'Streetcar' celebrates 50th year

December 03, 1997|By J. Wynn Rousuck

Fifty years ago today, Tennessee Williams' landmark drama, "A Streetcar Named Desire," opened on Broadway. The account of the conflict between Blanche DuBois, a faded Southern belle, and her abusive brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski, won every major award, including the Pulitzer Prize.

Elia Kazan directed a cast headed by Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter and Jessica Tandy, whose performance as Blanche made her a star. In his memoirs, Williams wrote: "It was instantly apparent to me that Jessica was Blanche."

Yet Tandy was the only original star not to repeat her role in the movie. Instead, the part went to Vivien Leigh. When she was at the Mechanic Theatre in 1983 starring in Williams' "A Glass Menagerie," the late Tandy recalled, "They needed a movie name I understood perfectly."

Since the film debuted in 1951, Blanche has been played by actresses ranging from Tallulah Bankhead to Jessica Lange, who appeared opposite Alec Baldwin in the 1992 Broadway revival and subsequent 1995 TV version. And, in perhaps the truest test of greatness, "Streetcar" has been spoofed -- most recently (and hilariously) in an episode of "The Simpsons" about a musical version called "Oh, Streetcar!"

Pub Date: 12/03/97

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