Using archive footage - some of which is a little anachronistic - plus the reminiscences of luminaries such as Ken Dodd and Roy Hattersley, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE tells the story of the tram in Britain, which held sway for roughly a century from 1860-1960. The first models were horse-drawn, which were effective yet also potentially a health hazard, due in no small part to the amount of manure that was produced from so many animals being confined into the inner cities. Steam-power was tried yet found wanting; and finally the electric trams came into being in the early 1900s, with the current from overhead wires providing the means by which trams could move forward.
In the early 1900s trams were mostly a middle and upper-class mode of transport; fares were high, and not many members of the working class needed to use them, as their lives were often confined to a small space of the city. After the end of World War One, however, cities began to expand and people moved out into the suburbs; trams became the principal means of transport to make the morning and evening commute, and as a result it became accessible to the working class.
During wartime trams offered a vital lifeline for people to continue their lives even in the midst of the Blitz. Sometimes they posed a road hazard, as they could not be seen during the blackout, but nonetheless they continued to fulfill a vital social function.
It was only in the post-war years that they became obsolete, as car and bus travel radically expanded; by 1960, most inner city routes had been replaced. The only town to preserve its tram network was Blackpool, which understood how important the network was to the tourist industry. In recent years, however, the tram has undergone something of a renaissance, as many city planners have reintroduced networks as a means of overcoming chronic traffic problems.
This affectionate documentary not only emphasizes the romantic appeal of the tram, but understand its function as a means of eliding class differences; everyone, regardless of their background or profession, can make use of them.
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