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 initially felt completely at sea when she joined the tight New York cast in rehearsals. Director Elia Kazan was able to exploit her feelings of alienation and disorientation to enrich her performance. See more »
When Mitch embraces Blanche, she puts her arm around his shoulders, which changes between shots, either her left one or her right one. 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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The scene in which Blanche and Stanley first meet was edited a bit to take out some of the sexual tension that both had towards each other when the film was first released in 1951. In 1993, this footage was restored in the "Original Director's Version" of the film. The three minutes of newly-added footage sticks out from the rest of the film because Warner Brothers did not bother to restore these extra film elements along with the rest of the movie, leaving them very scratchy due to deterioration. See more »
Now that this filmization of "Streetcar" is over a half century old, it can be looked at in a more objective manner than that of the early fifties. The "classical/traditional" acting style of Vivien Leigh, which was placed in stark contrast to the rest of the production personnel, continues to hold its own brilliantly.
It's probably hard today for some to imagine the strong opposition Leigh's casting faced back in 1950, when this prim actress from England was chosen (mostly by studio chief Jack Warner) over "method" Broadway actress Jessica Tandy.
A goodly number of cast and production people from the hit play directed by Elia Kazan were engaged by the director for the film version, and they were not at all enthusiastic about risking a "clash" of acting styles in the leading, pivotal role of Blanche. Kazan himself was reportedly very pro-Tandy, and quite disappointed in the studio's decision.
Yet, Warner and his staff felt Tandy wasn't that well known to the general movie going public--especially in contrast to Leigh, whose marquee name was by then almost magical. In recent interviews, Kazan admitted that working with Vivien was "a real challenge."
In looking at the film today, however, it's Leigh who emerges as a genuine "star" of this production. True, her facial expressions, vocal inflections and body gestures may be the result of careful, deliberate planning, but so what? It's also the aspect that commands attention and draws the viewer to her portion of the screen throughout this film.
Her southern accent, so well learned and retained from her work as Scarlett in "GWTW," is convincing and very beautiful to hear. It also fits Blanche perfectly, as does Leigh's stylized "choreography," which was undoubtedly retained from her long-running London stage performance.
Not all the combined, formidable talents of "method" giants as Karl Malden, Kim Hunter, Marlon Brando or Kazan can diminish the hypnotic work of Leigh here. It may not have excited "Gadge" Kazan, but it remains a highlight performance in film history (and impressed the Academy enough to bestow an "Oscar" to Vivien.)
It also didn't hurt to have Alex North's pungent score, which remains this composer's finest hour.
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