Complicating our responses: 11 notes on the DVD version of A Streetcar Named Desire
Full disclosure: I gleaned much of this information from the documentaries that accompany the two-disc special edition of Warner Brothers’ A Streetcar Named Desire.
1. From Pauline Kael’s review of Hud : “when I saw the movie version of A Streetcar Named Desire, I was shocked and outraged at those who expressed their delight when Brando as
2. Why watch James Dean’s entire oeuvre when you can watch it all encapsulated by Brando’s performance as
3. Paul Newman once said that Brando was able to effortlessly act out what took him (Paul) much labor to produce.
4. As the original Blanche in the Broadway production, Jessica Tandy was trained in the British style of acting that relied upon gesture and consistent blocking. With his Method techniques, Brando grew bored with performing each scene the same way every night, so he would make small changes and therefore throw Tandy off-balance. One night, in the midst of the play but behind the scenes, he managed to have someone punch him in the nose, breaking it. Then he had to end the play with a bloody towel over his face.
5. When Warner brothers studio brought in Vivien Leigh to replace Tandy in the film version of Streetcar, Tandy was likely hurt by the decision, but Karl Malden justified the change as necessary. They needed to bring in a bankable star to offset the rest of the relatively unknown cast. Both
7. Who is Blanche? A fallen aristocrat perhaps, a sensitive soul, an artist, just an artiste, a supremely useless person, or a “tender and trusting” figure who represents what happens to sensitive souls when brutalized by the
8. Brando managed to get Tennessee Williams’ support for the role after he fixed the electricity and the plumbing in a house that Williams was visiting at the time. Someone on the DVD claimed that Williams was in love with Brando but not physically.
9. Williams inserts the theme of homosexuality obliquely into the play. In the original script, Blanche mentions how she found her husband in bed with another man. Then, when she confronts him about it by saying “I saw! I know! You disgust me,” he shoots himself in the mouth with a revolver. Meanwhile, Williams characterized himself as having much in common with Blanche, thus making
10. Meanwhile, the Hays office and the Catholic League of Decency censored the film to the point where Blanche seems to scorn her husband because he’s a poet.
11. Nowadays, as one watches the changes between versions in the DVD documentary, the censors just end up looking silly. So they cut the look of lust in Kim Hunter’s eyes as she walked down the steps to