If I had the authority to award an Oscar to an actor/actress for his/her role based on the way he/she presented his/her character as conceived by the author of a written work, I would choose Vivien Leigh for her performance as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, Elia Kazan's 1951 cinematic adaptation of Tennessee Williams' 1947 play. Leigh's stunning performance overshadows her character. Leigh's ability to portray a completely person who possess diverse emotions provides diverse emotions provides viewers with a glimpse at an award-winning performance. I appreciate Leigh's performance for several reasons.
I value Leigh's performance because of her ability to stay true to Blanche's character. Blanche demonstrates many extreme emotions, ranging from complete happiness to paranoia. When Blanch experiences a whimsical high after she drinks, she dances around in her youthfully decorated room. In the film, Vivien gathers her dress in her hands and delightfully prances around the room as if she easily transforms into Blanche's masquerade of madness. Leigh seems to morph quickly between Blanche's emotions especially during her confrontations with Mitch (Karl Malden). After Mitch discovers the truth about Blanche's past, he visits her at the apartment. Blanche acts as if she does not suspect that Mitch is angry with her. Vivien talks excitedly as she utters Williams' lines from the original play: "… I really shouldn't have let you in after the treatment I have received from you this evening! So utterly uncavalier! But hello, beautiful" (113). She holds her careless demeanor so well that my palms sweated in anticipation of Mitch's angry response. After Mitch reveals his knowledge of her, Vivien's entire countenance changes. She sheds her cheerful exterior and becomes a cold, brooding woman. Vivien lowers her voice as she tells of her life that she has endured. As she speaks of Belle Reve, Vivien's voice drops to a low tone of disgust as she says: "Death--I used to sit here and she used to sit there and death was as close as you are…" (120).
The most important reason that I honor Vivien Leigh's performance is that Leigh causes me to have the same reaction to Blanche's character as I do for her character in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire. While I read this book, I felt sort for Blanche. She remained at Belle Reeve alone and watched as it fell into ruin and her relatives died. Unfortunately, Blanche makes poor decisions to fill the loneliness in her heart. After she arrives in New Orleans, Blanch finally pours her heart out to Mitch near the end; and all she can do is fling it back into her face. Vivien Leigh captures Blanche's desperate attempts at acceptance and successfully depicts Blanche's struggle between a fanciful façade and the harsh reality of truth.
Vivien Leigh's ability to display the plethora of emotions that Blanche DuBois possesses earns Leigh an Oscar from my position as a viewer of A Streetcar Named Desire