Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Movies 101 – A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire – 122min – NR

Blanche Dubois (Vivien Leigh) Arrives in New Orleans looking for her sister Stella (Kim Hunter) after she loses the family plantation in Mississippi. Blanche has to stay with Stella and her husband Stanly (Marlon Brando). Stanly and Blanche do not get along, she has had a rough life and puts up a front of decency and properness that Stanly sees through. Blanche comes to New Orleans to start life anew and get away from her past. She starts up a relationship with Stanley’s friend Mitch (Karl Malden) in hopes that if she puts on airs of being a proper southern woman she can hide the fact from Mitch and herself that she has had a very painful past. Stanly sees right through her act and digs up her past and throws it in her face. Stanly ruins the new beginning she had with Mitch and as a final act of barbarism attacks Blanche and has her committed to an asylum.

This movie makes me sorry for Blanche, I watched it twice to make sure I was not missing anything; she is a wounded person trying desperately to make a change in her life and reaching out to anyone to help her. The first time I felt sorry for Stella as she was getting abuse from Stanly and from Blanche. Then on the second viewing I realized that Stella is in this position because she chose it. She was attracted to the unbridled passion of Stanly but with that comes a cost of unbridled abuse. I have never understood the minds set of women who put themselves in that situation. I am glad that at the end of the movie she does make a chose to leave Stanly but it’s at the cost of her sister’s sanity. I have known a Stanly in my life and seeing his attacks made me cringe. This movie brought up feelings in me that I guess I have not dealt with and as such a flood of emotion hit me while I watched this story unfold. I can look back and see that everything that I am today is because of the events that brought me here and I can look back and say that the Stanly in my life severed as an excellent role model of what not to do.

This was a play and it was brought to the screen by Elia Kazan. If that name sounds familiar he was given an academy award in 1999 to a split audience half applauded and some refused to acknowledge the award. That caused me to dig into why he would have such a reaction and my research found that he was a friendly witness during the HUAC. He named names and provided a list of people who were members of the communist party to the House committee looking for communist in the Hollywood industry. From my brief reading of the situation he was placed in a rough spot, if he refused to help he would have been the subject of scrutiny and if he did cooperate he would betray some of the people he was friends with. I like to look at the award being given to a man who had a huge influence on the theater and on the way movies were made in the 50’s and 60’s. Regardless of the political complications he was a story teller that held up a mirror to the ugliest parts of our selves, and showed us the beauty and horror of what we are.

My take away:

This translated over to film very well, the uses of the shrinking stage to build tension was brilliant. I have been moved by the overwhelming sadness of the characters. This movie is a fallen woman film, where a woman is punished because of her lack of moral fiber. I like Stella’s strength she has at the end, and it comes at a great cost. The subtly of the characters performance are outstanding, Kazan was wonderful at bring the best out of his performers.


  1. Ahh, this is one of the best movies I've ever seen. Vivien Leigh was astounding as Blanche, and Marlon Brando gave his greatest performance as Stanley (IMO). This is the most depressing film I've ever seen, but it really takes you with the characters on that sad, sad journey.

    1. Yes it does, even when she finally leaves him in the end it feels like a hollow victory.