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A Streetcar Named Desire

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A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire is a play by Tennessee Williams describing a culture clash between Blanche DuBois—a pretentious, fading relic of the Old South—and Stanley Kowalski, a rising member of the industrial, inner-city immigrant class. The first stage version was produced by Irene Mayer Selznick with Marlon Brando starring as Stanley, Jessica Tandy as Blanche, Kim Hunter as Stella, and Karl Malden as Mitch. Brando portrayed Stanley with an overt sexuality that made Brando, Stanley, and Tennessee Williams into cultural touchstones. The play opened on Broadway on December 3, 1947. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1948.

Brando's magnetic performance tricked audiences into rooting for Stanley in the opening scenes of the play, effectively implicating them in Stanley's eventual brutality towards Blanche.

Blanche DuBois is a fading Southern belle whose pretensions to virtue and culture only thinly mask her nymphomania and alcoholism. After her ancestral southern plantation is "lost" (due to the "epic fornications" of her ancestors), Blanche arrives at her sister's house in the French Quarter of New Orleans where the multicultural setting is a shock to her nerves.

Stella, the sister, is just as addicted to sex as Blanche and is willing to put up with Stanley's crudity and lack of culture because he is great in bed. (Of course, she doesn't put it in quite those simple terms -- but this was racy stuff in the 1940s.)

Blanche and Stanley, together with Arthur Miller's Willy Loman, are among the most recognizable characters in American drama.

The reference to the streetcar (tram) called Desire is ironic, as well as an accurate piece of New Orleans geography. Blanche has to travel on it to reach Stella's home, the idea being that she has already indulged in desire before she arrives. Her sorrow is that the pleasure brought from desire is only short, just like the streetcar journey. It does not give her security. Still, she cannot return on the streetcar named Desire because she has only a one-way ticket.

In 1951, Elia Kazan directed a movie based on the play; Vivien Leigh replaced Tandy but the other three main characters remained the same. In 1999 the film, widely regarded a classic, was deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. Censorship of the time called for the end of the film involving Stella's renunciation of Stanley's rape, perhaps to the point of leaving the household. The actual play's ending is far more ambiguous with a distraught Stella (at having sent off her sister Blanche) mutely allowing herself to be fondled by Stanley.

The movie won Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Karl Malden), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Vivien Leigh), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Kim Hunter), and Best Art Direction -- Set Decoration, Black-and-White. It was also nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Marlon Brando), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Costume Design, Black-and-White, Best Director, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, Best Picture, Best Sound, Recording and Best Writing, Screenplay.

Streetcar came shortly after Williams's first big success, The Glass Menagerie of 1945. While Williams kept writing plays and fiction into the 1980s, none of his later works lived up to the critical reputation of his first hits.

Comparison with other works

Streetcar explores a similar sitatuion to the works of Chekov, who explored the parallel fall of the upper class in turn of the century Russia. Stanley may in some interpretations be seen as a hero in the style of Ayn Rand, a new-age meritocrat struggling to overthrow the old pretentious upper class.

Streetcar revival in New Orleans

Over 50 years after the play opened, the revival of the streetcar system in New Orleans is credited by many to the worldwide fame gained by the streetcars made by the Perley A. Thomas Car Works, Inc. which were operating on the Desire route in the play, and have been carefully restored and continue to operate there in 2004 (though not on the Desire route.)

See Also

de:Endstation Sehnsucht ja:欲望という名の電車

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