Playing the Challenging Role of Blanche

         If I could play any role in the movies we watched in this class, I would definitely play Blanche from Tennessee Williams' 1947 play, A Streetcar Named Desire.

         I would play Blanche because it would be a very challenging role. She has so many different emotional traits about her. In the 1951 movie, directed by Elia Kazan, Vivien Leigh plays her part very well because she captures the mood changes Blanche encounters throughout her life.

         Many times during the film, she looks and acts like a glamorous movie star. For example, when she steps off the train and breaks through the steam, she has that confident and glamorous air about her. One can see all over her face that she knows she is beautiful. In the scene on the dock, she looks absolutely radiant and even acts like a princess in the way she acts toward herself and others.

         Other times though, one can see it in her eyes that she has emotional and mental problems. She has that crazy look in her eyes as if she is going to lose it any second. Her moods change so drastically and quickly that it is actually spooky.

         Vivien Leigh does a wonderful job of showing the changes in her face and eyes, not to mention her words and body language, which also add to the crazy persona.

         To me, I think it would be very challenging to portray such drastic changes in emotion from one scene to the next and especially in the same scene. I think one would have to really get into the role and understand what it is like to be unstable. One would have to research this role by spending time observing people who are unstable and learn how their moods change and what triggers these changes. That in itself would be challenging for me. Again, that is the fun of acting, though; one can make the role his or her own by observing others but give Blanche her own unique way of changing her emotional state.

         Vivien Leigh plays Blanche so well because, during the filming of the movie, she was known to be unstable. This is not a good thing, but it gave her the advantage of knowing what it feels like to have these emotions. I believe that is why she plays the role so well. She has experienced what is happening in Blanche's mind and knows exactly how to portray these feelings onscreen. This would be one difference between how I would play the role and the way Vivien Leigh plays it. I would have to do real research, and still I would not be able to fully portray Blanche because I have no firsthand experience; but for Vivien Leigh, her whole life was the research she needed for the role.

         One similarity between how I would play the role and how Vivien Leigh plays the role is that I could portray the scenes where she feels glamorous very well. I actually think those scenes would be fun for any woman to play because it is fun to look and act glamorous. I would definitely break through that steam after getting off the train with so much confidence and grace because that is what all viewers want to see from that scene. They want to see the normal, beautiful Blanche that knows how lovely she is. One really has to play up this part because the viewers think Blanche is the beautiful southern debutante with absolutely nothing wrong in her life, and they do not expect her to be crazy. It is a real surprise the first time one sees that come out in her. It makes the audience stop and analyze everything she has said or done in the film and wonder if that stems from her instability.

         I think the role of Blanche would be fun to play because she is such a complex person, and it would be a real challenge to portray the different personalities she has. It would be interesting to learn about the role and to allow oneself to get into it. I do not, however, believe that anyone could play the role as effectively as Vivien Leigh because of her acting abilities and her experiences.

Allison Light

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