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A Streetcar Named Desire

by Tennessee Williams

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Why was A Streetcar Named Desire banned?

While never formally banned from the theater, A Streetcar Named Desire did face censorship when adapted to film in 1951.

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A Streetcar Named Desire was never formally banned from the theater, where it was a great success that ran for 855 performances before closing, though when it was adapted for film in the early 1950s, it faced censorship from the Production Code Administration dominant in Hollywood during that time. The Production Code had been enforced since 1934 and made it difficult for stories with adult topics to be brought to American screens. While more and more movies throughout the 1950s were starting to challenge censorship, other movies like Streetcar had to make many compromises. Though a big hit on Broadway, A Streetcar Named Desire's content posed many challenges for the screen, particularly with the scene where Blanche is raped by Stanley (which was abbreviated in the movie to keep what happened more vague) and the ending in which Stanley Kowalski is allowed to get away with his brutality.

The latter was a big problem, since the Production Code demanded that on-screen criminals always be punished in some way. To do otherwise would encourage criminality, or so the censors believed. The ending was ultimately changed: while in the play, the self-deceiving Stella remains with Stanley despite Blanche's claims that he had raped her, in the film, she takes her newborn baby and leaves him.

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