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A Streetcar Named Desire

by Tennessee Williams

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 236

Falk, Signi. Tennessee Williams. 2d ed. Boston: Twayne, 1978. An introduction to both the fiction and drama. Places Williams in the Southern tradition and examines his early exploratory work. Provides a good general overview with a focus on recurring character types. Includes a chronology of publication and production of works and a useful critical bibliography.

Hayman, Ronald. Tennessee Williams: Everyone Else Is an Audience. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1993. Biographical study that examines how Williams used events from his life and characters he knew, including himself, as source material for his drama.

Miller, Jordan Y., ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971. Excellent collection of twenty essays and reviews divided into two sections that treat the play as commercial theater and as dramatic literature. Provides views from a variety of critics and includes a notebook of the director of the original production.

Thompson, Judith J. Tennessee Williams’ Plays: Memory, Myth, and Symbol. New York: Peter Lang, 1987. Examines eight plays in considerable detail, including A Streetcar Named Desire, in terms of recurring archetypal characters and patterns of action. Interesting analysis of tragic, romantic, and comic images.

Weales, Gerald. American Drama Since World War II. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1962. Places Williams’ work in the context of his time and questions the world and the values that Williams depicts as those of his characters, which often represent marginalized “fugitive types.”

Media Adaptations

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In addition to its successful run on Broadway, A Streetcar Named Desire was made into a film by Warner Bros, and was released in 1951. Many of its original cast were retained, including Marlon Brando as Stanley, but Jessica Tandy, who played Blanche, was replaced with Vivien Leigh. The film, directed by Elia Kazan, received numerous Academy Award nominations and carried off four Awards, including Best Actress for Leigh and Best Supporting Actress for Kim Hunter (Stella).

A made-for-television version appeared in 1984 with Ann-Margret as Blanche. Although this production reinstated some of the material which the censors had objected to in the 1950s, critics found it lacking in the spark and chemistry of the earlier version.

An unrated television version of 1995 recreated the 1992 stage version which stared Jessica Lange and Alec Baldwin. Again, it is truer to the dialogue and actions of the original stage production than the censored 1951 film.

Two sound recordings are available: HarperCollins's 1991 version stars Rosemary Harris and James Farentino in a 1973 recording of a production at the Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center. Caedmon's 1985 publication is from the same production.

The play was adapted by the Dance Theatre of Harlem featuring Virginia Johnson as Blanche.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Arthur, Stanley Clisby, Old New Orleans Gretna, La.: Pelican, 1990.
A historical exploration of New Orleans that provides background to Streetcar's setting.

Bloom, Harold, ed., Tennessee Williams, New York, Chelsea House, 1987.
A collection of critical essays contextualizing Williams' work with that of other modern writers, drawing out psychological similarities between Williams, Hart Crane, and Arthur Rimbaud.

Falki, Signi, Tennessee Williams, New York: Twayne, 1961.
An intelligent discussion of Williams' life and works in which the plays are organized into thematic groups and attention is drawn to recurring character types.

Hayman, Ronald, Tennessee Williams' Everyone Else is an Audience, New York: Yale University Press, 1993.
A biography which includes many quotations from Williams and opinions from his friends.

McCann, John S., The Critical Reputation of Tennessee Williams, Boston: G.K Hall, 1983.
Charts Williams' reception among the important critics and writers of this century.

Spoto, Donald, The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams, Boston: Little, Brown, 1985.
A literary biography beginning with Williams' parents and moving through the playwright's life, his theatrical encounters, life in the homosexual and drug culture of Florida, and his death. With bibliographical sources for further study.

Stanton, Stephen, ed., Tennessee Williams: A Collection of Critical Essays, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1977.
A varied discussion of the major themes in Williams' work.

Tharpe, Jac, ed., Tennessee Williams: A Tribute Jackson, Miss.: University Press of Mississippi, 1977.
Includes essays by people who knew and worked with Williams and provides an interesting critical perspective on his work.

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Historical and Social Context