My Thoughts on Streetcar
By Tennessee Williams

     Stopping for a moment in my life of senseless chatter and never-ending minutes, I begin to think about the 1951 film adaptation of my play (which won the Pulitzer, but no matter) A Streetcar Named Desire (1947). It is very curious how, when one writes a successful play or book or short story, my case being a play, Hollywood causes knockings at one's door. Several of my plays have become major motion pictures throughout my careers, and many of them have been praised by the ever-so-lovely circle of critics. However, Streetcar represents some things very special to me. I have been known to say that of all my characters I feel the greatest connection to Blanche DuBois. This is definitely the truth. Throughout my life I have experienced many of the same downfalls and breakdowns that Blanche suffered.

     Anyway, Elia Kazan's treatment of Streetcar very well follows my vision of the play. Of course he directed the Broadway stage production in 1947 with a considerable amount of success. Kazan and I both felt that the importance of heat needed to be stressed in this film especially because in a stage production the audience cannot really see the way the fuel that sparks the conflicts to come. The only thing I did not like about the stage production was that Marlon Brando played Stanley. There was something about his interpretation that I did not quite agree with; he was too much the animal. Yet, Kazan convinced us that Brando was exactly the actor able to portray Stanley, as closely as possible; and, later on as the production continued, I became more and more satisfied with his performance.

     I wrote the screenplay for Streetcar for the 1951 production, so the changes from the play are my own doings. The very first scene is changed in order to give the audience a better look at and first impression of Blanche. I decided that having the film open up with Stanley bellowing at Stella, as I have him doing in the play, would not necessarily give an audience member a fair opinion of Blanche as she arrived. One could see just how fragile and breakable Vivien Leigh's Blanche is as she walks through the streets of red-hot New Orleans.

     Of course several scenes needed to be altered for the sakes of the censors. Scene ten had to be treated a little differently. There is a clear implication that Stanley rapes Blanche; however, for movie audiences it had to be implied, but not too directly. And because Stanley has violated not only Blanche but also Stella (Kim Hunter), he has to be punished with Stella's leaving him with the baby. Changing those scenes satisfied the censors enough, but the tragedy in this is that there is no clear thought that Stella will return to Stanley as she has in the past.

     Overall, though, the film definitely captured the message of the play. Vivien Leigh did a very good job with her interpretation of Blanche. She brought out the nervousness and anticipation of breakdown very effectively. I was very pleased with her performance.

     It is easier to do a film adaptation of a play than a novel or short story. The themes and passions expressed in plays can be translated easier by a director and a cast. That is the truest case with Kazan's direction of Streetcar. It truly expresses the confinement, terror, and sheer fragility of my play.

Angela Poe

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