2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars some of the best the screen has ever seen
Vivien Leigh, well-known for her portrayal of Scarlett O'Hara in 1939's "Gone With the Wind", plays Blanche, a Southern belle as fragile as Scarlett is strong. In a way, Blanche is what Scarlett would have become if she had watched her mother die. "Death is very pretty compared to dying," she tells her sister Stella, who only came home for the...
Published on July 13 2004 by momazon
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One Quick Question......... (3.5 stars)
I'm curious to know if anyone has read the play. Because, I want to know what they think of the ending in the movie version. It completly changes the tone and subject of the movie! Let me tell you something: this play was supposed to be about Blanche's tragedy. Changing the ending takes that element away. You can no longer call it a tragedy, and all of the sudden now...
Published on Aug. 6 2002 by Michael Crane
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars some of the best the screen has ever seen,
Vivien Leigh, well-known for her portrayal of Scarlett O'Hara in 1939's "Gone With the Wind", plays Blanche, a Southern belle as fragile as Scarlett is strong. In a way, Blanche is what Scarlett would have become if she had watched her mother die. "Death is very pretty compared to dying," she tells her sister Stella, who only came home for the funeral.
Stella is pregnant and married to Stanley (the inimitable Brando) who both abhors and is fascinated by his sister-in-law Blanche (and not just in a platonic manner.) Blanche in turn is interested in meeting new gentleman callers, as her great love once killed himself (as she tells us in one of the most riveting scenes in movie history.) Interesting note: the delivery boy she flirts with is Mickey Kuhn, who once played Leigh's nephew Beau in GWTW.
Blanche is so fragile that she has no choice but to break. Unfortunately, others hurry her down that path. Perhaps the worst thing one can do, it seems, is depend on the kindness of strangers.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paper Moon.,
As a playwright, Tennessee Williams was to the South what William Faulkner was as a fiction writer: a creative genius who revolutionized not only the region's arts scene and literature but that of 20th century America as a whole, bringing a Southern voice to the forefront while addressing universally important themes, and influencing and inspiring generations of later writers.
Pulitzer-Prize-winning "A Streetcar Named Desire" dates from the peak of Williams's creativity, the period between 1944 ("A Glass Menagerie") and 1955 ("Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," his second Pulitzer-winner). After its successful 1947 run on Broadway, "Streetcar" was adapted into a screenplay by Williams himself for this movie produced and directed by Elia Kazan, starring the entire Broadway cast except Jessica Tandy, who was replaced by the star of the play's London production, Vivien Leigh. The piece takes its title from one of the New Orleans streetcar lines that protagonist Blanche DuBois (Leigh) rides on her way to the apartment of her sister Stella (Kim Hunter), foreshadowing her later path, from (ever-unfulfilled) Desire to Cemetery (death, or the loss of reality) and a street called Elysian Fields, like the ancient mythological land of the dead.
Although Blanche is the person most visibly engaging in deception (of herself and others), almost everyone of the characters suffers loss after a brutal reality check: Stella, who hasn't been back home for years, first learns from Blanche that their genteel home Belle Reve (literally: "beautiful dream") is "lost" - although in what manner precisely Blanche doesn't specify, which immediately raises the suspicion of Stella's husband Stanley (Marlon Brando) - only to later hear from Stanley that under the veneer of Blanche's appearance as a delicate Southern lady lies a promiscuous past, and the true circumstances of her ouster from her job and ultimately from their home town were not as Blanche would have Stella believe. Stanley's friend Mitch (Karl Malden), who despite their disparate social backgrounds intends to marry Blanche after they are drawn to each other by their mutual need for "somebody" in their life, is similarly disillusioned by Stanley, and subsequently by Blanche herself when he insists on seeing her in bright light instead of the dim light of dancehalls and of the paper lamp she has insisted on hanging over Stella and Stanley's living room lamp, neither able to face the effects of age and a profligate lifestyle herself nor willing to reveal them to others. And Blanche's own loss of innocence, finally, set in years earlier, when she found her young husband in bed with another man and he committed suicide after she publicly reproached him. "Nobody sees anybody truly but all through the flaws of their own egos. That is the way we all see each other in life," Tennessee Williams says about "A Streetcar Named Desire" in Kazan's 1988 autobiography "A Life;" and in a letter opposing the movie's censoring before its release he described the story as being about "ravishment of the tender, the sensitive, the delicate, by the savage and brutal forces of modern society."
