A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

A Streetcar Named Desirestreetcar poster
Directed by Elia Kazan
Written by Oscar Saul and Tennessee Williams from the play by Williams
1951/USA
Chales K. Feldman Group/Warner Bros.
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
#245 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Blanche DuBois: I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic. I try to give that to people. I do misrepresent things. I don’t tell truths. I tell what ought to be truth.

This is a practically perfect adaptation of a powerful and poetic masterpiece.  Only freedom from Hayes Code restrictions could possibly have made it better.

Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) has come to the end of her rope.  Having burned all her bridges behind her, she arrives tin New Orleans o seek safe haven with her younger sister, Stella (Kim Hunter).  Stella is used to Blanche’s demands and airs and, although pregnant, welcomes her extended stay.  Unfortunately for Blanche, Stella is married to and passionately in love with Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando).  Stanley is the diametric opposite of Blanche.  He is brutally honest, confrontational and uneducated while Blanche is trying desperately to preserve the illusion of some imagined past as a Southern belle and quotes from the great works of literature.

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Things do not work out well in the cramped Kowalski flat to say the least.  Blanche is constantly putting Stanley down while he spends all his time seeking to strip her bare of her pretensions.  It is obvious that her current situation is untenable so Blanche sets out to win Mitch (Karl Malden), the most civilized of Stanley’s poker buddies.  In the meantime, Blanche’s presence has strained Stella and Stanley’s relationship and Stanley becomes more and more determined to rid himself of an unwanted houseguest.

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What can one say about this classic?  The acting could not be bettered.  I don’t know if Leigh gets enough credit for her performance of a very difficult part.  It’s easy to overlook when she shares the screen with the volcano that was young Brando. One of his triumphs was the humanity he brought to what could have been the part of a mere bully.   I could not have lived with Blanche for ten minutes but Tennessee Williams makes her fate stand in for all the pain of a hard and heartless world.  Most highly recommended.

A Streetcar Named Desire won Academy Awards in the categories of: Best Actress (Leigh); Best Supporting Actor (Malden); Best Supporting Actress (Hunter); and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black–and-White.  It was nominated in the categories of Best Picture; Best Actor (Brando); Best Director; Best Writing, Screenplay; Best Cinematography, Black-and-White; Best Costume Design; Black-and-White; Best Sound, Recording; and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

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4 thoughts on “A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

  1. I think I respect A Streetcar more than I like it. It is emotionally draining and I do not like the characters at all, but it also extremely well made and well acting and the points of the movie are very sharp.

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