A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

DailyView: Day 244, Movie 340

1951 was a year that was missing a film in the DailyView. I found a classic to fill that missing slot giving me at least one movie every year from 1949-2020 in the binge so far. The classic that I found to fill the 1951 year was A Streetcar Named Desire.

The Academy Award winning picture was adapted from Tennessee Williams’s Pulitzer Prize winning play from 1947. The film version had a definite feel of a stage play being put on screen, which helped create the mood that makes the film so special.

The film starred Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski, Kim Hunter as his wife Stella and Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois, Stella’s Southern belle sister. Blanche arrived at her sister’s home in New Orleans, a rundown apartment where she lived with Stanley. Stanley did not take Blanche well, wondering how she lost her family estate, Belle Reve.

Stanley was crude and brutish, clashing often with the more gentile, ladylike Blanche. Stella was caught between them several times which made things more dangerous, since she was pregnant.

One of Stanley’s poker playing friend, Mitch (Karl Malden) took a shine to Blanche and saw a fellow lonely soul in the Southern belle. However, when Stanley discovered the truth behind Blanche’s past, everything was blown out of the water.

This was an uncomfortable movie to watch since the physicality of Stanley (and even Mitch to a lesser extent) felt justified through much of the movie. The viciousness that he went after Blanche, (and Stella at times too) was treated as typical fashion whereas I absolutely found Stanley to be nothing more than an abuser with dreams of controlling and power. There were scenes where Stanley would fly off the handle over the littlest things and scream at the women in a manner to intimidate them. It was terrible.

It is a great performance by Marlon Brando, one that put him on the map, but the performance was terrifyingly realistic. Watching Stella cringe away from Stanley with every outburst makes me think that he was physical with her on a more regular basis than what we saw.

Karl Malden, Vivien Leigh and Kim Hunter all won Academy Awards for their roles in A Streetcar Named Desire. Brando was nominated but he did not receive the Oscar. Brando was virtually an unknown in this performance, but he went on a run of four consecutive Academy Award nominations with this one.

The black and white helped keep the tone of darkness and anxiety that was ambient throughout. You’re never quite sure what outcome was going to happen, but you could sense that it was not going to end happily.

A Streetcar Named Desire is a classic film with some powerful performances that does not allow the viewer to get comfortable at all. It deals with anger, physical abuse and mental illness all within the story and keeps you feeling confined.

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