The actors in Elia Kazan's 1951 A Streetcar Named Desire, based on Tennessee Williams' 1947 play, are most effective in adapting the original work to film. Set in the 1950s, this film tells of a tragic sexual triangle between Stanley (Marlon Brando), Stella (Kim Hunter), and Blanche (Vivien Leigh). After Blanche surprises Stella by unexpectedly arriving on her doorstep, she decides to move in with Stella and Stanley until she can get back on her feet. Stanley becomes suspicious as to why Blanche is in town, and his animosity with Blanche becomes very apparent. After hearing Blanche say terrible things about him to Stella, he makes it his life's mission to destroy her.
Stanley carries out his plan by finding out as much information as he can about Blanche. When he learns Blanche has had many visits with strangers and was fired from her job as an English teacher because of an affair with one of her students, he knows that he has succeeded. In the meantime, Blanche develops an interest in Mitch (Karl Malden), one of Stanley's friends, and the two begin to date. However, Stanley tells Mitch what he has learned about Blanche, and Mitch stands Blanche up on her birthday. To add to the horror, Stanley gives Blanche a gift: a bus ticket out of town. Stanley understands Blanche can never go back and is pleased with how embarrassed she becomes.
The climax of the film occurs after Stella goes into labor and is rushed to the hospital. By this point, Blanche has begun drinking heavily and arrives home at night to find Stanley waiting for her. Although she is terrified of him, she is also somewhat drawn to him. However, Stanley takes the situation further than Blanche wants and rapes her inside his own house. After that, Blanche is never the same. When she tries to confront Stella and tell her what has happened, she is not believed, and Stanley helps convince Stella that Blanche has gone mad. At the end of the film, we see Blanche being carried away to a mental hospital while Stanley plays poker with his friends. Thanks to film censors, Stella runs upstairs with her baby instead of staying with Stanley, as in Williams' play.
The characters in this film are quite unique and need actors to portray them as such. Stanley is a self-centered, sexual being whose drunken fights make him out of control. Marlon Brando succeeds in realizing this role. At times Stanley is cruel and cold-hearted to women, yet his good looks and charm are part of why Stella stays with him. Stella continuously tests Stanley; but when push comes to shove, she is submissive. Even after Stanley physically abuses her while she is pregnant, she stays with him. It is almost as if she cannot live without him no matter how badly he treats her. Blanche (Vivien Leigh) is my favorite character. She is a lonely woman who is looking for someone to love her. Blanche is obsessed with taking baths. I think this is because of her many visitors and because of her affair with a student. By taking a bath, she can clean herself of the disgust she feels about herself. She also begins drinking heavily, perhaps to forget about her past. Vivien Leigh does an excellent job of portraying her as an aging beauty, a bit snobbish, but overall as a person who means well.
Because this film is set in the 1950s, the view of women and how they are treated are very different than in today's society. Women of the time were not considered as important as men and treated very poorly by men. I am outraged at how Stella is yelled at and called horrible names. Women at this time were told their husbands were the head of the house and to be submissive to them at all times. Brando does an excellent job of portraying Stanley. He is very rough with Stella and Blanche and makes them almost scared of him at times. In today's society, Stanley would not be able to treat women in such a way.
I really enjoy this film. It is my favorite, overall. Each of the actors is perfectly cast, and the film is a great success. The actors all have a certain spark between them, which is apparent in the film. In my opinion, these actors are most effective in adapting the original work.