Minimum Changes Required

         If there were ever a film that was like the play it was based on, it would be the 1951 Elia Kazan film that is based on Tennessee Williams' 1947 play, A Streetcar Named Desire. Is this the case because Tennessee Williams was still alive for the making of the film? Or could it be that the story line of the play is so great that it does not leave much room for improvement? Whatever it was, the film was very similar to the play except for a couple of scenes and the ending.

         Right at the start there were some differences between the play and the film. In the beginning of the play, Stanley tosses a package of meat at Stella, a scene completely cut from the film. Then, when Blanche arrives in New Orleans to stay with Stella and Stanley, she waits at Stella and Stanley's home for them to return from the bowling alley. The film, however, begins with Blanche (Vivien Leigh) arriving by train, then heading out to the bowling alley in search for the couple, Stella (Kim Hunter) and Stanley.

         An even more drastic omission in the movie was that there was no mention of the homosexual references Williams placed in the play. In the play, when Blanche is telling Mitch (Karl Malden) about the suicide of her young husband, she tells him that she had found him in bed with another man and then called him disgusting. In the movie, she omits the part about his having been in bed with the man. It seems amazing now that a film was more censored in the early 1950s than a late 1940s play. These days, anything and everything are seen and heard in films.

         In another concession to the censors, in the movie, Stella leaves Stanley to punish him for the rape of Blanche and runs upstairs with the baby, whereas in the play she stays with him as though nothing had happened.

         I love when I read something and when I watch the film based on it I know what is going to happen. Usually, however, one just knows the main idea of the film. The actions and dialogue that appear in the film are not usually close to the book or play that it was based on. I have to applaud Tennessee Williams for writing a play that did not need to be changed very much for the screen except by the censors, and Elia Kazan for directing a film so based closely on what it was intended to resemble.

Amanda Cope

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