Blanche DuBois

         Whenever someone watches a movie, he or she tends to imagine him--or herself in one of the roles; it is one of the aspects of watching films that makes them so enjoyable. However, it is hard to think of one role I would like to play out of all the works we have viewed and read this year. I guess I will have to choose Blanche DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire. Why? Well, there are several reasons, but I guess I shall tell you the most important ones.

         After reading A Streetcar Named Desire, I was, for lack of a better word, shocked at this literary masterpiece Tennessee Williams had written in 1947 as well as the characters he created. Williams created several characters that were different and all damaged in their own way. There is Stella, who cannot see or escape her husband's violent temper. There is Stanley, who wants everything his way; and then there is Blanche. To me Blanche in the film and Blanche in the play are different, which is one of the reasons I am attracted to that role. In the play, Blanche seems even more damaged and on the verge of insanity than in the film because the film makers edited aspects of Blanche out. In the play, Blanche tells the truth about why she comes to New Orleans as well as why her husband killed himself. However, in Elia Kazan's 1951 film version, her husband's death is barely mentioned because of his homosexuality and suicide. I think in the play, Blanche is just so conflicted and in pain.

         There are so many layers to her character that I would love to try to scratch the surface--to experience all the pain from both her past and from her surroundings. I would love to be on stage and show the audience the version of Blanche I think is best. Blanche, to me, is already mildly insane when she gets to New Orleans. In the play, Williams indicates she had a nervous breakdown, but I think it is much more than that. Just look at Blanche's conversation with her sister, Stella, when they meet for the first time. It is a brief dialogue; but within a page, Blanche demonstrates a whole range of emotions--affection, shock, modesty, and uncertainty are a few examples. Every sentence tells a story; but, to me, Vivien Leigh does not lie to me enough. Actors lie to make one believe they are the character and had lived the character's horrible experiences. Leigh does not convince me of that; maybe because whenever I see her, I think of Gone With the Wind or maybe I just picture Blanche differently. Whatever it is, I think someone else could have played Blanche better. I do not think I could have done better in that role, though. I would have been awful in every meaning of the word, but I would have like to have tried, namely because of Marlon Brando.

         Brando, who plays Stanley, sells me that lie as well as he can. Yes, he is very attractive in the film, and every girl gasps and stares at the screen when he comes on; but there is so much more to him than sex appeal. After a few minutes of staring, we all get over the shock and are then captivated by his version of Stanley. When viewing the film, I want to be Blanche just so he can talk to me, and so that I could know what it feels like to watch something amazing. Brando makes a nasty, mean, and violent man likeable--a hard thing to do--and he masters it. So, my other reason to be Blanche, and my reason to do it in the movie version, is to act alongside Marlon Brando. The dialogue between the two characters is always interesting, but Brando takes it to another level.

         I know Brando also performed in the theatrical version, but all the other characters and the people playing them help make Brando stand out. The casting director got incredible actors to play the characters of Mitch (Karl Malden), Stella (Kim Hunter), and Eunice (Peg Hillias). Their performances alone are wonderful, but they also give Brando something to work with so that Stanley becomes exactly what Brando gives us--a likeable cad. Just watching Blanche and Stanley in the film version is electric, but in every scene Brando overshadows Leigh, which is why Streetcar is more famous and widely known for Brando's performance, not Leigh's. I would have liked to have been a part of that electricity as well as the Blanche I picture. I think if Blanche were played with a little more fragility at the beginning before diving into insanity, Leigh's performance might have matched Brando's.

         Streetcar is a wonderful play and a great movie with memorable lines, scenes, and characters. Let us face it, the scene with Stanley at the foot of the stairs, screaming for Stella has been parodied and copied thousands of times, but nothing compares to the original. There is such wonder and amazement in this story; it is violent and shocking yet tells such an interesting story that I am sure it was controversial at the time of its release. I think the main reason I would like to play Blanche is that I would love to play a woman who is controversial and thought-provoking. That is what Williams does with all his characters and plays. He wants people to think and realize that not everything is perfect or ends with a happy ending. This is the reason I think Williams' plays are still performed and studied. It is boring to play or watch an ordinary character, and Blanche is anything but ordinary. I would rather shock and be controversial than be quiet and conform, and if I want to do that, what better character to play than Blanche DuBois, "the haggard and fragile southern beauty whose pathetic last grasp at happiness is cruelly destroyed." It does not get any more real than that.

Kate Latham

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