Brick, an alcoholic ex-football player, drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife, Maggie. His reunion with his father, Big Daddy, who is dying of cancer, jogs a host of memories and revelations for both father and son.
Blanche DuBois, a high school English teacher with an aristocratic background from Auriol, Mississippi, decides to move to live with her sister and brother-in-law, Stella and Stanley Kowalski, in New Orleans after creditors take over the family property, Belle Reve. Blanche has also decided to take a break from teaching as she states the situation has frayed her nerves. Knowing nothing about Stanley or the Kowalskis' lives, Blanche is shocked to find that they live in a cramped and run down ground floor apartment - which she proceeds to beautify by putting shades over the open light bulbs to soften the lighting - and that Stanley is not the gentleman that she is used to in men. As such, Blanche and Stanley have an antagonistic relationship from the start. Blanche finds that Stanley's hyper-masculinity, which often displays itself in physical outbursts, is common, coarse and vulgar, being common which in turn is what attracted Stella to him. Beyond finding Blanche's delicate ... Written by
Vivien Leigh had already played Blanche in the first London production of the play, under the direction of her then-husband, Laurence Olivier. She later said that Olivier's direction of that production influenced her performance in the film more than Elia Kazan's direction of the film did. See more »
Stanley says he served in the 241st Engineers and fought in the Battle of Salerno. However the 241st Engineer Combat Battalion fought in the Asiatic-Pacific Area, not in Europe. See more »
Can I help you, ma'am?
Why, they told me to take a streetcar named Desire and then transfer to one called Cemetery and ride six blocks and get off at Elysian Fields.
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Superb writing that is matched by superb acting and incredibly atmospheric and charged direction
Blanche Dubois arrives in the French Quarter of New Orleans suffering from a mental tiredness brought on by a series of financial problems that have ended in the family losing their plantation. She has come to stay with her sister, Stella and her husband Stanley Kowalski in their serviceable little apartment. The aggressive and animalistic Stanley immediately marks himself as the opposite of the feminine and refined Blanche and Stella finds herself pulled between the two of them. Stanley suspects all is not as it seems and begins to pry into Blanche's colourful past, even as Blanche spots a way out in the arms of the Mitch, a man captivated by her. However it doesn't take long before the cracks begin to show in the relationships and in Blanche herself.
It almost goes without saying that the writing here is of top-notch quality. The story is a relatively simple character piece that can be summed up in a couple of sentences, however this would do a great injustice to the depth of development and the convincing manner in which the characters are all written and the story told. It is not so much the depth that some of the characters go to, but the complexity that is effortlessly written into them we can see it writ large on them, but not to the point where it seems obvious or uninteresting. Blanche is of course the focus and she is a mess of neurosis barely hidden behind a front of respectability that clearly doesn't convince her anymore than it does Stanley. Mitch is also really well written at first it is comic that he tries to be such a gentleman while having the brute just under the surface, but later his frustration is heavy on his face along with his anger. The overall story is surprisingly, well, "seedy" is the best word that comes to mind. It is in the gutter and no matter what Blanche wants to believe, that is where it stays and the film is right there the whole time.
How Kazan managed it in the early fifties is beyond me, because even now the film is pretty graphic in its violence to women, subject matter and rippling sexuality across pictures and characters. It is a compelling story due to the characters and the manner in which they are delivered Kazan's atmospheric direction really helps; the films feels humid and close, and he has done it all with a basic set and a camera. The lighting throughout is wonderful both in the general atmosphere but also specific touches such as the way Blanche manages to visibly age due to lighting changes when the film has slight chances of tone.
Of course the main reason I keep coming back to this wonderful film is the actors, who take the opportunity and, in many cases, make it so that it is hard to see anyone else playing their roles. Leigh is perfect for the role and gets everything absolutely spot on; she is vulnerable yet self-seeking, confident yet needy, proper yet unstable. Even visually Leigh is convincing in terms of body language but also the fact that she looks the right mix of ages, looking beautiful one moment but worn and defeated the next totally, totally deserved her Oscar. Brando made his name here and even now his performance is electrifying and memorable. He has his big scenes where he gets to play to the back row but he also has moments where he does nothing other than be a presence on screen; no matter what is going on we are watching him because we are as in awe and yet as afraid of his power as Blanche is herself. Together Leigh and Brando dominate the screen and whenever either of them are on screen it is hard to look away. As a result, Kim Hunter sort of gets lost in the background although her performance is still good. Karl Madden is great but again only holds a supporting role and deserved his Oscar for a convincing performance of a well-written character. Of course it is easier to give good performances with great material than with bad material but there have been enough versions of this play around for us to see how lesser actors can fail where this cast soared.
Overall this is a great film that sees so many critical aspects all coming together as one final product. A superb play has undergone a great adaptation that has been seized upon a great cast who deliver a collection of performances that deserve all the praise heaped on them, all directed with a real sense of atmosphere that really delivers a seedy and erotic film both for its time and today. I cannot think of an excuse for people not having seen this film.
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