which could be because the character of Blanche was so similar to her own. She captures the Blanche one sees on the surface--innocent, naïve and deeply offended by anything not jiving with her classic Southern belle so-called values. She does just as superb a job of capturing Blanche’s true self, the sex-driven, lustful side of a woman perhaps tormented by things she felt as if she had to repress. The result is a crazed woman who by the end of the play is practically insane.

                     Brando does an equally worthy job of portraying Blanche’s tormentor, Stanley Kowalski. On the surface, Stanley has it all together. He does an excellent job of capturing Stanley’s no-bull, straight-talking nature; and the viewer can tell that he sees through Blanche from the beginning. Brando also does a good job of capturing Stanley’s dark deterioration throughout the film. By the end, he is a shell of what he was at the beginning, as is Blanche.

                     One reason these characters are so fascinating is that they are both proud and collected on the exterior at the beginning of the play, but they are both tormented by a dark side and ultimately succumb to that. They both deteriorate throughout the play; and, while sad, this makes for good theatre.

Tommy Dillard

Table of Contents