The brute, of course, is Stanley, who not only becomes the catalyst of Blanche's fate and the destroyer of Stella's, Mitch's and Blanche's own illusions, but is her antagonist in everything from background to personality: Where she is a fading belle dreaming of days gone by he is all youthful virility, a working-class man living in the here and now; where she is refined he is crude, and where she engages in pretense, he tears down the facade behind which she is hiding. The conversation during which Stanley tells Stella about Blanche's past is pointedly set against Blanche's humming the Arlen/Harburg tune "It's Only a Paper Moon," which sees love transforming life into a fantasy world, which in turn however "wouldn't be make-believe if you believed in me." Yet, as portrayed by Marlon Brando, who with this movie stormed into public awareness with his unique and volcanic approach to acting, Stanley is no mere vulgar beast but a complex, often controversial character, despite his brutal streak almost childishly dependant on his wife and frequently hiding his own insecurities under his raw appearance (thus putting up a certain front as well, but unlike Blanche's, a socially acceptable, even common one). Ever the method actor, Brando reportedly stayed in character even during filming breaks; much to the disgust of Vivien Leigh, for whom lines like "[h]e's like an animal. ... Thousands of years have passed him right by and there he is: Stanley Kowalski, survivor of the stone-age, bearing the raw meat home from the kill in the jungle" must consequently have come from the bottom of her heart.
In early 1950s' society, "Streetcar" was considered way too risque - even downright sordid - to be presented to moviegoing audiences without severe censorship, which Williams and Kazan were only partly able to fight. One of the most substantial changes made in the adaptation was that at the end of the movie Stanley is punished for his brutality towards Blanche, whereas in the play's cynical original ending he is the only character experiencing no loss at all; indeed seeing his world restored after Blanche's exit. Since Kazan's suggestion to produce two alternate versions (one to please the censors, one in conformity with Williams's play) was rejected, even the 1993 "Original Director's Version" retains its altered, censorship-induced ending. Therefore, the play will forever constitute the last word on Williams's intentions. But even in its censored version this movie was a deserved quadruple Oscar- and multiple other award-winner (albeit undeservedly not for Brando). It has long-since become a true classic: a cinematic gem of first-rate direction and superlative performances throughout.
And so it was I entered the broken world
To trace the visionary company of love, its voice
An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)
But not for long to hold each desperate choice.
Hart Crane, "The Broken Tower": Preface to the published version of Tennessee Williams's play.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One Quick Question......... (3.5 stars),
I'm curious to know if anyone has read the play. Because, I want to know what they think of the ending in the movie version. It completly changes the tone and subject of the movie! Let me tell you something: this play was supposed to be about Blanche's tragedy. Changing the ending takes that element away. You can no longer call it a tragedy, and all of the sudden now the movie is about Stella.
Coming from someone who absolutely LOVED reading the play, I think this new ending is a complete cop out. Well, it is. I know it was forced on the studio from people who didn't think the original ending was "appropriate."
My advice: read the play. It's better. Actually, the movie is also really good as well....except when it gets to the ending.
All in all, I was really disappointed with how it ended. Should've stuck to the original ending that was in the play. I would've given it 5 stars had it not been for the ridiculous "forced" ending.
But that's just one man's opinion.
2.0 out of 5 stars "Luck is believing you're lucky, that's all.",
Elia Kazan's film adaptation of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" features some of the best tour-de-force acting cinema has ever seen. Yet, the film feels strangely lacking and deficient. This is due more to the shortcomings of the source material than Kazan's direction. While Williams' minimalist story contained enough material to produce an engaging stage play, the same work comes across as diminutive when adapted to the larger canvas of the big screen.
Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) arrives in New Orleans after losing her family estate. Scandalous rumors have tarnished her reputation and she is hoping to find some comfort and peace of mind by moving in with her sister, Stella Kowalski (Kim Hunter). Blanche tries to mask her fragile psyche by weaving tall tales about herself but Stanley (Marlon Brando), Stella's brute of a husband, sees right through them. Conflict ensues in the household as Stanley uses his insight to torment Stella while his wife tries to maintain the peace.
Brando is magnificent in "A Streetcar Named Desire." This fact is hardly in dispute. His portrayal of Stanley is tremendously masculine as the iconic image of him in his torn shirt in the pouring rain screaming for his wife will attest. His acting is also surprisingly sensitive in the quiet moments when Stanley and Stella are making romantic small-talk. The other performers are stellar as Hunter, Leigh, and Karl Malden actually manage to keep pace with Brando. However, the new standards set for cinematic emotional conflict and realism cannot overcome the simple nature of the story. This lack of narrative complexity limits "A Streetcar Named Desire" to being only a brilliant acting showcase.
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating observation of humanity...,
Although, I find that "A Streetcar named Desire", for the most part had better acting,and a stronger story(mainly due to the fact there was less alteration to please the censors)than "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" with Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor, I found it slightly less entertaining.
