By far, my favorite film adaptation that we have watched this entire semester is Elia Kazan's 1951 adaptation of Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire. Even if you had never read the play, the movie itself would be extremely entertaining. The actors themselves, Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, and especially Kim Hunter, brought these characters to life.
Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski is excellent as a "common," working-class chauvinist husband. At first, he seems to be the type of man that no woman could resist, and his mannerisms suggest confidence. As the movie progressed, however, it seems that this is a façade and that he is not particularly confident in his own intelligence or his financial status. Defensive and stubborn, he comes to his own defense when Stella (Kim Hunter) calls him greasy and disgusting; and a bit of history is revealed when he explains the events after he and Stella had met. He colorfully says that when she showed him pictures of her old life, he had pulled her "off them columns" and brought her down to his world.
Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois gives us short glimpses of her character's dwindling sanity as she tries hard to remain a lady, even after suggestions of promiscuity by Stanley. Leigh also jumps in and out of calm, charming southern belle routines and occasionally stands up for herself against Stanley's accusations. This suggests a very transparent façade; and it was very well-executed. Leigh also seems to portray the distance that Blanche wishes to keep from gentlemen so that she allows herself to be chased--even though toward the end, we find out about her nymphomania.
The most difficult role to accomplish, however, was that of Stella DuBois Kowalski. Kim Hunter had to depict Stella as a mediator and a perfect mix of Stanley and Blanche's personalities. She is the strong, independent woman and even though she fades into the background of the story, she is so vital in advancing the plot. Without her insistence on her husband and sister's cooperation, she may never have known what horrible things Stanley could do, or just how mentally ill her sister really is. In short, I believe that although Marlon Brando was the most attractive man I have ever seen at that age, Kim Hunter was the most remarkable actor in this film. Anyone can play angry and chauvinistic, but it takes a real actor to maintain a silent power.
That Kazan's cinematic adaptation of Williams' play works so well is due in large part to the dynamic trio of actors--Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, and especially Kim Hunter.