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A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, 1951)
Director: Elia Kazan
Writers: Tennessee Williams
Cast: Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden
Genre: Drama

: An aging southern belle, Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) who once lived in the lap of luxury on her father's estate, but now circumstances have brought her to poverty, forcing her to the edge of sanity. When she moves into her sisters (Kim Hunter) run down apartment in New Orleans, she finds herself in conflict with her brutish brother-in-law (Marlon Brando).

: When the film starts off with Blanche arriving in the French Quarter of New Orleans, I was pretty excited as I've been to the French Quarter and it does look just like it does in the movie...with lots of wrought iron railings and old decaying buildings with porches and courtyards.

When we first meet Blanche DuBois, I thought Vivien Leigh's performance was a bit too theatrical. But as the movie went on I warmed up to her...I also remembered that she had done the British stage play of Streetcar Named Desire. So I guessed that her style of acting was more from British theater.

During the movie I paid attention to her delivery and at one point I actually thought Vivien sounded like she was channeling Laurence Olivier. Of course I knew she was married to him. But...I was total blown away by what I read at IMDB after watching the movie.

Vivien Leigh...later said that Olivier's direction of that production [Streetcar Called Desire] influenced her performance in the film more than Elia Kazan's direction of the film did.
I knew it!...and it's not surprising either as the director Elia Kazan said he didn't really direct the actors, he just set them in the right place and let them do their own thing.

Kazan was a very successful stage director and had directed Streetcar for two years before making the movie. It was a highly successful play and the original cast (Brando, Hunter, Malden) were all brought over for the movie project, with one exception, Jessica Tandy who played Blanche on the stage.

This was Brando's first big movie role and he blew the doors off it! Like the other actors he's a method actor and really brings a dynamic to his role with his childlike honesty, coupled with his violent suspicious nature. He has the best lines in the movie too. I love the scene where he's going through Blanche's trunk and telling Stella about Napoleonic laws.

I liked Karl Malden in this too. This is perhaps one of his finest movie roles. As the film went on I started to really care about Blanche and once again Vivien Leigh made an impression on me, some of that is due to the way Karl Malden reacts to her.

The very last scene when Blanche is being taken away and she's gone to pieces on the floor
and she stands up and the older man removes his hat and offers his arm to her, was a nice touch....and that made me a bit teary eyed.

Streetcar Named Desire
was filmed in chronological sequence, just like a play would be watched. That's almost unheard of in movie making. Kazan explained that there was basically only 2 main sets, (the apartment and the porch/street area), so those two sets were allowed to remain standing during shooting as the room wasn't needed for anything else. Kazan accredited that to part of the reason why the actors were able to give such powerful performances. Indeed the actors give some of the most powerful performances ever to be put onto film.