Sweat, Fluff, and Tears

     In the 1951 film version of Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Elia Kazan, much effort was put into making the characters of the story come alive through make-up and costumes. I will discuss the costumes and make- up of the three following characters: Blanche, Stella, and Stanley.

     Blanche's (Vivien Leigh) fluffy soft silk dresses designed in pastel colors fit her southern vulnerable personality very well. Always wearing that fluffy nightgown and robe assisted in showing the audience the loneliness and desperate feelings she had toward men. Near the end of the movie Blanche wearing her tiara and beads shows how she fantasizes about being young again. In addition, during the scene where Mitch (Karl Malden) confronts Blanche about her secrets, her make-up was done to make her appear to be much older. Underneath her eyes dark circles were created and wrinkles were formed with the magic of make-up to show the true face that Blanche had been hiding with make-up and fluffy dresses.

     Stella's (Kim Hunter) costumes were perfect in representing a woman of those times living in a lower economic class. Her dresses were very plain and did not flatter the figure like the dresses worn by Blanche. Also, during her pregnancy, extra cloth was put under the dress to show her pregnancy, which was a risky thing to show on film in those days. Her hair was also very plain and short while Blanche's was always perfectly curled. These characteristics added to the human qualities of these characters. In addition, the tears of these two characters were always perfect. The wet eyes and rosy cheeks added to the realness of the emotions experienced by these two women.

     Stanley's (Marlon Brando) hot, sexy style steamed up the screen. The sweat on his face, hair, and shirts gave the audience a great idea of the heat experienced in New Orleans during the hot summer. Stanley's clothes were the stereotypical clothing of a man who gets drunk and abuses his wife (sweaty white shirts and brown belted pants). I also thought it was a nice touch when the costume designer put Stanley in his silk pajamas to celebrate the coming of his new baby; at the same time it gave me the idea that he might try to put the moves on Blanche. The designer's choice of clothing left the audience guessing. I really enjoyed this movie, and I felt the sweat, tears, and fluff added tremendously!

Toni L. Crum

Table of Contents