Director: Elia Kazan (1951)
I think one of the reasons this movie is considered so definitive a version of A Streetcar Named Desire is that the original director and cast are involved. These people created the story from Tennessee William’s words. The only switch is Vivian Leigh who was Blanche in the original London production. Having no familiarity with Jessica Tandy’s Blanche, I thought Leigh was excellent. I’m curious about how Tandy would have played her, mostly because I’ve only seen Jessica Tandy in Fried Green Tomatoes.
One of the things that surprised me was the setting: 1940s New Orleans inner city. I feel like the title is very melodramatic, and thought that the setting would be more suburban or rural. I wasn’t expecting this hot, urban, claustrophic story. I’m not pointing this out as a criticism. I guess I’m pointing it out because it actually allowed me to enjoy the movie more. Right off I realized that whatever I thought this movie was going to be, it is not what the story actually is. So, I allowed myself to experience the movie as it unfolded.
So, what is the movie? It’s a story about a woman trying to hold on to a dream, looking for a safe place to create her dream, and in the end loses her grip on reality. I don’t feel that Blanche, in the beginning, is so detached that she can’t see reality for her dream. She’s capable of seeing her dream in reality, and acts to create it. I’d say that Stanley, her brother-in-law, is of the same mindset. He sees his desired world within reality and does what he can to create it. However, his reality is at odds with Blanche’s and ultimate fight between them is to see who’s reality will “win.”
Hmm…I didn’t really see that relationship until I wrote the above paragraph, but it feels authentic so I’m going with it. Another thing that I like about this movie is holds up. The clothes and performance style are dated, but those things can be adapted to contemporary times without losing what’s essential. The main conflict arises from individuals creating their respective worlds in the same place. That is a human story, which makes A Streetcar Named Desire a timeless story.