Set in New ORleans, the story begins with the arrival of Blanch Du Bois at her sister Stella's home. Blanche gives off the impression of being an old fashioned, sophistacated woma, but as the story progresses she slowly falls into madness.Her interaction with all those around her help to slowly reveal her past and unveil her true personality.
Vivien Leigh is the shining star of Streetcar, delivering the performance of a lifetime as Blanche. The screen chemistry between her character and that of MArlon Brando as Stanley is intensely hot and brilliant. Brado alone has such magnetism you can seldom take an eye of him.
The film reflects Tennessee William's thorough examination of human experience and behavior.Possibly heightening the exploration with spectacular acting and clever camera work.
Overall, "A Streetcar Named Desire" is a masterpiece of filmwork and acting that deserves to be considered among the best of all time.
5.0 out of 5 stars The need to be desired personified...,
Desire is a streetcar that brings Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) to the French Quarters of New Orleans where her sister, Stella (Kim Hunter), lives with her husband, Stanley (Marlon Brando). This is Blanche's last resort for help as she has faced numerous hardships such as loosing her parents, her job as a teacher, and an undisclosed secret. These difficulties have left deep scares in Blanche's psyche and left her in a fragile state with neurosis and delusions. Stanley is unwilling to let Blanche stay, but Stella convinces Stanley to let Blanche stay temporally. However, Stanley's unwillingness to help grows to hostility and begins to affect Blanche as she discovers the true nature of Stanley. Streetcar Named Desire is a psychological dramatization based on Tennessee Williams's play with the same name that was adapted to the silver screen. Kazan did a brilliant job in directing the film and the cast performed splendidly with extremely strong performances by Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh. The cinematography and mise-en-scene are excellent as it leaves the audience with a brilliant cinematic experience that provides much room for thought as Blanche deals with her inner struggles.
5.0 out of 5 stars Best actress. Best playwright. Best director.,
Whether or not you like Elia Kazan as a person--think he's a ..., what have you--his talent for direction is undeniable. And he shows this in the film adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire. With the same aspect as such films as Wuthering Heights is, it's uncoth, it's dark, it's moody, it's creepy. But with reason. Some things just look better in black + white. To think of this in colour is unspeakable, even. This, along with On the Waterfront, rank as Kazan's best work. Both with Marlon Brando.
But dare I speak my mind? As much as I agree Brando is a very talented actour, and that his performance as Stanley Kowalski is excellent, a certain word comes to my mind...overrated? Now, perhaps it's because I prefer more of the traditional acting technique myself over method. Although you're not, in essense, "in character", it takes a real talent to pull it off. And in a nest of respected, seasoned methods, the one traditional gives, by far, the most outstanding performance. Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois is, not only the greatest acting in her career, but quite possibly by any female in the history of cinema. As stated before, she's purely technique. But the eery circumstances surrounding her life at this moment made her Blanche, and not with purpose. Although in a shallow perspective, Blanche is an overdramatic nympho whom many want to slap, I won't let it stop at that. Tennessee Williams remarked on how her Blanche was everything he had intended to bring to the role, and more. This I agree. Having read the play beforehand, and realizing that it would undoubtedly difficult to bring to life, I was persuaded by the 'closing credits' that Viv is one of the greatest actresses in cinematic history, at least to my knowledge. And because of that, she ranks as my most favourite. Above Katharine Hepburn, above Greta Garbo, above Joan Crawford. She can't be surpassed. And perhaps it's becuase I too, oddly enough can sympathize with the character. Sure, I'm not an aging, tormented nyphomaniac-of-a-southern belle, some of it is all to eery. Nothing is greater than the line "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers". Damn..in a twisted way, it's the hero of the epic tale--one who can surpass all time and place with what they represent. Can't be better.
Karl Malden also gives a great performance as Mitch. Having liked him as an actour [and Mitch as a character], I was satisfied with what I watched. I didn't care much for Kim Hunter, although she's not neccesarily bad. The art direction is everything that it should be, and it's Alex North's finest hour. Should've won best picture.
Coming from a huge Tennessee Williams fan, this can't be surpassed in terms of film-adaptations of plays. My favourite play, my favourite movie, my favourite actress, and one of my favourite directors. It can't be defeated.
5.0 out of 5 stars Leigh is brilliant!,
By A Customer
At the outset, I have to say that I never had a particular interest in reading or seeing this play. Sadly this is due to the various interpretations I have heard or read over the years concerning the Blanche DuBois character. For me, the interpretations formed preconceived notions which encouraged me to avoid this play like a plague. The idea of encountering another frail, southern belle, losing her mind and descending into madness, simply did not intrigue me. Hearing Lange's own commentary on the mindset of Blanche DuBois, sadly made me even less inclined to explore this story.
