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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

A Streetcar Named Desire is an iconic movie that was release in 1951, and has become very popular down the years. The movie was directed by Elia Kazan (who also later (1954) made the other Marlon Brando movie - On the Waterfront). A Streetcar Named Desire is based on a play of the same name (the Broadway play was directed by Tennessee Williams) and had a major influence on the movie given that all the stars except for Vivien Leigh (who starred in the London production of the play, not the Broadway one) had acted in the Broadway play. Leigh was the lone exception since she was already a star (Gone With the Wind) and was expected to lend star power to the cast.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Due to the Hollywood Production code in force at that point of time, the movie had some changes carried out to the script (a glaringly adult script), and then further cuts carried out so as to avoid going outside the Production Code. However, in 1993, a version of the movie was released that had the earlier removed changes and the audience could finally see the movie as it was originally planned. The movie was a hit with the critics, with a total of 12 Oscar nominations (an incredible number) and finally got 4 (out of which 3 were acting Oscars):

Won:

Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Karl Malden)
Best Actress in a Leading Role (Vivien Leigh)
Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Kim Hunter)
Best Art Direction -- Set Decoration, Black-and-White (Richard Day and George James Hopkins)

Nominated:

* Tennessee Williams (Best Screenplay nomination)
* Marlon Brando (Best Actor)
* Elia Kazan (Best Director)
* Harry Stradling (Best B/W Cinematography)
* Alex North (Best Score nomination)
* Nathan Levinson (Best Sound Recording)
* Lucinda Ballard (Best B/W Costume Design)
* Best Picture

The movie is primarily about these 4 characters, Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando), his wife Stella (Kim Hunter), her sister Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh), and Stanley's friend Harold "Mitch" Mitchell (Karl Malden). The movie is a harsh movie about relations, about the interactions of humans, especially in adverse conditions. There is a lot of background story of the characters that slowly starts to get revealed; with the prime role being played by Marlon Brando. He plays a primal role, an aggressive male who does what he wants to, is devoid of most pleasantries and is almost Neanderthal-like.
Blanche recently arrives to New Orleans, wanting to stay in the small apartment of Stanley and Stella. She has never met Stanley before, and only knows that her genteel sister married a man of the city. And then she meets him, a man so different from their gentle and gracious manners, rude, crude, foul-mouthed, and the king of his place. She in turn is the lady of manners who is shocked at the choice of her sister in terms of husband (and can't understand how her sister can still adore him); and pretty soon both Stanley and Blanche literally hate each other. She repents the loss of their estate, and having to depend on her sister for a place to live in. She also starts getting closer to Stanley's poker-partner, Mitch, in terms of trying to figure a common future.
Stanley, is trying to figure out whether there is any money to be made from the lost estate that Blanche keeps on talking about, and soon starts to peel away the many layers that cover Blanche's past, showing a more sordid past and revealing her to be not really a lady in terms of the things that she has done. He toys with her for some time, and then reveals his knowledge to both his wife Stella, and to Mitch (causing Mitch to break up with Blanche), causing her to tip over the mental edge. In the end, he violates her in a brutal rape; and while Blanche is going off to a mental care institution, Stella (with her new born baby) finally leaves Stanley.

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