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This first movie version of the Tennessee Williams play about a faded, aging Southern belle, her shy, crippled daughter and her "selfish dreamer" of a son more or less sticks to the original story, except for a compromise ending which strives to be more upbeat. Written by
Eugene Kim <email@example.com>
One of Tennessee Williams' best plays becomes a good but not great film despite a stellar cast. It's hard to pin exactly why this film doesn't soar but it's a solid screen version. Maybe it's just that the subject matter works better in a stage environment and that the camera is just too intimate.
Familiar story of restless son, his crippled sister, and their manic mother, who seems to live in the golden past is great material for the stage. And this sad story of the mother's attempts to goad the son into bringing home a young man to meet the sister seems rather cruel. But even the forgotten and lost can lead lives of desperation as they cling to dreams and make wishes on silver moons.
Arthur Kennedy stars as Tom, the son who tries to please his mother but longs to escape his dull job in St. Louis and see the world. Jane Wyman is the crippled sister who has shrunk from the world and collects tiny glass animals. Gertrude Lawrence is the mother who was abandoned by her husband and has been reduced to living in a dumpy apartment and selling magazine subscriptions. And Kirk Douglas is the "gentleman caller." All 4 actors are quite good, although none received Oscar nominations, despite the hype. Many great actresses have been associated with the role of Amanda Wingfield since this play made its Broadway debut in the 1940s: Laurette Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Joanne Woodward, Maureen Stapletobm Jessica Tandy, Julie Harris, and Jessica Lange have all played the role on stage, film, or TV. And I swear I remember Shirley Booth doing this on TV also.
Ultimetaely the story is as fragile as the glass figures. If any one character dominates the story the whole play collapses. This film version works very well in balancing the roles. And while Wyman seems a tad old for the part, Lawrence was an even odder choice. I've also read that Bette Davis and Tallulah Bankhead were considered. But how they decided on Lawrence--a great musical comedy star in London and New York--is anyone's guess. She really is quite good but the film might have need the extra star power of Bette Davis.
Anyway, this classic American play is worth watching.
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