Consequently, upon watching this film, I cannot adequately express my shock at what a brilliant piece of theater this play is. Let's be honest, Vivien Leigh? Marlon Brando? does it get better? Please! How anyone can even attempt to criticize is beyond me. In my mind Jessica Lange and Jessica Tandy are lacking in that they do not have Leigh's extraordinary beauty, a quality which I felt essential to the story.
Since I see that everyone else offers an interpretation, I'll offer mine too....Although this may differ with some other interpretations,I consider Blanche to be the strongest character in the play, as opposed to being the weakest. She has the purest understanding of reality, as happiness and love being elusive and abstract thus making them eternal and true. We are only happy when we are wanting and striving for the ideal. Blanche is fully aware of the illusion and of the necessity of illusion as the means to greater realization.
Blanche, as her name suggests, embodies a medieval concept of the chase and the search, the white hind in the forest which tempts the knight as he is described in the "Lais of Marie de France" or the novels of Chretien de Troyes.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Stanley, who, in my view, is ironically not the strongest character in the piece. He merely serves to challenge Blanche, thus creating a modern manifestation of the biblical battle between good and evil. He is drawn to her due to her purity of purpose and understanding, her goodness. He knows how strong she is, and he is relentless. He plays on his own wife, challenging what is "real," and she succumbs to his tyranny, whereas he knows that Blanche will not. He, as in the biblical "Fall," cannot undermine her strength, her vision. The fight between Stanley and Blanche is electrifying. I felt that they were two powerful gods at war. (When Leigh smashes that bottle and stares Brando down, you will have chills. Come hell or high water, he is not going to defeat her, and he knows it. He is the veritable moth to the flame.)
There is a lot of talk that Stanley shatters Blanche's frail world in the classic rape scene. In accordance, with my own humble interpretation :) he does no such thing. Desire is merely human, and for that matter, it is common. It's the opposite of death and it is, again, human. It is tangible, and it is an essential component of love. Nevertheless, love cannot be defined only by the tangible, and those who can only believe what they can see or touch are lost. Love, in its highest sense, is not tangible; faith is not tangible. Consequently, Blanche has no fear of sexuality or sensuality. They are necessary. She merely feels that we are weighted down by the flesh and that it is incumbent upon the soul to find a higher level, to transcend in order to complete the circle. We need the physical to live, but we also need the spiritual to endure, to remain eternally beautiful. Purity is internal, and it is only achieved on another more abstract plane.
Therefore, ironically, in my mind, Blanche wins in the end. Being led to the institution, on her doctor's gallant arm, she leaves the rabble to play in the dirt, the weak to wail and cry and die in degenration, never knowing true love, never "seeing God" (for lack of a better phrase.) Stanley and the others are ultimately lost.
Ultimately (if you have made it though my long windedness) watch the Brando and Leigh version of Streetcar. They are magnificent, and you will not be disappointed!
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a Heroine But Tragic Nonetheless,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars From Sensuality to Neurosis,
This review is from: Streetcar Named Desire (VHS Tape)
The fim version of the play is absolutely outstanding. It completely and fullheartedly deserves the Awards it got, and by far. Marlon Brandon is fascinating as an animal of violence and desire, and Vivien Leigh is an astonishing embodiment of a fallen southern belle who tries to escape her lost past and cannot, turning her obsession about her past of failure into an absolute neurotic inability to accept change in the world. The use of music is quite convincing to signal the shifts from the present experience to the recollections of the past mistakes and guilt. The violence and the sensuality of the present are always striking and powerful. It is moving and cruel, emotional and mind-raking, sensual and frightening. Desire, the desire to be in complete osmosis with another human being, is beautifully depicted and enacted by the dialogue, the acting and the physical rendering of the feelings, the fears, the hopes, the deceptions of the characters. But the ending is changed and the meaning of the film is different from that of the book. From the triumph of sensual and sexual desire, from the necessary destruction and institutionalization of Blanche in order for life and its desires to survive and live on, like a show that has to go on, we shift to an opening in Stella that could lead to more independance and autonomy for her, for women. But this opening is ambiguous since it can only come from a distanciation from desire in the objective realization of it, that is to say the baby. When the baby is born, when desire has produced its fruit, women can move on to a higher level and men can be pushed back into a more refrained and cultured attitude. Can they? Maybe. At least they may, in a long process that is foretold in this ending, at the end of this film. We can wonder whether it is a way to satisfy the demands of Hollywood for a film that can reach the wide public (and the three odd minutes that were cut off in 1951 go that way), or it is a sign in Tennessee Williams and Elia Kazan that new social evolutions were entering the wider social picture. That we cannot know for sure. But this film shows how a ten or twenty second change at the end can change the meaning of the play and can open completely different vistas in our consciousness.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University of Perpignan
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