A Fool Named Stanley

     One of Tennessee Williams's most famous works is A Streetcar Named Desire. The 1947 story is compelling because it possesses the glamorous setting of New Orleans while having a plot of turmoil and ugliness. Stanley Kowalski is a brash man who is not afraid to show it. He is married to a woman named Stella, and they are virtually enemies throughout the story.

     The 1951 film version directed by Elia Kazan of the story begins with Stella's sister Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) arriving in New Orleans to visit. It seems that Blanche may be coming to New Orleans to turn over a new leaf in life. The name "Blanche" means white, which can be interpreted as a "clean slate" for her to begin again. Blanche is a frivolously dressed woman, and one can tell that she is putting forth a front that covers her true self. Her husband has died, or rather committed suicide, and she is very insecure and guilt stricken. She slowly goes insane throughout the story. Blanche tries to seduce numerous younger gentlemen in an attempt to give her better self-esteem.

     Stanley (Marlon Brando) finds out that Blanche used to be a prostitute. Stanley has always resented and disapproved of Blanche, and this knowledge gives his mean streak a chance to lash out. He tells Stella (Kim Hunter) and Mitch (Blanche's fiancé) (Karl Malden) about Blanche's past. This pushes Blanche over the edge. She decides to leave New Orleans. Stanley hates Blanche; and, if she leaves, then he will not be able to hurt her any more. Thus, upon finding out that she is leaving, Stanley struggles with Blanche and it is slightly evident that he raped her, further torturing her dying soul.

     Stella never seriously hinders Blanche, but she does not help her either. This in itself hurts Blanche. She has no one to turn to, no help in this world. Stella just does not care. After Blanche is raped, Stella sends her off to the loony bin to live out the rest of her miserable life. Stella acts as if she could not care less about her own flesh and blood.

     I missed the film in class, but I had read the play and seen the same version as a senior in high school. As a whole, the film is a collection of all the "bad guys" in a soap opera--all of the goodie two-shoes that are filth. It is a story of bad people doing bad things to other bad people. The film comes across with this as best it could with the strict standards of 1951 Hollywood.

Matthew Dycus

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