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A Streetcar Named Desire (Original Director's

A movie directed by Elia Kazan

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Not a Heroine But Tragic Nonetheless

  • Aug 1, 2003
For various reasons, I have never liked either the play or the film on which it is based but remain fascinated with the human experiences which Tennessee Williams examines. The character of Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando) dominates the narrative but his wife Stella (Kim Hunter) really is the stronger person. Pregnant, she is visited by her sister Blanche Dubois (Vivien Leigh) who arrives with enough emotional baggage to keep a regiment of psychotherapists busy. She and Stanley have an immediate and ambivalant chemical reaction to each other. To her, he is a lower animal, unworthy of her sister; to him, she is a posturing, pretentious bitch. Under the brilliant direction of Elia Kazan, Leigh's performance suggests how fragile, vulnerable, and desperate Blanche really is. As for Stanley, to invoke a weary aphorism, what we see is what we get...except that he seems vulnerable without his wife's love and support. Both on stage and in the film, there is no doubt of the powerful sexual attraction between Stella and Stanley. Williams invests the character of Blanche with ephemeral qualities. In some respects, she is an elderly Scarlett O'Hara who reluctantly endures her sister's boorish husband because she has nowhere else to go. Her personal "streetcar" has reached the end of the line.

The acting is consistently outstanding. Of course, we know early on that there will be a major confrontation between Blanche and Stanley. Oscar Saul collaborated with Williams on the screenplay which carefully prepares us for it. When it finally occurs, we feel sympathy (if not pity) for Blanche and her relocation to a new home in which, perhaps, she will receive the kindness she so obviously craves. There is great emotional power in this film. Also, I think, sadness with regard to the resolution of Blanche's association with the Kowalskis. With all due respect to Leigh (who received an Academy Award for her performance, as did Hunter and Karl Malden for theirs), I would have preferred Jessica Tandy whom I was privileged to see in the Broadway production. Tandy captured -- in ways and to an extent which Leigh does not -- certain nuances of Blanche's illusions and delusions which are indelibly poignant.

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More A Streetcar Named Desire (1951... reviews
Quick Tip by . March 02, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
An astounding adaptation of the classic Tennessee Williams' play that stands the test of time 60 years later. Marlon Brando gives a performance that sizzles with sexuality, seething anger, and insecurity. Kim Hunter is terrific as Stella.   Elia Kazan, the original director of the play, brought all of Williams' brilliant, poetic realism to the screen in a remarkable film powered by a great cast. Even after the film was censored during its initial release, it still had the power …
review by . May 08, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
"A Streetcar Named Desire"    The Kindness of Strangers    Amos Lassen and Cinema Pride    I have wanted to review this film for a long time and now that I am on vacation, I decided it was time for a New Orleans guy to try to have his say. I recently brought home the wonderful seven volume DVD set of "The Tennessee Williams Film Collection" and have been working my way through reacquainting myself with some of the greatest films ever made. …
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Robert Morris ()
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Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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Looking for a benchmark in movie acting? Breakthrough performances don't come much more electrifying than Marlon Brando's animalistic turn as Stanley Kowalski inA Streetcar Named Desire.Sweaty, brutish, mumbling, yet with the balanced grace of a prizefighter, Brando storms through the role--a role he had originated in the Broadway production of Tennessee Williams's celebrated play. Stanley and his wife, Stella (as in Brando's oft-mimicked line, "Hey, Stellaaaaaa!"), are the earthy couple in New Orleans's French Quarter whose lives are upended by the arrival of Stella's sister, Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh). Blanche, a disturbed, lyrical, faded Southern belle, is immediately drawn into a battle of wills with Stanley, beautifully captured in the differing styles of the two actors. This extraordinarily fine adaptation won acting Oscars for Leigh, Kim Hunter (as Stella), and Karl Malden (as Blanche's clueless suitor), but not for Brando. Although it had already been considerably cleaned up from the daringly adult stage play, director Elia Kazan was forced to trim a few of the franker scenes he had shot. In 1993,Streetcarwas rereleased in a "director's cut" that restored these moments, deepening a film that had already secured its place as an essential American work.--Robert Horton
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Director: Elia Kazan
Genre: Classics, Drama
Screen Writer: Tennessee Williams, Oscar Saul
DVD Release Date: March 26, 1997
Runtime: 122 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
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