By: Alex Phuong (Two Beers) –
The 1950s have been stereotypically labeled as a docile time in American history, and TV shows like Happy Days contribute to that notion. Interestingly, some of the most powerful films in cinematic history have been made during that decade, including the 1959 classic Ben-Hur. American drama began to tackle risqué topics, and filmmakers wanted to adapt those stage plays to form bold cinematic experiences. Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire is rightfully one of the greatest films ever made because of its ability to shatter illusions with its groundbreaking depictions of reality.
Much like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, A Streetcar Named Desire also contains four of the greatest performances ever captured on film. Kim Hunter and Karl Malden have received Academy Awards for recreating the characters they played on Broadway, while Vivien Leigh earned her second Academy Award for playing another iconic southern belle after her famous portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. Unfortunately, Vivien Leigh suffered from bipolar disorder later in her life, making her life disturbingly similar to that of her character, Blanche DuBois. Another disappointing fact is that Marlon Brando failed to earn an Academy Award for his stunning film debut as the ferocious Stanley Kowalski. Nevertheless, A Streetcar Named Desire earned three Academy Awards for acting, an impressive feat that would not occur again until the release of Network in 1976.
Even though this film is a landmark, the only issue with this film is its screenplay. It is not exactly played in verbatim as the original stage play, but that was because changes needed to be made in order to appease the censors. Therefore, certain elements within the film adaptation are not as clear to general audiences who have not read the original source material. Such information contains spoilers, though, which cannot be divulged in this review. Despite that flaw, the screenplay still received an Academy Award nomination even though the winning film was A Place in the Sun.
A Streetcar Named Desire will always remain one of the most iconic films in the history of cinema. The plot explores the theme of illusion versus reality through delusional and dysfunctional characters. Blanche DuBois has trouble coping as her world crumbles around her, but that is one of the main themes that Tennessee Williams wanted to convey. Ironically, the Best Picture winner was An American in Paris, which is stylistically the opposite of A Streetcar Named Desire. Perhaps the Academy did not want to acknowledge this tour de force because of the conservative nature of 1950s America before the psychedelic revolution of the 1960s.
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever Blanche DuBois tries to cover up sources of light with paper lanterns
Take a Drink: whenever any of the characters drink and/or smoke
Drink a Shot: every time Marlon Brando yells, “Hey Stella!”