A Monumental Undertaking

         If I were to act in any of the selected films we watched in class, I would undoubtedly choose the role of Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire, filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan.

         The main reason I would select this performance is the simple fact that one needs to be judged against the best, regardless of the field or the subject matter. For the play and movie, Marlon Brando went through a complete metamorphosis and became the savage Stanley. He engulfed himself in the part to such an extent that one begins to wonder if Brando did not see certain aspects of himself in Stanley. Certainly one of the main drives for actors is to make the audience, and even themselves, forget that the person on screen or stage is only a fictitious character. Actors must shed any superfluous characteristics and focus solely on those aspects of their personalities that can be incorporated into their new self, i.e. the role. It seems that in becoming Stanley Kowalski, Brando forever stamped his likeness on the character.

         I would love to try my hand at the challenging role of Stanley also because of the negative aspects of the character. He is to be admired for his tenacity and strength, though his drunken, violent attributes leave much to be desired. These are, however, elements within Stanley, and actually within any character that makes actors yearn for the chance the portray them. Stanley's volatile nature gives an actor the chance to make or break this performance. It is either feast or famine; there is no way to "fake" this part of the performance. To play an individual that will inevitably rape Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh), shattering her fragile psyche and sending her careening down a one-way street to a mental asylum, one must have "it--that one thing that directors like Eliza Kazan often speak of. An actor can have the drive and determination to make a role work, but oftentimes only the naturally gifted can turn in legendary, once-in-a-lifetime performances.

         Through his performances, Brando also further popularized the Stanislavskian form of method acting. It would almost be necessary for one attempting to bear the mantle of such a superb acting job to follow in the footsteps of Marlon Brando, James Dean, and many others in using method acting to develop symbiotic relationships with characters. Only with this method approach does one truly come to be a character. Only with thejettisoning of unneeded personality traits can one truly becomes someone else.

Sean Curd

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