To Act or to Become

     If the Godfather would have known how much better he was than Miss Scarlett, she would surely have been 'swimming with the fishes,' instead of overacting her way into insanity.

     Vivien Leigh, who portrayed Blanche DuBois in Elia Kazan's 1951 cinematic version of Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire, was too high-strung even to act as a crazy narcissist/slut. Of course the insane do not always act natural, but it is frustrating to the audience to see crazy overdone. Marlon Brando, on the other hand, convincingly played an aggressive, testosterone-injected, wife-beating son-of-a-bitch, just the way author Tennessee Williams describes Stanley to be.

     Leigh was magnificent in Gone with the Wind, directed in 1939 by Victor Fleming. She looked as if she enjoyed being a southern belle. Her best scenes were even the ones in which she is conniving and plotting. Perhaps that is the reason her best scenes in Streetcar occurred when she was defying Stanley. For example, when she throws all of her material concerning the estate--she looks mad, and mad is a great look for her. Anger is almost as becoming on Leigh as coy.

     Something happened to actors since the time of the classic Gone With the Wind. Actors stopped being actors, and they became the characters they were meant to play. It is not about screaming to the audience: "Hey! Do you see what a great actor I am? " Now the audience does not want to know anyone is pretending to be someone else. Audiences now require actors to be someone else.

     Brando understood that. He became Stanley, heart and soul, good and bad. Watching Brando on film, especially juxtaposed to Leigh, one can see a transition from the old thinking to the new. Leigh did a good job at what she knew, but Brando could have fooled me.

Jennifer Sacharnoski

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