A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951)
Starring: Vivian Leigh, Marlon Brando & Kim Hunter
Original Story by Tennessee Williams
After studying the play as a text at A Levels and watching some absolutely awful modern interpretations of the play (I wanted to gauge my own eyes out), I decided to give the original screenplay a chance. Wow! I was absolutely blown away. I don’t usually enjoy black and white films, but I can safely say that this was an exception. The original version, though several decades older than its modern counterparts, far outpaces any subsequent play versions that have been released since 1951.
I was pleasantly surprised to realise that the film stayed true to the original play, which is very often overlooked when modern productions interpret this play. Tennessee Williams was a visionary at the time, and all of the details of his play, the subtle deterioration of Blanche’s mental faculties to the red silk pajamas that Stanley wears in the infamous rape scene to the soundtrack, were all perfectly executed. The play is full of subtle references to the state of changing society, such as the shift from the old-fashioned antebellum south to the immigrant-filled, industrial new south. These references are quite clear, and I feel that even an audience that has not read the play would be able to derive full understanding and joy from the production.
The elements of Greek tragedy that came to fruition in the original text were especially evident in this screenplay. When a production is able to evoke pathos within an audience, especially considering the lack of modern technology now available for filmmakers, you know you have something very special. Part of this comes through Vivian Leigh’s masterful portrayal of Blanche. If only we had more actresses like her today. She was able to perfectly capture the volatile mood swings Blanche experienced, as well as her eventual loss of sanity.
However, one main difference between the text (play) version and the screenplay was the ending. The ending in the play was incredibly powerful, as it emphasises the dominance of man in any relationship, and the final triumph of the new, industrialised south over the antebellum south. However, the screenplay ends with Stella taking her baby and running away. This changes the final meaning of the production significantly, and I did not find it very believable, The ending was an unwelcome surprise.
Because the ending changed the final messages of the work, I have to give this film an