For 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!
“A Streetcar Named Desire”– a classic film based off of the 1947 Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tennessee Williams. Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden, all members of the original Broadway cast reprised their roles for the film. Vivien Leigh had appeared in the London production as Blanche DuBois joined the other actors for the film. The film is also noteworthy for being the first film in which both a Best Supporting Actor and Actress were awarded. Also interesting- at least to me- is the title of the film. The film is set in New Orleans, and Blanche’s entrance brings her in on on the Desire Line, which ran from 1920 to 1948, at the height of the streetcar use in New Orleans. “They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at- Elysian Fields!”
“A Streetcar named Desire” is the epitome of an actor driven film. Director Elia Kazan (who, appropriately came from a stage background) set the scene, understood blocking and movement- and let the actors go in this film. The film’s plot centers around Leigh’s character Blanche DuBois. She is a troubled southern belle, past her prime but still attractive, struggling with family issues and the loss of the family fortune. She moves in with her sister, Stella (Kim Hunter) and her husband, Stanley (Marlon Brando). Stella and Stanley have a tumultuous relationship, and Stella often takes refuge with the upstairs neighbors. Stanley and Blanche have their own issues, which culminate at the end of the film.
As I’ve said before with similar films, it is uncomfortable to watch the characters emotionally destroying one another, i.e. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?“. However, “A Streetcar named Desire” goes beyond just the emotional- it is a story of class struggles and the line of resilience and fragility in humans. The performances are exceptional- in this film you can feel a transitional moment where acting shifts from the ‘stagey over-acting’ of the first part of the 20th century into the modern method of acting that many actors have adopted since. We all have Marlon Brando to thank for that.
In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns: