It is always exciting to hear the news that one of one’s favorite literary works is being made into a motion picture. Whether it is a remake of a classic or taken from a fresh contemporary piece, the question of how well the film will compare to the book is one that readers cannot wait to answer.
The downside, of course, to any happiness is the dreaded "what if" situation. Most readers comment, "What if the movie is not as good as the book?--or "What if the movie is better than the book?" Either question one tries to answer will leave someone in dismay. It is for this reason that I like movies that are based on plays. This is so because I have found that the transformation from the stage, to the screen is almost one in the same.
In relation to works studied in my English 213 class, the best example of this "miracle" is Elia Kazan’s 1951 film adaptation of Tennessee William’s 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire. In this classic tale of lust and lies, a reader of the play will not be disappointed when watching the stunning performances of Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando. A person could conclude that a camera was set in front of a copy of the play and recorded from the pages. That is how close the film and book compared to me.
Of course, there were a few scenes that had to be altered due to the censorship of the times. This has to be expected, but not justified by Williams’s fans. The most notable change in the dialogue of the film was that of a scene in which Blanche reveals to Mitch (Karl Malden) the unfortunate events that surrounded the death of her young husband. Readers know that Blanche had caught her husband in bed with another man. Viewers fall under the assumption that she had seemingly just fallen out of love with him, due to his timid nature. Some people could, and would, argue that changing scenes such as this one is a disgrace to the first law of our country--to hell with censorship!--while others would agree that the right thing had been done by covering up such smut.
My opinion in the matter is "Who cares?" When one is watching Blanche reliving her past, one should be interested in the pain and anguish she had to endure when she was young. It is her story people should be interested in hearing. They should not be worrying if her husband was gay or not. He is dead, gone. People should be focused on Blanche.
I feel Kazan did a wonderful job in expressing the emotions needed to carry a story such as Streetcar. He took most of William’s original words and turned them into a notable classic. We are allowed to enjoy all of the pains and passions of each character. -And explore them as Williams intended. The only drawback now is that Vivien Leigh is dead; and Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden are too old to remake their masterpiece. As well as everyone knows if the play was filmed today, directors would probably add a scene with Blanche’s husband caught in the act! My how times have changed.