Vivien Leigh: Blanche DuBois Versus Scarlette O'Hara

     Vivien Leigh plays the role of Blanche DuBois in director Elia Kazan's 1951 production of Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire. I found it very hard to see a blond-haired Vivien trying to escape the upscale character of Scarlett O'Hara. Vivien seems to be known best for her role in Gone With the Wind, directed in 1939, by Victor Fleming. Being typecast is something many actors/actresses face. However, Vivien Leigh's talent is one that allows her to capture the character of Blanche nearly as well as the character of Scarlett O'Hara.

     Blanche, as played by Vivien Leigh, in the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire is a domineering, conniving type of person. She has a street-wise attitude and will do whatever she has to do to get what she wants. Blanche is very used to manipulating men to satisfy her ego and financial needs. Is this not the same description of Scarlett O'Hara in the movie version of Margaret Mitchell's 1936 Gone With The Wind?--what a coincidence!

     Scarlett O'Hara would be similarly described except that she is a southern belle with no hardships of her own before the war. She is an heiress and is doted on by every man that sees her. Vivien Leigh's Scarlett would be quite a marital catch, whereas Vivien Leigh's Blanche would be a marital mistake. Blanche is portrayed as an experienced woman who has been intimate with many men. On the other hand, Scarlett is the virginal daughter who waits for her wedding night.

     As I watched A Streetcar Named Desire, I kept comparing the roles of Blanche and Scarlett. Since Vivien Leigh made her career with Gone With the Wind, she was definitely typecast, in my opinion, by the role of Scarlett. Whenever we hear the name Vivien Leigh, we recognize her by her role in Gone With the Wind. In some ways, though, it is obvious that she was typecast if one compares the other characters, especially Blanche DuBois, she portrays in her films. Overall, we must realize that Vivien Leigh is a classic actress, capable of playing a variety of roles, not just that of a hard-core vixen, Scarlett O'Hara.

Jamie Steffy

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