A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Elia Kazan’s film of Tennessee Williams’s sweltering melodrama features an early and career-defining performance from Marlon Brando.

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Film details

Alternative titles

  • A Streetcar Named Desire Original

Cast & Credits

Introduction

“A Streetcar Named Desire is thoroughly adult drama, excellently produced and imparting a keen insight into a drama whose scope was, of necessity, limited by its stage setting.”
Variety, 1951

In the sticky heat of New Orleans’s French Quarter, Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh), a small-town beauty who feels her best years are behind her, arrives at the modest apartment of her sister Stella (Kim Hunter). Her presence upsets the already awkward balance between Stella and her husband Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando), a dominating bully with an explosive temper.

Despite losing the more sexually explicit references in Tennessee Williams’s original play, this adaptation owes a clear debt to its stage origins (whose Broadway debut Elia Kazan also directed). Mostly restricted to the Kowalski apartment, it showcases the brute and unruly power of Brando’s performance, an early expression of the so-called ‘Method’ style of acting that had such a marked influence on American cinema over the coming decades.

The film was the first in a run of high-profile (and slightly sanitised) Tennessee Williams adaptations, the best known of which remains Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958).

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