A Streetcar Named Desire

How can we spend a week in New Orleans without mentioning this film? Well here’s how: though it’s set in New Orleans, it sure wasn’t filmed there! Well, okay, maybe for a tiny moment’s worth of movie at the train station, but the rest was all Hollywood studios, as was common back then. And the eponymous Desire streetcar line had been dissolved into buses, but the city was able to lend the production a car for the opening sequence when Blanche first arrives in New Orleans.

a-streetcar-named-desire-stellaShe’d been a school teacher back home but moves to New Orleans to move in with her sister Stella and brother-in-law Stanley when creditors take over the family home. She’s horrified to find them living in a grungy little apartment, and even more horrified to find that Stanley is no gentleman. They butt heads right away, and not only is their relationship antagonistic, but she destabilizes an already volatile situation between husband and wife.

Vivien Leigh (Blanche) and Marlon Brando (Stanley) are held tight by the camera, close shots that increase the claustrophobia – so too do the walls that are closing in, literally – the set was built so the little apartment’s dimensions could become littler over time. Their closing in reflect’s Blanche’s deteriorating mental state.

Based on the Tennessee Williams play, A Streetcar Named Desire was edited dramatically to pass the censor’s scruples. There may not be much authentic New 81Qk8T3NWHL._SY450_.jpgOrleans in the picture, but it does have a ground-breaking jazz sound track that gives us the city’s flavour and soul. Streetcar has become an important moment in American cinema, with great performances from iconic stars, and it’s given us more than one enduring catchphrase, although its most famous, simply “Stelllllla!” meets the bare minimum for a catchphrase – it’s really more about how Brando said it. Could say anything, really, and we’d pay attention.

Fun fact: Marlon Brando has appeared in our travel series before: he appeared in Last Tango in Paris, which we reviewed while in – that’s right – Paris.

Another fun fact: t-shirts didn’t come fitted like that back in the day. The wardrobe department shrunk it on purpose, and then stitched it up the back. 😉

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10 thoughts on “A Streetcar Named Desire

  1. mydangblog

    Another fun fact–the ending of the film is completely different from the play. As you point out, Williams, who wrote the screenplay, was acutely aware of the censors, as well as the needs of the audience. I used to teach the play with my senior students, and then show then the film–they were always amazed when we got to the last scene and realized how different it was!

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  2. Wendell Ottley

    Been a while since I’ve seen this, but it’s definitely a great one. I heard about the t-shirt thing before, but never the thing about the set designed to be smaller. That is a stroke of genius.

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  3. Anna (Film Grimoire)

    Such a classic film. Been a favourite of mine since high school when we were studying the play in English. But I had no idea about the tshirt thing! Really makes you feel like it’s an intentional decision to make Stanley like some kind of overpowered brute, outgrowing his clothes.

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