Leigh Does It Again

         In Elia Kazan's 1951 film of Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire, I was taken back by Vivien Leigh's performance as Blanche DuBois. My amazement was not due to the impressiveness of the actress' performance, although I thought it was good, but instead by the similarities between Blanche and another one of Leigh's acting roles. Blanche reminded me of one of my favorite film characters, Scarlett O'Hara. In Victor Fleming's 1939 film Gone With the Wind, Leigh played the leading role of Scarlett. The comparison among the two roles might be a stretch for some because of the differences in the two movies, but if you allow yourself to strip away the background sets, color, and costumes it might hit you the same as it did me.

         For me, watching A Streetcar Named Desire was as if I were watching Scarlett in a white trash, New Orleans setting instead of her plantation named Tara. In Gone With the Wind, Leigh portrays a woman who struggles to find herself and love during the midst of America's Civil War. Scarlett was blessed to have the lovely homestead, Tara, which she did not appreciate early in life; but then she later came to realize how much she adored the place after she had almost lost it.

         Blanche acted as if she were the princess of the rat-hole apartment which belonged to her sister. Blanche was blessed earlier in life by inheriting Belle Reve, which Stanley (Marlon Brando), her brother-in-law believed she had swindled away. She was left with nothing before she realized how special it was to have a nice place to call home. Blanche's only belongings were what she had brought with her to her sister, Stella (Kim Hunter), and brother-in-law's house, a trunk full of costume jewelry, furs, and florally, fancy dresses.

         Both Scarlett and Blanche had dubious pasts filled with meaningless flings and found themselves falling in love with the unattainable. Scarlett fell in love with Rhett Butler (Clark Gable); but, after they were married, the two discovered they were incompatible. Blanche found herself falling for Mitch (Karl Malden); but, after he had learned of her past, he was no longer interested. Even with their love lives spiraling downward, the two women never gave up hope that things had to get better.

         I found that the two ladies had an immense amount of strength within in them that propelled them to keep on fighting a good fight in hopes that things would change for the better. Scarlett continued to press on with her head hung high and insisted on still being treated like a princess even though she had hardly earned the role. Blanche also continued pressing onward and found herself with nothing, but yet she did not despair.

         Although the two characters of Scarlett and Blanche had their many differences, they also shared many commonalities. The two women displayed the same personality characteristics except in very different settings. Both women were poised as if they were royalty and were determined to make the best out of life.

Tiffany Pitman

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