A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) – A Must See !!!!
A Streetcar Named Desire is the 1951 film adaptation of the 1947, Pulitzer Prize winning stage play by Tennessee Williams. Elia Kazan who directed the play also directed the movie with the star cast of Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden and Vivien Leigh. Except Vivien Leigh all the others reprised their stage roles for the film as well.
A Streetcar Named Desire holds the distinction of wining Academy Awards for actors in three out of the four acting categories. Oscars were won by Vivien Leigh, Best Actress, Karl Malden, Best Supporting Actor, and Kim Hunter, Best Supporting Actress. Marlon Brando was nominated for his performance as Stanley Kowalski but he did not win the Oscar for Best Actor. The film is a first to honor actors in both the Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress category. It also won an Oscar for Art Direction.
It is not only the acting that stands out in this classic movie but the direction and the musical score also are impeccable. Elia Kazan created the atmosphere and helped the actors create the roles of their lives. It is to the credit of Elia that the movie feels humid, close and claustrophobic. Eliza made the set walls movable so that, with each scene, the wall could close in on Blanche Dubois so that it mirrors her insanity. Alex North scores the music for this movie and although he was nominated for the Academy award he did not win it. North moved away radically from the musical trend that was prevalent in Hollywood at that time….. that of action based music and instead composed in the traditional Leitmotif style which reflected the psychological dynamics of the characters and added depth and texture to the story.
Let’s move on to the lead players of the movie: Blanche Dubois (Vivian Leigh), Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando), Stella (Kim Hunter) and Mitch (Karl Malden). Vivian Leigh is Blanche, Blanche is Vivian Leigh. Do we need to say more? Leigh is susceptible yet self-seeking, sure yet feels deprived, proper yet unbalanced. She looks beautiful and haughty as befitting a high society female one minute and in the next minute she is fragile, worn and defeated flitting precariously on the edge of sanity. There is no doubt that she fully deserved her Oscar. Tennessee Williams himself wrote of Vivien Leigh’s performance in this movie: “She brought everything I intended to the role and even much more than I had dared dream of”.
Is Marlon Brando any less? It is a pity that he did not win the Oscar but he is electrifying and memorable as Stanley. His very presence in some of the scenes is scary for us and so it is for Blanche. This was the movie in which he brought in what is now called method acting. He emoted a new, raw, emotional and mature kind of expression showing a deeper psychological approach to his character which nobody has been able to surpass till today. Kim Hunter and Karl Malden provide ample support to the lead characters and are worthy of the Oscars they earned. But the performances of Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh, as Stanley and Blanche, are what make the film the cinematic powerhouse that it is.
An interesting trivia is that the role of Blanche was given to Vivien Leigh (after Olivia de Havilland refused it) because she had more box office appeal.
Numerous attempts have been made to remake this film, both on the stage and for television. But no one has been able to surpass this classic!! .
A superb play which has become a great movie superbly acted, ably directed, fine musical score all these deserve all the praise that is heaped upon the film. It is a compelling story due to the characters and the manner in which they are delivered. Epic performances in a movie that seethes with atmosphere – I cannot think of an excuse for people not having seen this film