A Streetcar Named Desire: Not Just Brando

         There are some movies that everyone needs to see because they have that classic role that someone will always associate with a legendary actor or actress. For example De Niro has Martin Scorsese’s 1976 Taxi Driver and Jack Nicholson has Milos Forman’s 1975 One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. For the famous Marlon Brando though, his shining moment comes from his portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams’ 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire. This could be the reason why A Streetcar Named Desire was my favorite film from this class. It shows a young American classic in his prime as opposed to his role later in life in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 The Godfather, which was another great movie. It was very appealing to me to see the young Brando in action in A Streetcar Named Desire.

         It may seem that there is much talk about Brando’s role in this movie, but once one actually watches it, Brando does not play the central character. He is not even the “good guy.” Stanley is constantly at odds with the female tragic hero of the film, Blanche, played by Vivien Leigh. Most of the conflict of this film is between these two characters. Stella (Kim Hunter), who is Blanche’s sister and Stanley’s wife, is taken along for the ride. Blanche is the protagonist but is too separated from reality to be truly heroic. Stanley is the “bad guy” and seems destined to be stuck in his Neanderthal ways forever.

         This dramatic conflict itself makes A Streetcar Named Desire a good story to tell anyway. Another thing is the fact that it was edgy for its time, which has always been something that attracts my attention to a movie. Learning about all the restrictions and changes that had to be made to Tennessee Williams’ original stage version made me respect the director, Elia Kazan’s, work on this film even more. Despite the changes, the tone of the original play was kept well intact for the film version. Even from the setting of the first few scenes one really gets the feeling of that old New Orleans Atmosphere. It is interesting that most of the talent, including Brando, was taken directly from the stage version as well. These things taken into account, Elia Kazan did a good job of sticking to the original play, and that was good overall.

Brian Schuldt

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