An Actor Transformed

         When a person reads a book, he or she develops an idea of what a character looks like. The reader also develops ideas as to the way a character speaks, emphasizes his or her lives, and/or reacts to other characters. It is not surprising that many people are disappointed when their favorite character is portrayed in a movie. The director puts his or her own slant on the movie. Similarly, the actors may not see the character in the same way that the reader does. Often, readers will hate the cinematic adaptation of a book. I believe that this is one advantage of books. Each individual reader can perceive a story or character in a unique way. Movies do not have this advantage.

         Obviously, some actors portray his or her character better than others. I have seen one example of an actor actually transforming himself into a character so well that I could not imagine perceiving the character in any other way. This actor is Marlon Brando.

         After reading A Streetcar Named Desire, written in 1947 by Tennessee Williams, I formed a mental image of all the characters. Because of this, I was almost afraid to watch the movie. While I love plays, past experience with cinematic adaptations has taught me that movies often disappoint lovers of an original novel or play.

         I was pleasantly surprised. The movie was just as good, if not better in my opinion, than the play. I believe this was due to several factors. The original play was only altered slightly in some scenes because of censorship, but I believe the biggest appeal that the 1951 movie has is Marlon Brando. He portrays Stanley in such a way that the audience hates him and also loves him.<

         At the very beginning of the play, Stanley throws some meat up to Stella. This is a very "cave man" thing to do. At the very beginning, we are not supposed to see Stanley as a gentleman. He is a violent man who incorporates violence and raw desire into every part of his life.

         Brando portrays this violent side very well. He is strong-looking and has a piercing gaze. Brando is able to look like evil madness itself when he is angry. Only minutes later, the audience is trying to like him again. He turns on his smile and softens his expression so that it is nearly impossible to hate him.

         This is Brando's greatest asset in A Streetcar Named Desire. He is Stanley. Stanley can turn on the charm to win Stella (Kim Hunter) back, or he can lose his temper so fast that Blanche (Vivien Leigh) cowers in fear. Marlon Brando is also able to make these quick changes in character. His charm and ability to really throw a fit transforms him into Stanley Kowalski.

Jennifer Stafford

Table of Contents