Why it’s famous:
The screen adaptation of one of Tennessee Williams’ most celebrated theatrical creations, A Streetcar Named Desire, with a cast composed of nearly all of the original production’s Broadway lineup.
With Vivien Leigh’s touching and melodramatic performance as Blanche Dubois and Hollywood hunk Marlon Brando’s terrifying take on Stanley Kowalski, this movie broke barriers as much as it broke hearts. Its brilliance lies in bringing to the screen controversial themes of mental illness, abuse, and desire all through a lens of brutal social realism.
Blanche DuBois: Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
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.
Why you haven’t seen it:
More likely than not, you were exposed to this flick when it was screened by your high school English teacher in senior year, spending gruelling hours analyzing the symbols and motifs of the book. As a result, you likely spent the time texting your friend in the back row about how bored you were. If your style is more old school, you may have instead projected spit balls at the poor wretch who was assigned to be your substitute teacher. Shame on you.
Why it might be tough to get through:
If you’re not used to the stylized, melodramatic style of classic films, Vivien Leigh’s acclaimed performance may drive you to repeated eye-rolling and excessive sighing.
Why you should see it anyway:
Not only is this a pretty awesome depiction of debauchery, it’s also an incredibly profound and a beautiful piece of classic cinematography, aesthetically speaking. It’s a must-see for anyone who claims to know anything at all about film. Better yet, watch it and pretend you know about film for your next dinner party conversation.
If anything, the agonizing scene of Marlon Brando yelling “Stella!” up the stairs of Kowalski’s apartment building makes the entire film worth the watch.
- As the film progresses, the set of the Kowalski apartment actually becomes smaller to heighten the suggestion of DuBois’ increasing claustrophobia.
- Fitted T-shirts were not sold at the time, so Marlon Brando’s apparel on set had to be washed several times and then the back stitched up to appear tight over the actor’s chest.