Acting or True Madness?

         As we were reading Tennessee Williams' 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire I enjoyed the book; but for some reason I did not have great expectations for this movie. However, to my surprise my initial speculations were overturned. While watching the 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire (directed by Elia Kazan), I was blown away with the acting that was involved with the movie, especially the chemistry that was between Marlon Brando (Stanley Kowalski) and Vivien Leigh (Blanche DuBois). The way that the two would fight and bicker between each other conveyed the uncomfortable silences from the screen to the viewing audience.

         Moreover, what I found most extraordinary about this film was the acting of Vivien Leigh; she played a psychopath quite well. Before the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire was made, the play version was regularly performed. Vivien herself stared in 326 performances. The amazing and ironic situation of Vivien and her part in the play and the movie was the fact that she herself was a manic depressant. Since she played basically what she essentially was in real life, her performances affected her negatively. Consequently, after each performance she would be shaking and very tense. As a result, though, she did give a great performance of the progression of Blanche's illness throughout the movie.

         Not only was this a feat for her in acting, which led her to an Oscar for best actress, also amazing was the physical transformation that she underwent. Vivien was exceptionally younger looking in Victor Fleming's 1939 Gone with the Wind and quite aged in A Streetcar Named Desire. Though twelve years had gone by since the filming of Gone with the Wind and Vivien had naturally aged, she actually tried to make herself look less flattering for the movie. To do this, she wore heavy make-up, tacky blond wigs, as she also endured the lighting that helped make her look older.

         Not only did Vivien Leigh give a great performance in A Streetcar Named Desire, she effectively overcame her personal difficulties, which made her an exceptionally talented actress.

Holly Gray

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