To Be or Not to Be

        I think that the 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire most effectively employed actors in adapting the original 1947 work. The book was by Tennessee Williams. This movie was directed by Elia Kazan. He was an amazing Greek-American director with a long track record of directing great movies, as well as an accredited career in his own acting roles. This movie, as you know, was my favorite movie out of all the adaptations that we viewed. The two main actors in this movie were Marlon Brando (who played Stanley) and Vivien Leigh (who depicted Blanche). The actors that they chose for this movie blew me away. They did such a great job and were completely believable in their adaptations. The book described the characters in detail; and, when I finally saw the film, it seemed as if I had been seeing the characters all along. There are many reasons why these characters were perfect for these roles. Let us explore a couple of those reasons.

        First, Blanche was described as a woman with an interesting past and an unknown future. She had formerly been a prostitute and was going to live with her sister, Stella (Kim Hunter), and her husband, Stanley. I am very intrigued by the character that she played because here is a beautiful, young woman who seems to have the potential to grasp the world by her fingertips; however, as with many women, she chose the latter. I have a personal intrigue with people who are very attractive but slightly broken and a little crazy (i.e., Halle Berry). Blanche appeared to be psychologically stable for the first part of this movie; but, as the movie unfolds, her underlying psychosis begins to surface in an uncontrollable way. Her sister, Stella, was always by her side; but Stanley made things worse. Her disposition is rather charming; but, with all the lies she tells, it does make me wonder if she were a pathological liar. I love the way the movie allows the viewers to go with the flow of confusion (good antidote for a suspense-drama), make their own assumptions, then either confirm these assumptions by the end of the movie.

        The role of Blanche is played by Vivien Leigh, who to me is an astounding, charismatic, and strikingly beautiful actress of her times. One important detail about her acting in this film is the fact that she was going through her own personal trials in her real life. This goes back to the intrigue with slightly broken people that I mentioned earlier. She was able to pull from her personal experiences. Instead of suppressing them, as most people do from time to time, Vivien let her emotions surface as she proceeded to act the role of Blanche. In my critical opinion, this practice should be used by some if not all actors that want to portray characters in a believable and natural way. The fact that I could see and feel the emotional turmoil of Blanche at the end of the movie, as was able to put myself into her situation, shows that her performance was characteristic of a whirlwind.

        Her credentials include roles as memorable as her Oscar-winning portrayal as Scarlett O'Hara in the 1939 Academy-Award-winning movie, Gone With the Wind, directed by Victor Fleming. In this movie, Vivien Leigh played a young Southern Belle who was slowly seduced by n older, sly, and handsome gentleman. She was a chestnut-brown brunette with long, curly hair in that movie. However, in A Streetcar Named Desire, the film makers proceeded to give her a blond, very believable looking wig to better suit her character. But all in all, I do not think that Elia Kazan could have picked a better "Blanche" to play the movie character; and apparently he thought so, as he explained in his documentary.

        Marlon Brando--what is the first visual image that one sees when one thinks of him. Well, what I think of when I see that name is handsome. But he is widely known and respected as an actor with a very long career from his younger days to his older years. One of my personal favorite movies of his is The Godfather, directed in 1972 by Francis Ford Coppola. And even though in that role, he was rapping at the door of sixty years of age, he was still very handsome and charismatic. The play Streetcar has a very thorough description of the character of Stanley, the husband of Stella, and the brother-in-law of Blanche. Stanley was characterized as a very harsh, animalistic (as I always say bout his role in this movie), violent-tempered, poker-playing brute who was as mannish as a football player. Ironically and truthfully, the combination of these traits and his extremely handsome appearance makes for an attractive man with bad boy appeal. I say this to be true because, as we were watching this film in the classroom, the young ladies around me were oohing and ahhing as his image flashed on the screen. And surprisingly enough, after one of his signature tantrums, a girl sitting close to me in the classroom said:

        "Now that's the kind of man I need. . ."

        I grimaced at the thought and asked her:


        And she replied, "Of course, are you kidding?"

I was appalled at this but at the same time not perturbed because the bad boy image is often what is most appealing to a woman, especially if he is very good looking. Marlon Brando played the movie role to a tee from what was described in the book. It even got the point that his looks were quite distracting from that monster that he was. But yet and still, he did an excellent job of convincing me that he was an alcoholic, irrational jerk.

        In conclusion, these two actors did breakthrough performances and were successful in adapting the original work. Collectively, these two beautiful people complemented each other in a very offbeat kind of way. To further prove my point, previous mentioned, slightly broken people are so intriguing! Evidently, Elia Kazan would agree with me. My theory is that, when two intimidating sources of energy collide, this makes for a crash. My theory is that the reason that they did not get long or mesh well together (in their respective portrayals) was that they both saw each other as a potential threat. I proclaim, "Good job, Elia Kazan."

Marci Coleman

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