Fuss and Controversy

         What can I say? This is my favorite play and one of my favorite films. By far, Stanley Kowalski is my favorite character of all time, along with Travis Bickle from Martin Scorsese’s 1972 Taxi Driver, played by Robert De Niro.

         Many people associate Marlon Brando with this film and Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 The Godfather. It is what made him who he was and what he still means to the art of acting today. But the story of Streetcar is about Stanley per se. The story is really about Blanche DuBois, Stanley’s sister-in-law; also a very complex character who is portrayed by Vivien Leigh.

         Based on Tennessee Williams’ 1947 play, A Streetcar Named Desire, this film caused lots of fuss and controversy with all the domestic violence that occurs in it. Blanche comes from Mississippi to live with her sister, Stella (Kim Hunter) and Stanley in New Orleans, claiming to just lost her job as a teacher. Along with her job, she has given Stella the news that they have lost their family plantation, Belle Reve. Suspicious, Stanley points out that, "under Louisiana's Napoleonic code, what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband." Stanley, a sinewy and brutish man, is as territorial as a panther. He tells Blanche he does not like to be swindled and demands to see the bill of sale. This encounter defines Stanley and Blanche's relationship. They are opposing camps, and Stella is caught in no-man's-land. But Stanley and Stella are deeply in love. Blanche's efforts to impose herself between them only enrages the animal inside Stanley. When Mitch (Karl Malden)--a card-playing buddy of Stanley's--arrives on the scene, Blanche begins to see a way out of her predicament. Mitch, himself alone in the world, reveres Blanche as a beautiful and refined woman. Yet, as rumors of Blanche's , past in Oriel (Laurel in the original play) begin to catch up to her, her circumstances become unbearable.

         “You know, if I didn't know that you was my wife's sister, I would get ideas about you... Don't play so dumb. You know what.” This is one of my favorite quotations from by Brando, talking to Blanche. Williams was always a master at creating good dialogue. He could take an ordinary situation or conversation and make the words seem so interesting coming from the actors.

         “What do you think you are? A pair of queens? Now just remember what Huey Long said--that every man's a king--and I'm the King around here, and don't you forget it.” This is another great line from Stanley as he smashes his plate ware at the dinner table in rage from Blanche and Stella’s comments on him.

         In closing, I would just like to say that this movie did things for Hollywood that no other film could do. And Brando changed the face of acting with his brutish portrayal of Stanley Kowalski. Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter create the rest of the cast with perfection. Elia Kazan could not have made any changes for the better or worse in my opinion to make this film what it was.

Derek Owen

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