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.
She’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 Orleans 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. 😉